Why the outrage over the call center agent ‘slur’ in ‘The Borrowed Wife’ fails to move me

20THE-BORROWED-WIFEThe outrage being expressed by certain members of the call center agent population, or business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, over a perceived affront in the script of media giant GMA 7’s latest series “The Borrowed Wife”, frankly just fails to impress me:

Indignant call center agents vowed to boycott the newest GMA television series, “The Borrowed Wife,” starring Pauleen Luna and Camille Prats, after the lead actors spewed “insulting remarks” against call center agents and the business process outsourcing industry.

In the pilot episode of the “teleserye” (television series), the stars exchanged lines, saying “Hindi ako nag-aaral para sumagot lang ng telepono! (I did not go to school just to answer phone calls!)” and “pang walang pinag-aralan lang ‘yan (that job’s only for uneducated people).”

On the site FashionPulis.com, they featured a letter from a certain JM Cruz, who identifies himself as “the host and creator of The Call Center Show”:

We strongly condemn this kind of mockery. The nerve of these supposed writers to discriminate against an industry they know nothing about!

The gall to belittle an industry with billions in revenues making it one of the chief economic drivers of this country. An industry that employs hundreds of thousands of hardworking people who pay billions in taxes to the government. What about them? How much do they know? How much research have they done to make such sweeping, degrading statements?

Really? Of all the possible issues that these people could find with the TV show and the society it depicts, they chose to focus on a perceived slight to call center agents?

Why don’t people discuss why the Philippines is so dependent on call centers to prop up its hollow economy in the first place? Why don’t people discuss the skullduggery and hanky panky that goes on in Filipino companies which, for example, led the male character to lose his original job? Why don’t people discuss the pervading machismo culture in Filipino society, which keeps the men from sharing the duty as breadwinners? Why don’t people discuss the idea of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”, something that many Filipinos continue to ignore in their daily lives and transactions?

Even in that portion of JM Cruz’s letter which was quoted above, he fails to see the irony in his statement of “an industry with billions in revenues making it one of the chief economic drivers of this country. An industry that employs hundreds of thousands of hardworking people who pay billions in taxes to the government.”

Let’s spell out certain realities about the call center industry that many Filipinos seem to overlook.

The Philippines is home to many call centers and BPO companies mainly because labor is cheap and abundant here. Granted, the English-speaking ability of Filipinos is still considerably better compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors, and even compared to BPO giant India and outsourced production giant China. Filipinos easily can adopt a working American accent, something absolutely necessary because occasionally you get customers who absolutely refuse to speak to anyone else but an American. Plus, Filipinos are generally more familiar with American culture compared to the rest of their counterparts in the region.

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The phrase “walang pinag-aralan” (uneducated) when referring to call-center agents is not necessarily true. And that’s the sad part; I can say rather accurately that many who become agents are actually overqualified for the job when it comes to academic credentials. Or rather, their degrees are totally unrelated to what is needed for a call center agent (then again, what is). Because of the sorry state of the Philippine job market, however – too much supply of people looking for jobs, not enough demand, and not all that supply is qualified – they are forced to take jobs like call center agents when they can’t get ones related to their courses.

Unfortunately, a call center agent job is a dead-end one. This is better expressed with a phrase in the vernacular: walang patutunguan. While they are not always necessarily glorified telephone-operators, there is a reason that perception persists: because it’s what makes up the bulk of the call center agent job description. No matter how hard call center agents claim their job is, that basic fact will not change. Telephone operators generally don’t command high salaries. Deal with it.

As there are few team lead (TL) positions, and even fewer top management ones, I can make an educated guess that a lot of employees who start out as agents stay an agent for a very long time, perhaps even the entirety of their career. If you think about it, it’s the perfect job for a people with a pwede-na-yan, bahala-na slave mentality. There are those who will defend it to the death as honest work to be proud of. To me, that is such an abominably low standard for something to take pride in.

