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Page added on August 29, 2011

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What We Are Doesn’t Determine Who We Are

by Roger Encarnacion


It was a chance encounter that I came to meet Peter.

Peter had just started at Genesis Canada, and that morning, as I walked passed his office, I saw him throw a glance at me as if to say, “I am new here. Please stop by, I want to meet with you. Let’s have a chat.”

“Hi.” I said.

He smiled, sprang up from his chair, and motioned me to come in.

“Filipino?” I asked. Sometimes, it is hard to tell apart a Filipino from a Chinese based on facial features alone, and that simple question is the surest way to find out if he is a Filipino.

“Yes, I am a Filipino, from southern Philippines,” he said, his unmistakable accent revealing his Filipino identity.

“What discipline are you in?” he asked. Genesis Canada is an engineering office and ‘discipline’ is usually associated with an engineering branch such as electrical, mechanical, process, etc.

“Electrical,” I whispered. “And you?” I countered.

His eyes brightened and almost matter-of-factly, he said: “I am the department manager.”

That threw me back a bit. I was not asking him of his position. He could have simply said, “Accounting” or “Project Control” or “Purchasing” or whatever.

A congratulatory “wow” escaped from my lips.

Peter’s work designation clearly tells me what he is and his importance in the Genesis organization, but I am not interested in knowing what his position is in the company.

It is our common misconception that what we do for a living determines who we are. Since childhood, our society has conditioned us to believe that the higher we are in the hierarchical order of things, be it a profession or an organization, the better person we are.

Position title is just a title and it is only a fraction of who we are. In fact, it is not a reliable measure of the kind of person we are, but it does dictate one’s importance over the others. A manager is surely more important than a mail clerk in the work place, but the former is not always a better person than the latter. A mail clerk might be a good husband and father who volunteers his time to his community, pays his income tax without the benefit of loopholes and questionable exemptions, obeys the law at all times, etc. while a manager may not be everything that he is.

In the same token, titles such as Master of Engineering, PhD, MBA, CGA, etc. do not automatically make one a better person than others.  That is why a plan by one Calgary organization to honour those Filipinos who have attained advanced degrees and professional designations may be a bit off the mark, in my opinion. It should instead recognize and reward those who have contributed positively and immensely to Calgary’s Filipino society regardless of their educational attainment and titles.


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