Memories of ROTC: A Big Waste of Time

I remember being a college kid once and also recall that much of the time I spent in the University of Santo Tomas was a big waste of time. One of the largest contributors to time wastage was a Sunday requirement called ROTC.

ROTC, short for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, was a mandatory course when I was enrolled in the University. This was around 1997 so much has changed since then (especially after the Mark Welson Chua murder case). For two years, I had to wake up early Sunday mornings to get dressed in shabby military garb and run to USTs field for “training” regarding military discipline. What I did find out was it only took what could have been fruitful years of my life.

All 1st and 2nd year male students of the University were required to attend approximately 12 Sundays per academic semester. A relatively select few become involved in special units while the rest of us were treated like crap. And like crap, all that we learned was to stand up and sit down under the heat of the sun or the occasional drizzle of rain. For 12 Sundays a semester, our routine was to stand up, sit down, march around a little bit, buy crappy food, and (if we’re lucky, that is) be taught some ceremonial gun wielding. Combat skills learned: ZERO. Some military training huh? This is the “Bahala Na” (let chance take over), “Pwede Na” (that’ll do) mediocrity cultural¬† mentality at work.

ROTC’s intention was to supplement the military with pawns in case the Philippines was involved in a major war. It has that high and mighty aspiration that given the chance, you’ll be called out to fight for your country, be a hero and all that crap that politicians want you to believe. But what good does standing and sitting all day do to train good soldiers? We occasionally had calisthenic exercises for that matter but in my experience, I had not learned to handle a rifle in a combat situation during the time I spent at the ROTC. I have years of experience training in martial arts so I definitely know what it takes to train a warrior; ROTC in the Philippines wouldn’t compare to that. I have relatives serving in the Philippine Navy, and based on their stories about real military training, the kind of thing they hand out in ROTC is a big load of bull. In a real wartime situation, those drafted from the ROTC would be nothing more than mere human shields. This is what taking MS11 and MS12 (the subject code for Military Science) has taught me. Now you tell me if that isn’t a waste of time.

Fast forward to 1998 and I enrolled for MS21 and MS22. This time, I had the option of going for alternative units. Since I couldn’t get a slot to go for a unit called CWS, who were required to provide civil service for only 6 Sundays a semester, I was eventually placed in LES (Law Enforcement Service). This unit aims to teach students some things regarding being in law enforcement in the Philippines. Like the last year, I learned nothing.

So, what did we actually do in LES? Sit and lie down on the asphalt, have an energy drink, maybe a cup of taho (it’s watery silken tofu with caramel and tapioca pearls) and smoke our lungs out to oblivion. Did learn any facet of police work. Nuh uh! I did this for 24 Sundays of that year, but because the ROTC screwed up my records for MS22, I didn’t get a passing mark. So much for attendance.

Not passing MS22 gave me something to worry about during my later years in college as I would not be able to graduate without it. It’s a good thing though that when I was about to graduate, the policy was changed to what’s called the National Service Training Program (NSTP) which only required a year to complete. As a result of that policy revision, since I was “officially” able to complete more than a year’s equivalent of NSTP, I no longer had to pursue finishing MS22. My cousin wasn’t so lucky though as he had to complete his program in Fort Bonifacio prior to the implementation of NSTP.

So now that I’m a parent, I would make sure that my son, when he approaches that age, would not have to waste his time on such an utterly useless program. Might as well he go the CWS route to complete his requirements, but that would be in the next 8 years or so. A lot of things might change and so I’ll have to wait and see. Again, the bottom line is that in my experience, ROTC is a waste of time.

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The Work-at-Home Homeschooling Dad

In this day and age, the Internet has made it possible for many people to work at home. Perhaps there already are a lot of people who know about the work-at-home mom. As a matter of fact, you’d get a lot of results for articles, job openings, opportunities and the like if you Google the term “work-at-home mom”. However, I’m in the opinion that the work-at-home dad is a less popular topic than a work-at-home mom, so I’m going to share you what a work-at-home dad is like.

In paternalistic, masculine, machismo cultures like the Philippines and Latin America, the concept of a work-at-home dad isn’t so macho at all. It effectively undermines macho tradition where the wife stays at home to do all that domestic stuff and the husband goes off out into the world doing all sorts of macho stuff, and that includes earning money. In a work-at-home-dad situation, I act as an entire office staff rolled into one person with parenting and other domestic responsibilities. If you think the work-at-home situation is as easy as slumping on the couch drinking beer and watching TV, you sure got it all wrong.

The concept can be best explained by illustrating to you dear reader my typical day. I wake up at 4 a.m. to feed the cats, wake up my son, and then go drive off to pick up my wife who’s working for a call center. I then drive home with my wife and son. As soon as we arrive home, I prepare breakfast, send my wife off to bed, and then eat the breakfast of champions with my son. After breakfast, I prepare for work while my son starts his going through his homeschool materials. I set up all my equipment, check messages, check my son’s progress every now and then, check the stay-out household help’s progress, and then start writing or transcribing music or whatever freelance job I got off or on the Internet. As soon as 11 o’clock hits, I then prepare lunch and have a meal with my son.

When lunchtime is over, I, the work-at-home-dad starts washing the dishes and and then start preparing my wife’s “breakfast”. The afternoon also involves going back to composing music or whatever freelance job I got and my son going back to his schoolwork. From time to time, I would check on my son’s progress. This also involves some verbal prompting on my part if I notice my son slacking off (which can be very stressful at times). There also are occasions when I have to check and grade test papers and do all of the administrative work involved in homeschooling.

As soon as my wife wakes up, I would offer her “breakfast” if I have prepared something. If I haven’t cooked up anything for her, we would then eat out just before I drive her to the bus stop where she would take the bus going to her office. My son and I then go home, eat dinner (if we haven’t gone out for it at that point), I resume work, practice piano and guitar (or whatever instrument I need to build chops for), remind my son to practice his violin, do other domestic chores and then go to sleep. As you would expect, the next day starts in the exact same fashion as described earlier.

On certain days, I would be interrupted from work when I need to drive my son to his Violin and Wushu classes. There are occasions as well when I have to drive and meet up with certain people for job opportunities, etc.

If you were patient enough to read all of this, you will know for sure that it takes a lot of balls to be a work-at-home dad. As a non-touring musician working at home, I’d have to live with the fact that I cannot afford to have an isolated studio space that separates me from the rest of the world. It just wouldn’t work. If I did, I’d be so lost in that world that I’d forget why am I working at home in the first place. It can be very frustrating for me having to deal with all of the other things surrounding me as I try to compose the greatest piece of music I can ever pull out of my ass.

Allow me to tell you though that my work-at-home-dad situation is worth all the trouble. I get to spend a lot of time with my son. I am able to directly supervise my son’s education and impart to him the Biblical values I hold on to. I am my own boss from a professional perspective. I am in complete control of my time, no matter how hard it is to manage. It doesn’t matter even if I just work wearing a sleeveless shirt and a pair of shorts. I also get to work on the things I am passionate about (this is very obvious).

Would I say that working at home would be a good deal for every man out there? Of course not. Working at home is not for everybody. But if you’re the kind of person with enough patience, dedication and the desire to have near absolute control over one’s life (Note: If you’re a Christian in the Biblical sense, God is in control of your life), then being a work-at-home dad may be a good option for you.

To cap off this piece, let me leave you with a relaxing piece of music I wrote a few months back called “The Water’s Embrace”: