Saturday, Feb 29

Discovering strengths, overcoming limitations

March 20, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

From operating a lathe machine, MOC student Ronald Bastinga adds smoothing steel edges to his growing skill pool. Students sent to different companies to learn on the job find themselves learning new skills in the metalworking industry. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • More than a month into their internship, the MOC students realize that the industry is an entirely different world from their training grounds at the Great Love Campus. Treating the workplace as another classroom, the students apply their knowledge, even learning more in the process.


For over two months, the students of Tzu Chi’s Machine Operation Course (MOC) have all but learned the basics of working with industrial machines. A combination of classroom instruction and hands-on practice has honed their confidence in making good in the metalworking industry. The inculcation of Tzu Chi values has helped them labor with merit, treating their line of work as more than just a means of making a living.

As they take their newly-acquired skills to the workplace, they find themselves in an entirely different world.

Despite the MOC equipping him with the necessary skills, Elpidio Naldez struggled with operating an older model of the lathe machine. It sports a huge wheel designed to make and finish manhole covers for utilities like sewage and power lines. By and large, the machine has to be operated manually, as in spinning the big wheel to start the process.

“Fortunately, we’ve already memorized the operation of a lathe machine. We may have needed to learn how to work the bigger machine, but at least we managed to,” Naldez narrates.

His employer, Maysan Casting Corporation in Valenzuela City, mostly operates old equipment. Most of the regular employees have used them for as long as they have been with the company. But with most nearing retirement, the owner Harvey Ong has to recruit young blood. The search has been anything but easy.

“In the past, people had much love for their work. Now, it’s difficult to find such people. Most are unable to finish school, if at all, so their mindset is that they treat work as merely work. As long as they make a living, it’s fine,” remarks Ong.

He saw the passion he is looking for in the MOC students who were unfazed by the challenge of operating old machinery.

“In the case of the [OJTs], they know that they should maintain their machines. It’s the bread and butter of their work. Also, they have an understanding of values because they were taught. They don’t just fall victim to bribes or something,” adds Ong.

The dilemma of finding dependable staff these days highlights the importance of balance between skill and values. A person well-versed in any skill, not just metalworking, but lacking in values such as honesty and respect cannot expect to get far in life. Naldez knows this, given the fact that he plans to seek opportunities abroad once he graduates from the program soon.

“In many countries, attitude is important. If you don’t learn how to approach others, you might get into trouble with your colleagues,” Naldez says.


Achievement unlocked

When MOC student Ronald Bastinga began his internship, he knew virtually nothing about welding. The skill isn’t part of Tzu Chi’s livelihood curriculum at this time. He was trained to use a lathe machine. But after being taught on the spot by regular employees, he has since remained in the welding shop.

 His newfound forte in welding helped him feel better about himself.

“If I would only learn one skill, it’s useless. It’s better to learn more skills to be able to use them someday,” he reasons, grateful that he was able to expand his knowledge and learn how to use acetylene torches, power saws, and balance saws at Hi-Top Merchandising in Marilao, Bulacan where he trains with another MOC student. General manager Hanson Tan admitted to being hesitant about taking in interns. After much discussion with his colleagues, Tan accepted the first interns in the company’s history.

He described the interns as setting a good example among the workforce with simple etiquette such as greeting while bowing humbly. He saw them as people eager to learn something new, not just merely making a living for their families. He sees much potential in interns coming from Tzu Chi’s livelihood program.

Impressed by their exemplary efforts, Tan expressed his intent to visit Tzu Chi’s MOC program as reciprocation. He also promised to welcome more interns from the program if Tzu Chi sees them as a worthy partner.

“We could say ‘getting to know each other more.’ So that in the future, we can improve on what we are doing. We believe in continuous improvement and sustainability,” Tan says.

  • Hanson Tan, general manager of Hi-Top Merchandising, gives Tzu Chi volunteers a tour around his plant in Marilao, Bulacan. He expressed delight in accepting the company’s first two interns after seeing their willingness to learn and good moral character. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Hi-Top Merchandising operations manager Dennis Tan goes through the evaluation papers of the two MOC interns. He oversees the interns’ progress, as such granting him the authority to assess their performance. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi volunteers stumble upon three MOC students taking their lunch break outside Maysan Casting Corporation’s foundry in Valenzuela City. The cool shade is a much-needed respite from the heat of a busy factory. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Harvey Ong (left), owner of Maysan Casting Corporation, is faced with the problem of his veteran employees nearing retirement. At TESDA’s recommendation, he tapped into Tzu Chi’s MOC for a handful of young interns. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The students’ workplace consists of bulky lathe machines, older models compared with the universal versions used in the Great Love Campus. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • MOC student Elpidio Naldez applies force to the huge wheel in a lathe machine that makes manhole covers. He and his classmates were shocked to find out that the machines they would operate were different from the ones they were familiar with. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Various shapes and sizes of manhole covers lay by the side of the old lathe machine. Their uses range from sewage to power lines. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】