I’m writing this a third of the way through my last month as knowledge management head, in-house data science and visualization expert, and all-around clown for the Quality Management division of Jollibee Worldwide Services (the services arm of the much bigger, much more delicious-sounding Jollibee Foods Corporation). It’s crazy to think that I’ve spent, as of first writing officially 4 years, 1 month, and 11 days with the company, certainly a short time for many but really is the equivalent of a lifetime for someone as restless and scatterbrained as myself.

Now you might read that precise counting of my tenure as evidence that I did not enjoy that time, but to be honest, I almost regret making the decision to leave. Right now, on my last month, as I go through my checklist of projects I need to turn over, final deliverables, and knowledge transfers, I feel a quiet weight dangling off the pit of my stomach, the kind you feel when saying goodbye to a friend you know you won’t be seeing again for a very long time. It’s the end of an era, the season finale. Any moment of this part of my life will come back – if ever – only in flashbacks and oddly-timed bottle episodes.

I officially graduated with my master’s degree from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, last July. With it, the completion of my thesis led to various talks with my adviser, examiners, other professors, and friends in the academe regarding conferences, publishing, and future research work that I might undertake for my doctorate. Since beginning my master’s degree, I’ve always known that I wanted a doctorate, but even during my graduation I considered that time as being fairly distant, something looming in the horizon, just close enough for me to see the shape of and know it’s not a mirage, but still quite too far to reach.

For my doctorate, I want to go abroad, to experience the culture of another country in a more intimate setting than just as a visiting tourist, and to soak in the ideas of other minds. This desire is due mostly to the fact that I’d spent my bachelor’s and master’s careers in close succession (I graduated with my BS in July of 2017, and then enrolled into the same school for my MS a month later), around mostly the same set of professors. While my professors, especially my thesis adviser, are all brilliant people, and I certainly have a lot more to learn from them in my ongoing academic career, I longed for a change of scenery. I wanted to shoot even higher than my old, mediocre self could ever dream.

And let’s be real: the Philippine government has made a circus of itself with the way it has handled the pandemic. So much so that they have now changed their approach from deflecting to outright attacking criticisms being levied towards them. Consider the presidential spokesperson, Atty. Harry Roque’s outburst towards health professionals, and the president himself saying he will find faults in anyone who points out his office’s own failures. Talk about a freakshow of supposed “leaders” unable to handle criticism when their performance has just been objectively horrible in almost every single front.

When I entered university I had no idea I would be staying this long – and voluntarily at that!

The idea of traveling, and sharing my academic work with other like-minded people around the world, plus the setting panic that the Philippines is quickly circling down the drain thanks to a history of incompetent leaders and a strategically impaired educational system, has been a big impetus in my decision to take up a doctorate abroad and focus on an academic career. But as my adviser and examiners started walking me through the process of getting into a doctorate program abroad, I realized that I’m going to need to take certain steps if I am to maximize my chances.

Beginning in October, I will be Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines. The move to a teaching career is the first of those steps. I honestly don’t believe that one has to be a professor or strictly in the academe to earn a PhD, but for the career path that I’m paving for myself, coming back into the university environment, I believe, will give me the time and mental space to do more research. Not to mention, the additional time I’m getting now that I don’t have to do a constant 9-to-5 grind means I can prepare for qualifying exams, the GRE (which, like it or hate it, is still a standard that apparently most schools even outside the US follow), and producing research output that would, hopefully, convince an academic committee of a university somewhere in Japan, in Europe, maybe even in the United States (although, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of their student loans, healthcare, and attitudes towards Asian people/POC) that I would be a worthy student to add to their roster.

It’s been a dizzying last few weeks building these future plans, sorting through all the options available to me, and basically evaluating all of my priorities and life goals. If I had even the slightest talent in arts I might have even made a vision board. And all these I had to worry about in the midst of having COVID (I might talk about this in a future blog, but I don’t want to say anything right now about what’s basically an ongoing diagnosis). I have been blessed with the people I’ve met and the opportunities that I have been handed during my time with Jollibee, but to paraphrase something a friend said to me (also a colleague from Jollibee, now resigned), if there is ever a good time to make big decisions in life, it’s probably right now. And if I’m being honest, I think that this move is going to be one I’ll be talking about in the future. The one that’ll come to mind and that I’ll think, that’s it, that’s the one that changed my life.

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