What makes things worse is the preference of certain companies to hire officer positions from the outside, instead of getting people who went through the ranks. Why is this a problem? Because it doesn’t really do wonders for retaining your best people with potential.

As early as now, the lack of qualified applicants – only 9 in 100 applicants get hired for entry-level positions – is a cause for concern for the expansion of the BPO industry. According to that report, many applicants get rejected because of any or all of three main reasons:

1) They have insufficient communication skills (primarily spoken English);
2) They lack the needed computer literacy, and;
3) They lack problem solving skills and critical thinking faculties;

Thus my earlier statement is further verified: the Philippines not only has a shortage of jobs for its ballooning population, it has a population that is generally unqualified to fill in the available ones.

If you caught what I said earlier, the BPO industry is planning to expand even further in the Philippines. Even if the BPO industry brings in a lot of cash to the Philippine economy – comparable to overseas Filipino worker (OFW) remittances – it is not a sustainable way to prop it up. Quite simply, it is low to no value-added work. It does not contribute to the manufacturing base which Filipinos need. So even if someone tells you that the burgeoning of the BPO industry will lead to the boost of other business sectors – like food and retail, transportation, education, or even real estate – the bottom line is it merely feeds the excessive consumerism that Filipinos are known for. Call center agents will simply take their hard-earned salary and piss it on cellphone load, on the uptown restaurant that everyone’s been talking about, on that fancy condo unit which they will rent but not own, or on the next trendy gadget.

There is no capital base being built up, financial, much less intellectual capital. What good is a supposed boost to education if we’re teaching people how to be perpetual slaves? What is needed in the country is an education program that promotes entrepreneurship.

The other thing that Filipinos should be showing concern about is that BPO industries comprise an outsourcing trend that can simply come and go. As more lower-cost and better English-speaking destinations inevitably start sprouting in other parts of the world, the industry will simply go where they are. The other side of that coin is that sooner or later developing countries – whose companies are largely responsible for the outsourcing trend anyway – will want those jobs back because they are starting to feel the crunch of the current global economic downturn.

For those Filipinos who think being a call center agent is cool, I will tell you it’s not easy. Neither is it glamorous. Most importantly, it’s not for everybody. A lot of people I know who went into BPO’s or call centers picked up a few undesirable conditions, and even habits that they didn’t have before. The tendency of call centers to aggravate conditions like high blood pressure, and the persisting link between call centers and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), for example, should really make one wary of entering them.

It should be viewed as a profession of last resort, only when all other options have failed.

Quite simply, Filipinos should quit propagating the delusion that call center agents/BPO employees are a prestigious or “special” community.

For those of you who are thinking that I don’t know what it’s like to be in a call center or BPO, I’ve got news for you: I do. I did the graveyard shift. I went through accent neutralization/accent reduction training. I took the calls. I dealt with the angry customers. I followed and memorized the script. I endured the high-pressure environment and the illnesses associated with call centers/BPO’s for years.

All for what was, at that time, seemingly high pay, you know, the one with the Night Standard Differential (NSD) and other allowances. God knows I paid an intangible price with my health, and with my way of life, for that salary.

In the end, I asked myself: Is it all worth it? Do I want to spend the rest of my life doing this?

I found the answer to those questions in the most unexpected of circumstances. Yet I was also able to do something in a call center/BPO many Filipinos have so far failed to:

I got out.

[Photo courtesy: Manila Bulletin and Pampanga Call Center]

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About FallenAngel

А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. - But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.

Post Author: FallenAngel

А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. - But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.

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256 Comments on "Why the outrage over the call center agent ‘slur’ in ‘The Borrowed Wife’ fails to move me"

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Gogs
Member

Never ceases to amaze me how a group of people can enraged over a throw away line in any fictional tv show? Have they never heard of in character ? I got news for some of you. People like John Travolta or Terry Hatcher are given a script. They say whatever is in that script to assume the character . It by no means makes anything the Gospel truth. People whose feelings are hurt because of things like that, deserve it. Oh yeah. This is Emo Nation after all.

medy ramos
Guest

HA! HA! HA! Very, very true. As if those lines are never uttered in real life! Come on, be real!

