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Carreer Junction by Michele Majul-IbarraPay it forward

by Michele Majul-Ibarra

As we celebrate Filipino-Canadian Heritage Month this June, I am reminded of the richness of the Filipino culture. The many customs and traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation remind me of how our values and beliefs are shaped to who we are today. From bayanihan to responding to elders with “po” and “opo,” there is something about our heritage that makes it truly unique.

Speaking of unique, what really stands out for me are the thousands of salawikain that we inherited from our ancestors from centuries ago. Salawikain, as we know, are sayings or proverbs, which originated from the wisdom of elders based either on common sense or experience.

Dr. Jose Rizal coined one of the most popular salawikain, which states, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan hindi makararating sa pinaroroonan.” This brilliant maxim directly translates to “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.”

I have always understood Rizal’s quote to mean that people who do not show respect and appreciation for their roots are destined to have a fruitless future. While this famous line appears to refer to a citizen’s love for their country and their origins, it can also be interpreted in such a way in which it can be applied in the workplace or everyday life. Whether we notice or not, the concept of this particular saying actually manifests itself in the “pay it forward” principle. We see a lot of examples in the media, particularly on the Internet. In one viral video I saw recently, a homeless man discovers that a stranger left some cash for him while he was sleeping. He goes to a store and buys groceries not for himself, but for other hungry homeless people on the street.

As we know, the concept of “paying it forward” is not about returning the favour to an anonymous person who does us favour. It is about repaying the favour to someone else. When we are influenced by what others have done for us, we are motivated to continue spreading the good deed with others.

In the workplace, there are many ways that we can start a random chain of good deeds. However, as we know, it’s a dog eat dog kind of world out there where employees are always competing with one another and do anything in their power to gain advantage. Because of this, the culture of self-entitlement cannot be avoided and, as we know, this type of mentality creates tension in the workplace and can degrade relationships between co-workers and employers.

So, how do we pay it forward? Well, it is not hard if we think about it. Positive deeds yield positive results. For instance, when your co-worker thinks of an idea on how to improve sales or productivity and you happen to participate in that discussion, try not to take credit for it or claim that it was your idea in the first place. You can pay it forward by taking a few minutes to tell your manager about it and how you think it can positively impact your team overall.

Another way of paying forward is helping a co-worker with their workload. For example, if you work in an office setting, filing and all those mindless repetitive tasks can take a toll on someone. If you happen to have a lighter workload one day and notice a colleague struggling to accomplish their work, you could really give that person a good energy boost by helping them. Fostering a positive atmosphere could positively impact the team and the overall work environment as well.

“Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa pinaroroonan” essentially teaches us that we need to appreciate who we are and what makes us who we are. It is about embracing our identity as a person regardless of how successful we become.

I dedicate this article to my beloved uncle who embraced his humble roots by paying his gratitude forward to help those in need. Rest in peace Romeo “RR” Roque, July 6, 1956 – May 21, 2019.


This article is intended for information purposes only and not to be considered as professional advice.

Michele Majul-Ibarra, IPMA-ACP is an Advanced Certified HR Professional with the International Personnel Management Association. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Resource Management. She also holds the C.I.M. professional designation (Certified in Management).

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