The dream lives

The blessing in disguise

Last April 30, I went to a low-cost airline’s walk-in recruitment. I was rather unprepared – I couldn’t tie my hair in a bun, had the toughest time putting on contacts, but I still ended up going despite those. So I kind of stood out (not in the way I would’ve liked) among the aspiring flight attendants, being the only one there wearing glasses.

When we got there, after a bit of waiting, we were asked to go up 5 flights of stairs. Odd, considering there were elevators. Even more odd, considering there was a video team capturing us. This didn’t bother me initially – I even gamely smiled, stood straight, and walked with confidence.

When we got to the recruitment office, however, things sort of changed. We were grouped by batches of 5, and assigned to different cubicles. The HR lady welcomed us very very briefly, and instructed us to tell them our names, ages, and how we found out about the post  (which was already a question in the forms we filled out beforehand – I can only think of one reason why this would be that important: marketing). That was it. No introductions. So all of us did that. Then we were asked to smile, so we all did, one by one. And then, just like that – we were told none of us passed.

I didn’t think much of it afterwards, I just thought maybe we had tough luck, that maybe none of us really fit (I’m not sure how you’d know just by asking those questions) their standards, but then a batchmate expressed how she felt uncomfortable with the process, and we realized it may actually just be a marketing stint, a way to make the company look desirable (a video team was there, I mean…).

I was getting ready to leave, but then heard my batchmates talk about dropping their CVs off to PAL – which is my absolute dream company – so I butted in and invited them to ride with me going there. And dropped our CVs off, we did.

And what a blessing in disguise this failure turned out to be, as come Monday, just two days later, I received a call from PAL inviting me for an impact interview! YAS! An actual chance! I think I’ve e-mailed them twice before and never got a response, so I assumed they weren’t interested in me. But turns out they just like it old-school!

Anyway, the day of the impact interview came. May 18th. I didn’t get any sleep at all (I never am able to sleep right when I need it the most, sigh. Thankfully the many sleepless nights in college have prepared me for these). My hair stylist did an awful job with my hair. My foundation caused an allergy reaction and tiny bumps appeared on my face. I scratched my foot when I closed my cabinet and it bled through my stockings. I couldn’t change as I was running late. Needless to say, I was having an awful, awful start. My hope had diminished, I was prepared for the worst.

We were led to a small room and got briefed about the process. They also announced that they were no longer assigning conditional status, we were to get either a positive or negative result. This made me extra nervous, as my eyesight is awful and I would expect to get a conditional status if I passed. Luckily, they didn’t ask about eyesight at this stage. Three ladies from HR called us one by one for our documents. After that, we were allowed 5 minutes to go to the comfort room, which was a nice way to take a breather before we had our introductions.

Then it began. One by one, we were called to introduce ourselves in front of everyone, then to walk towards the panelists and smile (I don’t know if treating this part like a fashion runway is a good idea – I saw one of the girls put her hand on her waist and pose at the end, haha).

It was a long, nerve-wracking time, as there were around twenty of us. When it was my turn (I was maybe the fourth or fifth), I delivered the spiel I had written for myself as confidently as I could. I tried to make my words stand out among the “I love to travel” clichés. The panelists seemed engaged. We were allotted 3 minutes each, but I probably took just one. You don’t really need to fill those 3 minutes up (especially if you’re just going to blabber about how many you are in your family).

I walked towards them as confidently as I could, despite the aching feet, and gave them a shaking smile. “Thank you very much,” I said as I finished my turn and headed back to my seat.

Then it was over. I did all I could. It was time to breathe, let go, and let God. It was time to find out whether this was merely a wild dream for me, or a dream that could actually be realized.

When everyone was done, they instructed they would call us one by one and hand us a piece of paper with our results. I had read a blog the night before saying this was a formality, and all of those called are the ones rejected. So as each name got called, I clasped my hands, sat tight, and hoped not to hear my name. This part felt so intense, maaaan. My dream was hanging in the balance. Each unfamiliar name getting called gave me comfort but also increased my tension.

The room was getting less crowded by the second. Then finally, the name-calling stopped. We were down to three. All women. It was completely silent for a moment. The three of us looked at each other, quietly, congratulatory, all so nervous, all so excited.

They spoke again and said they’ll ask us some more questions. I didn’t prepare for anything else other than the introduction, and maybe you could, but I kinda liked that I was spontaneous. Again, one by one, we were called. I was the second to be called. I took probably twice as much time as the other two – which I felt was a good sign they were interested in me and my answers. We were asked to remove our blazers and had our arms and elbows checked. They also stared at our faces for quite some time. Then we were asked to read in-flight announcements in English and Tagalog. I have been on a PAL flight before and so I was familiar with how they sounded and tried to deliver it as similarly as possible. And then, afterwards, finally: “Thank you.”

When we were all done, the same process was described: a piece of paper was to be handed and to be read outside, so when called, “grab your bags.”

I trusted that unlike the first round of eliminations, it was actually true that the results would be on that paper this time.

I was called last. The two other ladies were gone. I grabbed my bag. Headed to them expecting the slip. And then, a voice broke the tension: “Please grab a chair and sit.”

Oh my god,  I thought. Did I make it?  Just me?

I held my breath. My heart started beating rapidly. I told myself not to get excited until I heard the C word.

At this point, we’d like to congratulate you. Out of twenty applicants today, you were the only one with the potential to be a Philippine Airlines cabin crew.”

Oh. my. God!

