It was around 4 in the morning and we were sitting at Haider’s, a shady looking shawarma place somewhere along magsaysay street, i think. it was the only joint open at that hour that still served beer and something to munch on. i had no cares that night, I was in Naga City, on my second to the last night of my three week training program and i was just soaking everything in.
Training had just ended and i was with my trainees sitting around a put together long table with buckets of beer and plates of sizzling hotdogs. funny thing was, the joint ran out of shawarma, and hotdogs were the only pulutan available. everyone present was talking excitedly about the possibilities that was in front of them. The callcenter i worked for was building a site in Naga, hence the reason i was sent down here, to train a class in a building that housed many lost souls in the dead of the night to the wee hours so that we could prepare agents for the unenviable task of answering customer calls. They were bright eyed then, asking about the first time i took a call, if i had any bloopers, best advice, if i thought they had potential to succeed.. god, it feels just like yesterday sometimes.
Ernie took the seat to my right, and while everyone else was raising glasses in celebration for passing the final call simulation, he quietly whispered in my ear, asking if i could come over to dinner at his house that night and meet his family. i told him it would be my honor. That night, over a simple dinner with his partner and kids, i got to know a little bit more about Ernie, how he loved riding his motor bike, how he loves the simple life, the apprehensions he felt about working the night shift at his age, and the pure and honest pleasure he enjoyed with being a father. he loved his family, of that there was no doubt.
Ernie, along with Totoy and Bill were way older than most in that class. heck they graduated college two years after i was born.yet you can see exuberance and an almost child like glee with the way they approached our training sessions, while at the same time being the Kuyas when it mattered. where totoy was the rambunctious smart aleck, Ernie was the quiet one with the witty one liners that always left everyone in stitches. i got to learn that these two used to be close friends, then never spoke to each other until they crossed paths in training. they’ve been inseparable ever since.
A month after i left Naga, i heard that the entire Camsur workforce was being sent to Clark to work for two months in our Clark site while the Naga site was waiting to become operational. Ernie texted me, saying they were all looking forward to sharing another round of beer, another round of laughter when i could take a break from my busy training schedule. So we ended our classes early one friday night and took a bus trip to Clark to hang out with our Camsur trainees, now with two months of calls under their belts before they went back home. and over buckets upon buckets of beer we toasted to their success, and to future endeavors. Through tear-filled bearhugs and high fives we promised to always stay in touch, And they promised i’d always have a family in Naga waiting for me any time i wanted to go back. That was nearly five years ago.
The last time i went back to Naga, i was only able to meet up with Totoy. it seemed everyone had a shift that night. he spoke glowingly about how some in my class have been promoted to supervisors, how some were aspiring to be trainers like me. first person i asked about was Ernie. and Totoy said he was doing well. that was good enough for me.
If this post seems disjointed, i apologize. i’ve been putting off writing this one for a week now, since i learned of Ernie’s passing after a long battle with cancer. It’s been three days since he was laid to rest and i still go to his facebook page more than once a day. I wish i could remember more and write in vivd detail about the long talks, the nuggets of fatherly advice, the funny jokes to give you a clearer picture of who Ernie is, damn.. was.
3 weeks. three weeks of being a stranger in a strange place. Someone i love correctly predicted that with the way i conducted training classes, with the way i gave a damn about everyone of my trainees, it would resonate far into the future, where 5 even 10 years from now, i’d still be friends with most, if not all of them.
What Ernie taught me, was that you are never too old to reinvent yourself, that it is never too late to become something you want t be. Ernie, wherever you are, thank you for the lessons, although i assumed the role of teacher when we first met, you taught me so much more.
Rest now my friend.