Sea Bee
Guest

American workers DO want those jobs back.

Mac
Guest

I can sense that you have not matured. We work not to have fun, we do not work because we want a higher position, we dont work because we want to have friends in the office, we dont work because we want people to be envious of the kind of job we have…we work primarily because we want to earn. Life is difficult and the sooner you can accept this, the easier it will be for you to move on with your life….i hope you can realize this sooner…

astatine
Guest

is that not the point? that it shouldn’t be working simply to earn? that there should be more to working than just simply going paycheck to paycheck?

Mac
Guest
You are setting yourself up for disappointment. You dont rely on your work, boss, to make tou happy. We are responsible to self motivate ourselves as work in general is a LABOR we need to endure so we can earb to provide for our basic needs. To my point – everything that the writer put here are things he decided to accept and not control. Focused on the negative rather than the positives. Bottomline – things will depend entirely on one’s behaviour REGARLDESS the industry. Resiliency is what separates successful people from the ordinary – they have higher adversity quotient,… Read more »
Julie
Guest

True!

And to the writer it seems like you have bad experience in BPO industries that you cant get over with…pwes… move on b*tch…

Nagmamaganda
Guest

Yah, and that’s called FAMILY. You work to support your family and yourself. Job is not a Party.That’s the reality for majority of people. If you are a hardworker, you don’t need FUN in a job. That’s only for lazy people.

libertas
Guest

Actually i suggest you move on … from the cc/bpo/it industry.
You give the industry and the philippines a bad image.
Not the calibre or attitude which is needed.

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[…] Why the outrage over the call center agent 'slur' in 'The Borrowed Wife' […]

medy ramos
Guest

Please give me an alternative to call center jobs with the same pay and I bet you people will resign from that environment in flocks.

diAKOsiVICTOR
Guest

i admit. i am a callboy. i do the rounds. ay teka, callcenter agent pala. wrong forum/blog, sorry…

SarahRN
Guest

if you dont mind me asking, where are you now? what’s your job?

michi
Guest

You got out?
Where are you working now?

SarahRN
Guest

coz everything you threw against being a call center agents is a character problem. wherever you are, whatever your job is, there’s always a healthrisk. everyone can adapt nasty habits. not just call center agents. and agents are agents for a reason, they opted out to be an agent, if you really wish to have career growth, YOU CAN. you just have to strive hard. there’s something wrong with you if you blame a JOB for your CHARACTER. pathetic

SarahRN
Guest

what im trying to say is, yes its extreme to be affected over a tv show. but stereotyping and saying this job is dead-end one and giving subjective views which intends to describe the agents in general is a whole different story. i respect that everyone has their freedom to express and that tv show is fictional, but gaining reactions from people, agreeing to this degrading description is irrational and unacceptable. just sharing my thoughts

joeld
Guest

Well, it’s not the fault of the fictional TV show if people have the subjective view resulting in a degrading description, is it?

Sanzo
Guest

That’s the problem because they think it is still real to them. They may try to emulate or at least try to mirror the shows in to their lives.

joeld
Guest

Must be too much watching “as seen on tv”.

Idiot pinoys always ready to believe anything what the mass media tells them. That is why this country is still in the dark ages.

SarahRN
Guest

im not moved too by this fictional show cause i know that the word “script” exists. but my point about stereotyping is for this article. i totally disagree on how the author described the industry as if he knows it like the back of his hand. yea i did not miss the part where he said he WAS one of us, but with how he described the industry, im starting to have doubts. again, i agree that the community has been too sensitive over this issue, but writing an article like this is a different thing.