I could not hide my excitement. I was grinning from ear to ear. You have no idea how special I felt at that moment. I will never, ever, ever in my life forget that feeling. Never!

They told me about what would come next – medicals, exams, and an executive interview with PAL’s president. They gave me tips – even scrutinized my “messy” hair (I apologized profusely! SO thankful they let that pass, huhu) and gave me a slip for the medical exam that would immediately follow. A round of “congratulations” again, and I headed out. “Have your lunch na, ha,” one of them said. “You also po! Thanks so much!” (The same guy saw me later on and called me, gave me some more tips – “buy a hair net.” I thought it was so kind of him to call me just to share some more tips. I felt like he genuinely rooted for me, and that I was able to connect with them in the brief time we shared.)

I went out of the HR office. The guard smiled at me. “Wow! Kayo lang?” “Opo!” I embarrassingly said, still with my big, shaky smile. “Congrats ah!” “Thank you po!!!! :((”

I was then led to the medical office, where my height and weight were measured, then we did a test to see if I was colorblind, and I was inevitably asked about my eyesight. I was told to go to the Medical building for a more accurate measurement, so I did.

I updated Kuya Guard and asked what time the HR office closes just to make sure I’d make it if the tests took a while. He congratulated me again. I started walking out of the building, happiness still overflowing. I literally leaped as I walked out, guys. I was that happy. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever been that happy in my life. What a feeling.

(The eye check-up took a while, but I got back to the office in the afternoon with a recommendation for lasik. The HR lady, Ms. Trish, said to make it the last step so it won’t be a waste if I don’t actually end up passing the next stages.)

I went home afterwards, shared the good news with my family, then caught up on sleep! Ah, what a day. Whatever happens after this, I will carry this achievement and this feeling with me proudly. God’s will be done!

The next steps

On May 24, I was scheduled to take the written (IQ + EQ) exams. There was math, english, and abstract reasoning (the hardest part!). The EQ part was rather tricky. I accepted that I may just fail this test and was instructed to call three days after. Didn’t need to, as HR texted me the day after to call them. They asked for my name. The familiar tension filled the call as they paused to search for my result. “Okay, Miss Michelle, congratulations.” Aaaaaaand exhale.

They scheduled me for yet another exam that I didn’t anticipate and the blogs never talked about, so I was anxious. On May 27, I went to the instructed place and found out I was to take an integrity exam. Sounds easy but oh my gosh was it tricky. Again, I wasn’t confident I would make it through and was ready for whatever result. The digital exam would talk to you through pop-ups and would often tell you you’re lying even though you’re not, so ya know, that totally helped my nerves. But they may have just been red herrings — for as long as you actually honestly and consistently answer, you’ll probably be okay. Just as I learned I was through another initially-tense-but-later-congratulatory phone call the next day. Phew.

Finally it was time for the last stage, the grand finale, if you will. On June 2, I went back to PAL itself and found myself sitting with around 6 other hopefuls. We had to sit through the whole thing and wait for each of us to finish so that honestly took forever. We took around 20 to 30 minutes each, give or take. I was I think the fourth to get called in to the room with now just two panelists. Sat down on the chair across them, said my usual spiel, and then was asked a bunch of questions. Grilled, actually, rather.

I was asked about why I left my previous job, so I answered [arguably brutally] honestly: I didn’t feel like my skills were being utilized. I wasn’t getting to use my brain anymore. I was sick of facing a computer day in and day out. I was looking for a new challenge.

Of course, they’d relate this with the job I was applying for, which was also routine-based. The traveling was the perk — but I’d still be spending long hours on the plane, doing “brainless” work. One of the panelists was a flight attendant, and I actually could see she was drawing from personal experiences and feelings and meant every truth she said about the job in there. But with every ugly truth she laid out, I defended myself, albeit anxiously, and my desire for the job. My heart was in this, and I made sure they knew. (Cue “the heart of the Filipino, shining through…”)

After all of us were done, we were called in again for the results. The first two ladies who got called got in and danced their way out! The odds seemed good, but then the third one left the room frowning and bitter. She was handed a piece of paper telling her to get some experience in customer service first (which made me nervous because I had none either, eek; but if I were to guess this was just a formality—after her relatively very quick interview she told us, “wala silang matanong sakin.”). The five of us left were called altogether and after a couple minutes of the HR lady just sitting down organizing papers, we were later, finally, congratulated. AH! It’s happening!!!!!!!

We were given a bunch of papers with pre-employment requirements, signed some waivers, and were scheduled for medical exams. Took a few photos together, then called it a day, feeling all happy and triumphant. Yay! 🙂

I went back for the medical exams a couple of days after but wasn’t allowed to continue after the eye exam as my awful eyes were never to pass that stage. I was told to come back when I’m able to, a.k.a. when I get my lasik surgery.

So, that, I did. I braved the costly bladeless (which apparently didn’t equate to contactless) lasik, and on July 27, almost two months later, went back, now with perfect eyes, to finish and pass my medical exams.

Now I wait for HR’s call again and gather the energy and courage to persevere through what everyone calls a gruesome 52-day training. I’m scared, just as I am every time I walk into their offices, into an industry so far from where I thought I would go. But this post is for me as well, to serve as a reminder of how God willed for me to get through all those stages and a life-changing surgery, all so smoothly, to get here. To remind myself of how happy I was with every congratulatory greeting. Finish what you started, self. You wanted this. You want this.

Must stick this quote in my head in times of fear: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough!”

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