At Your Service! Yes! — Reflections on the SM Immersion

by Miguel Luis Gotao, H4H
The author with the rest of his classmates and their co-workers.

The SM Immersion is one of the Campus Ministry and Service Office’s recurring activities for the fourth year students of Xavier School. We students are assigned to one of the many branches of SM across the Philippines, where we would act as sales associates for four days within the establishment. It may not seem like it, but the immersion does so much more than what some students would expect.

Since our class was the first batch amongst the fourth year students to go to SM, we went in with very little or nothing to go on (besides our venue in Marikina), meaning that expectations were purely based on how we saw the immersion. The thing that most of our classmates expected was nothing more than a daily grind, with some self-made reflections along the way. Thus, not everybody was so eager to begin working. However, most of us remained strong and encouraged each other so that the entire class could make the most of the activity.

Our first day was my first time visiting SM Marikina. While I only expected a small market, I can safely say that those expectations were quickly overtaken by the big shopping complex. The idea of handling such a giant area filled with shoppers sort of put me in a state of nervousness. The last thing I wanted was for me to be overcome by the pressure of bagging and attending to shoppers.

After a big day of orientation, we were given a taste of what the next days would become. During those 2 hours of bagging, I felt weaker than ever. The bagging job might seem easy on paper, but the real deal is something completely different. The job takes an extent of finesse and skill to do well, and I was far from doing my best that day. Being dropped in the heat of the moment with nothing but my wits and small knowledge of bagging created an atmosphere of pressure in my mind. Along with the expectations of the shoppers fluttering around in my thoughts, I actually felt useless there, simply standing next to my bagging buddy as I could not take on the responsibility on my own. It was an eye-opener, knowing that I would be experiencing emotions like these over the next week. It was even more mind-blowing to think that this is what the regular SM employees have to work with everyday, and their work is simply taken for granted by the shoppers. These workers are really pushed to their limits by the daily grind, yet they still find the energy and courage to continue working. I saw something in them that day, something that was so unmistakably familiar that I knew I was unexcused from my ineptitude. MAGIS truly existed in society, and the buddies around me exemplified that value to the best of their abilities. That day, I vowed that I wouldn’t let the pressure get to me any longer, and I would do my best to continue, even when I felt like I could no longer go on.

Thus, the true SM Immersion began. We were able to try out a lot of interesting things over the course of the next three days, like carving and packaging pomelo, segregating and arranging different items, and even deboning fish. In hindsight, I can confidently say that it was less of a “grind” and more of like enjoyable duties. My reason for this, besides it being less stressful, is because I felt like was doing real productive work. As we were doing our different odd jobs around the supermarket, I distinctly felt something motivate me. Transitioning into the role of a good employee, my intentions were beginning to look nobler in ambition. Xavier’s mission began to look clearer in the context of these workers. I wanted to do a good job because I wanted my work to make a difference, to do good for the establishment, as well as the customers. This work looked more like acts of service, and as soon as I saw it in that light, I was much more obliged to do my work the best I could. This didn’t just apply to my experience but to the regular employees of SM. They persevere through the many trials and tribulations in their work because they know they must make a difference in the lives of the people around them. It is this common good amongst the workers than creates a sense of camaraderie between them, and for me to see them like this allows me to see them truly as my fellow brothers and sisters.

The SM Immersion was very effective in more ways than one. Not only did I learn the meaning of hard work, but the ability to relate to the common worker, which really was the main purpose of the entire immersion. We were able to come together for the common good, and each of us have successfully left our respective marks on each others’ lives, both filled with good memories and even better messages to each other. Leaving SM, I can’t help but remember a line from the worker code that really captured what the experience meant for both of us. I’ll be remembering the time I spent in SM Marikina very dearly, because, as life goes on, I will live out that faithful motto.

At your service! Yes!

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