Jmac
Guest

I digress, why is it that some people always say “just my 2 cents” or “just sharing my thoughts” or “just my opinion” after they just EXPLICITLY stated their opinion for everyone to see? To remind us that what we read is that person’s opinion, just in case we get confused that what he/she wrote was obviously their opinion?

On topic, I agree don’t generalize, but I fail to see how criticisms can be construed as degrading.

Manny Alvarez
Guest

That’s because call center agents have an overly inflated opinion of themselves.
KMA. Whenever I call for tech support half the time I can’t even understand WTF you’re saying.

iamNOTvictor
Guest

admittedly, there are some representatives who are conceited. However, most of the time the representatives (reps outside of India) CANNOT (yes CANNOT, i did not say DO NOT) understand their customers because of the sheer inutility and idiocy of their said customers.

SarahRN
Guest

again, stereotyping. some may have communication problems but not all. not everyone is self conceited. it takes guts to respect a stranger who would yell at you at the start of the call and humbly apologize even if its not their fault. never STEREOTYPE. its the same as a brokenhearted girl who believes that “all men are the same”. its clearly BIASED and UNFAIR

libertas
Guest
The usual over-reaction which makes call centre workers seem not only stupid but humourless. Juan was trying to get a job in Manila. The Personnel Manager said, “Juan, you have passed all the tests except one. Unless you pass it you cannot qualify for this job.” Juan said, “I am ready.” The Manager said, “Make a sentence using the words Yellow, Pink and Green.” Juan thought for a few minutes and said, “Mister Manager, I am ready.” The Manager said, “Go ahead.” Juan said, “The telephone goes green, green, green, and I pink it up, and say, ‘Yellow, this is… Read more »
Albert
Guest
I would like to comment on what fallen angel said about the BPO industry. Those comments are dead wrong. It comes from someone who may have failed in training therefore cannot be consider as as call center agent. The STD or other bad health habit are also problems in other industry. We are adult that can choose what lifestyle we can embrace on. In a society where people who are graduates of Ateneo , DLSU and UP have the best career opportunities. Thankfully there is BPO industry that promotes people based on their performance, you are provided opportunity for a… Read more »
medy ramos
Guest

Working at the BPO industry is a decent job. They are not prostituting or selling sex so why do you have to look down on them?

Karlo A
Guest
Hey Albert, you have been working in this call center industry for like 5 years, but you can’t even fully grasp the proper usage of the English language. Your syntax and grammar bring shame to people like us working for the same industry. At least get your sh!t right when arguing in these forums… That being said, there’s a grain of truth in this article. Try to look at this as positive criticism. I myself am not offended at all, because my call center job is just like any other day job, and easier to do! I have been working… Read more »
Albert
Guest

Hey Karlo you have no right in cursing me. For one thing, There is no such thing as a perfect English. Americans have there own grammar lapses. Government can also go on bankrupt. It has happen to Brazil other countries. Bottomline there is no job security today. And American accounts also have dayshift schedule.

Gogs
Member

I smell misrepresentation.

medy ramos
Guest

Karlo, I bet you a lot of people want to make a comment but they are worried about you commenting on their grammar, syntax, etc. Come on now, comment on the more substantive points like what you are doing rather than those neglegible ones.

iamnotVICTOR
Guest

stop making insulting to them who is not good in syntaxing like you is. make war not love!

SarahRN
Guest

haha nice Victor. its nice to pretend you’re a fool, than to be a fool pretending you’re smart 🙂

domo
Guest

so it is just ok to insult the lowly workers maids, dh, vendors. Oh they are not special anyway. Let us just violate their dignity coz theres nothing special about them lmao

Johnny Derp
Guest

Oh look, the stupid faker is at it again. Haven’t learned anything from your ban haven’t you?
You are still not very smart are you?

domo
Guest

Wtf is this writer into? Then dont enter the govt coz u might get corrupt, dont be an athlete u might get injured, dont be a soldier u might get killed. Lmao u guys crack me up. Nasa tao nman yan.std is rampant coz of the fags like u is spreading it

domo
Guest

Oh you’re using my name again you imitating troll. You think that jejespeak of yours will fool the author you malakanyakanyang paid hack? Enjoy your ban.

