18 Hours a Day: The Reality of Others

by: Christian Lawrence Tan || Cartoon by: Nathalia Canlas

“Anyone who claims to work 18 hours a day is either lying or stupid.” This statement can be found in the recent VinCentiments film starring Senator Imee Marcos and other public figures. The video named a certain “Len-Len” who fainted after working more than 18 hours a day, with Senator Imee Marcos simply commenting that time management was key, likely as a response to Vice President Leni Robredo’s proclamation regarding her working hours during the Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews. 

However, this video, which was initially meant to be an attack towards the Vice President, was ignorant of the working Filipinos. It sparked rage in the working class, many of whom used the hashtag “#AkoSiLenLen” to come forth with their own realities, emphasizing how out of touch and insulting the film was. 

An 18-hour workday sounds like a stretch to most, but once you start counting how much time you need to put into your job to earn a living, those hours may very well reach that supposedly ridiculous number. From students who burn the midnight oil just to finish a comprehensive essay, street vendors who stay open in hopes of catching passersby late into the night, all the way to our medical workers and frontliners who work tirelessly to preserve and protect the lives of the Filipino people— placing all of these into perspective suddenly changes the whole story. 

A vendor who sells vegetables, for example, does not have a definite amount of paperwork to do, but they have to sell their produce to a number of people. Even on an idle day, most would have to extend their time to be able to provide for their families. On the other hand, there are those who have a fixed salary that simply isn’t enough — the underpaid who have to put more work in to make up for the gap in their wages. Many Filipinos don’t have the luxury to get off of work so early and still earn sufficiently. Some have to widen the net of their service time just to get a chance to earn more. That is the unfortunate reality of many people in the country.

The words spoken in the film were distant, far from the hearts and level of living that most working-class people experience. They felt that their lives and efforts were being insulted because they couldn’t finish the work that they themselves accepted. The reality of the working class is that most people don’t get to decide how much work they get, do they? It’s up to their superiors—the rich and powerful—to decide for them. 

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