Bagong Silangan is a city notorious as a squatters’ area. It used to be composed of mostly farmlands rich in rice produce, but urbanization efforts forced informal settlers to relocate in the city. Years after, the city mayor granted rights of land to its residents. Gawad Kalinga, entered the picture–a nonprofit organization with a goal to alleviate poverty in the Philippines—and implemented infrastructure and community development programs. They built new homes, renovated roads, and constructed communal facilities. One of the families that benefited from these programs is the family of Salie Malagueno.
Salie had a fairly happy childhood. She grew up in a simple home, her father a construction worker who made just enough income to get by. Third in a family of nine siblings, she would wake up early in the morning to walk with her younger brothers and sisters to a nearby public school. Salie enjoyed working on school projects and learning new things. She maintained good grades throughout high school, but broke her streak of good marks when her family was faced with realities she could not control.
On Salie’s last year in high school, the construction company her father worked for lost key projects that left their casual workers jobless. Her father asked her to skip college for a year because their remaining resources had to go to her sister’s education in her last year of college taking up architecture. Salie agreed yet persisted in learning by taking low-cost computer classes for only Php400, roughly $10.
However, Salie’s persistence was no fight against fate. Her eldest sister got pregnant before graduation and they felt like her family’s hard work, including the pooled income of their extended relatives, had gone to waste. Salie’s parents lost hope and no longer wanted to support her college education. “I was so devastated. It was difficult to let go of my own dreams to attend college and finish a computer course. I remembered crying every night and being so close to running away from home,” Salie said.
Turning Over a New Leaf
After struggling with her circumstances for a few months, Salie got back to her feet and turned things around. With an enterprising personality, she launched a small business selling snacks and toiletries by the window of their living room. She asked her father to spare his treat to her birthday meal and instead give her the money for capital. She got Php 2,500, around $60, and purchased items she could resell as well as raw materials for cooked meals she made with her mother. Then she opened her small store and spent most of her days entertaining customers, replenishing stock, and collecting her neighbors’ payables.
Salie’s luck continued to change when one day she crossed paths with her cousin who told her apply to a training program called Careers for Street Youth. Before she knew it, she got accepted and began attending classes. Salie made the most out of ten days of intensive training and shares that she learned many things, “We had English training and computer classes. We were also taught time management, budgeting, and other things that will help us in our jobs.” Salie graduated the program with a class of 27 with whom she sought jobs in the outsourcing sector.
Her Big Break, MicroSourcing
After several interviews with different companies, Salie landed her big break when she was accepted as an intern in MicroSourcing- an Offshoring BPO. She was assigned to intern for an AU-based MicroSourcing client called MiniMovers. She assisted in screening Australian job applicants to help source for employees needed in the client’s local operations. And She was also trained in data processing and lead generation. In no time, Salie grew comfortable in a casual environment that allowed her to get started in building a professional career in offshoring.
“My first few days in MiniMovers was nerve-racking,” Salie recalls. Because she was to work alongside foreigners– their general manager Tatia and training manager Sean, Salie made it her goal to improve her English skills. Whenever she was out of words in conversations with Tatia, Salie would joke, “just you wait Tatia, I will someday be able to speak straight in English.”
Simultaneous with on-the-job training, Salie also attended English classes and other courses to develop computer skills–Internet research, MS office, Photoshop. Salie’s favorite was their weekly English class. Every week she got excited writing essays and delivering speeches which she also used as an avenue to share her experiences and insights. Her confidence and knowledge in grammar and vocabulary improved, “before my voice would crack whenever I had to speak in English, now I can sustain a conversation with our Australian visitors.”
A Second Home, MiniMovers
Salie was very happy in MiniMovers, “The people in MiniMovers are all very nice, especially Tatia. During our internship, she’d always check in on us and ask us if we’re okay. Our supervisors would guide us in our work. Whenever we had questions, they helped us right away. They accommodated our special needs like extra time we needed to prepare for English training.”
Everyone in MiniMovers took notice to how hard Salie worked. She shares the remarks of her colleagues, “they ask me if I’m planning on stealing their jobs because I arrive very early in the office and leave very late.” Salie works hard but she was enjoying so much she barely felt she was at work. “I have grown to really love my job. It’s like my body craves to be in the office. On Sundays or when I’m at home, I start missing MicroSourcing and our well- decorated MiniMovers office.”
Dream Come True, A Full–time Job
After 6 months of internship, MiniMovers offered Salie full-time employment as a Data Analyst. She was placed on a month-long probation as she is evaluated with the same standards as any other team member. Naturally Salie was delighted, but true to her humble nature, she celebrated with simple street food and orange juice.
Looking forward to building her career, Salie sees her future in the BPO industry. “I hope to still be in MiniMovers years from now. If that’s not possible, I hope to stay in MicroSourcing. Other companies are okay but MicroSourcing is where I started, it restored my hopes for a good future. I see older people in the company and hope to grow up there too. If I have to switch companies, I hope to stay in the BPO industry. Because I really enjoy this type of work.”
Salie sees her employment as a way to support her family. She contributes to their daily meal expenses and allows herself to splurge on salary day. I want my family to experience good food. When I get my allowance, we enjoy sumptuous boxes of pizza at home. When asked what she has purchased for herself, Salie shares that she started work with borrowed shoes. She bought her very own pair on her first paycheck.
Ultimately, Salie’s plans for her income revolve around her family. “I will work hard so that all my siblings can finish school. I don’t want them to experience what I experienced. When I was applying for jobs, I felt so small compared to my counterparts who graduated with fancy college degrees. I don’t want my brothers and sisters to ever look down on themselves when they begin looking for work. I want them to have what they need to lead better lives.”