Gogs
Member

Makes you wonder about the “wisdom” of the communications group. Outsourcing their trolling to a place where jeje speak is the norm. Talk about fulfilling jobs. Being paid to dumb it down. And people wonder why we consider the “brains” behind all this , idiots.

Johnny Derp
Guest

They actually thought that their impersonating would actually fool us.
They’re definitely getting dumber and dumber.

libertas
Guest
A good insight into the issues facing the BPO industry which needs to rapidy adapt if it is not to lose out to the brighter, nimbler competitors abroad as the global sector moves to value-added services, and also as customers look for KPO (Knowledge processing outsourcing), ‘big data’, and analytics. Low margin, high volume call processing per se has little future growth, and is hostage to small changes in labour costs, overheads, and even currency fluctuations. With no capital investment in the philippines( due to constitution constraints) it is very easy for foreign call centres/customers to switch contracts to another… Read more »
joeld
Guest

That outrage is the result of the “balat sibuyas” crowd, jumping their opportunities to ride the “fad”.

If you ask me, it is just plain “kababawan” of the pinoy at work.

Sanzo
Guest
Hmmm…so the question..”Is it still real to them?” That rage though…scary~ Vowing to boycott the show..wow real talk. In a few months when it cools down, these same people will simply go back to tune back in and forget just about everything else. Have they forgotten that it was a TV show, and quite a dumb one by the way. There’s absolutely no reason to get butt-hurt with regards to it. People need to take the chill pill sometimes and learn to take things just like a grain of salt. It happens a lot in shows abroad and people just… Read more »
Albert
Guest

Bottom line we should respect each other’s job. Because There all important.

joeld
Guest

Are you saying that the fictional TV show disrespected your job as a call center agent? You do not see any outrage on Mike Rowe doing his Dirty Jobs which is not fiction. Frankly, all I see is just a bunch of “balat sibuyas” crowd jumping the bandwagon.

pilyangmakulet
Guest

this article bored me to death. I worked in a local private dayjob company and i was earning 18k a month..when i worked in bpo and mind you not all are “operators” — this writer is dumb. I was getting 70k a month. geez. no brainer.

PHguy
Guest

You probably weren’t taking calls in a call center. Your use of “no brainer” is out of context.

Could you expound on your position and job description to justify why you’re getting ₱70,000 a month?

joeld
Guest

The article was not about how much you guys earn. (or did you even understand it, must be too much starbucks coffee for you) You can go with your 70k a month but you would still be the same as the others, mababaw. It’s true, your 70k a month wouldn’t buy you class.

libertas
Guest

70k/month wouldn’t be enough to even get me out of bed!

iamnotVICTOR
Guest

i’d choose 70k over class. especially if you represent class. (getting popcorn, watching flames…XD)

Nagmamaganda
Guest

And you have class? Classy people are KIND people. Are you kind?

iamnotVICTOR
Guest

70k…must be a hooker class A. could i get your number?

maskedpotato
Guest

I am appalled that there is real outrage over a fictional show.

It would be a different case if the contents of the show were expressly stated opinions of the network, the writers, and the actors/actresses. But no, so why the outrage? It is all misplaced and the front runner of that outrage movement should be put in his place: shamed to obscurity.

With all the stereotyping people suffer from Filipinos, they themselves should learn to take jabs aimed at them, intentional or unintentional.

l
Guest

Ang pinilakang tabing ay salamin ng nangyayari sa lipunan na may dagdag na imahinasyon upang kagatin ng lipunang may kanya kanyang pananaw at panlasa na kailangan punuin mapakatotohanan man o kathang-isp lamang.

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