I first worked in ACMDC-MGO as a student trainee in the summer of 1989. There were nine of us - seven from MIT, and a mining engineering student each from Adamson University and CIT. Of the MIT group, two were metallurgical engineering students; these being Dondon and myself. Naturally, we were assigned in the Metallurgical Laboratory.

Since MET and Assay Laboratories share one building, they get to share the same telephone too. This phone averages a call in about every five minutes and these calls range from purely personal to inquiries about the latest assay results and plant parameters being monitored by the MET and Assay people.

In our first few weeks on the job, I had one or two unpleasant experiences in answering the phone so I never again attempted to even as touch the phone when it rang. Not out of ignorance but more because of the language problem. Being a Masbateņo, I can speak a bit of Cebuano but a barrage of the language spoken in spitfire manner still escapes me. A polite "beg your pardon" is useless as the caller would just repeat his closely-spaced words faster and more impatiently than before. This usually sends me scampering for someone who speaks in the same tongue.

Dondon, however, was different. During those days when I shied away from the phone's ringing, he was attracted to it like a magnet. He enjoyed answering calls and didn't seem to have a hard time doing so. I sort of envied him but didn't change my resolve not to have anything to do with the instrument.

One day though, with no one around, I was forced to get a call from a man asking for "CO, alas seis". Not understanding what he meant and not finding anyone in sight to whom I could relinquish the phone, I hesitantly and unsurely said "Thank you" then hung up. (It turned out, I learned later, that the guy was asking for the six o'clock "Classifier (or Cyclone) Overflow" assay - datum which could easily be taken from a logsheet just beside the phone.) The very puzzled caller rang back again at once inquiring who had just answered the last call. Asked by a colleague, I shook my head in denial and convincingly kept an innocent face.

Our laboratory clerk, Jake, had a similar experience. Being new in the lab, he also had no way of knowing that CO means "Classifier Overflow". When asked about "CO, alas-seis" on the phone, he thought that the man was referring to a "Commanding Officer".

So he answered, "Wa pa. Wa pa dinhi an among CO." ("No, our CO is not yet in."). And truthfully, our boss wasn't in the laboratory that time.

Anyway Dondon was not without a terrible phone experience. I once entered the laboratory from the CIP plant and saw Dondon talking on the phone. I immediately noticed that something was wrong from his expression.

"Sabi mo si....... Wara gani siya didi." ("You said you're looking for....... I told you he's not here."), Dondon was saying in Masbateņo.

This was followed by a long silence as he pressed the receiver closer to his ear. I could tell from his looks - he turned pale - that what was being said wasn't funny. He shoved the phone into my hands, perhaps to momentarily escape from whoever was on the line.

No wonder he didn't like the call a bit. A drunken voice greeted my ears.

"Bisan edukado ka, pusilon ta ka. Hambugero ka. Pagbantay lang sa gawas kay makit-an ko gani ikaw, ayaw lang gyod pagmahay. Kulatahon ta gyud ka!" ("Even if you're educated, I'd kill you. Braggart. Be wary when you go out, I'll beat you up if I see you.")

I carefully placed the phone down.

Subsequent inquiries with Dondon were fruitless. He wouldn't tell me why the man was in a homicidal rage.

These phone "misadventures" remind me of stories I heard from boardmates. I lack the nerve to authenticate the tales though, as they involve two persons of authority in MGO. But true or not, I'll share the stories for their lesson - to remind us to be more polite in using the phone, especially when we don't know who's on the other end.

According to my boardmate's account, the former Resident Manager, Mr. Victorio V. Pato, once used the phone to call the Gold Refinery and asked for Mr. Yumul, the General Foreman. He was answered by the Refinery guard.

"Ara ba si Mr. Yumul?" ("Is Mr. Yumul there?"), the Resident Manager asked not identifying himself.

"Huwat anay kay busy pa kaayo dinhi. Unya ka na lang magtawag." ("It's very busy here. Just call again later."), answered the guard and hung up.

The phone rang again. The same voice asking for the same person.

Exasperated, the guard shouted to the top man of ACMDC-MGO, "Naunsa ka? Di ka pwede sabihan san kausa lang? Unya ka na gani magtawag kay daghan pang ginatrabaho dinhi." ("What's with you?! Can't you be told once? I told you to call later because everybody's busy here.")

I can only guess what happened next.

And there's the story of a toolkeeper who often gets crank calls from his friends. Once, while on third shift duty, he received an untimely call.

"Nag-unsa ka dinha? Nganong dugay kang motubag?" ("What are you doing there? What kept you so long to answer the phone?"), asked the caller who was wondering why the phone took a long time to get answered.

"Kay ikaw, naga-unsa ka man?" ("And you, what are you doing too?"), answered the toolkeeper, thinking this was again one of those pranksters.

"Nagtuwog ka siguro sa trabaho, 'no?" ("You're probably sleeping on the job, aren't you?")

"Kay ikaw diay, natuwog ka sab." ("Well, how about you? You're sleeping on the job too.")

Here, there was a change in tone from the other end. The words came faster this time. "Kinsa ni? Kinsa ni?" ("Who's this? Who's this?")

"Kay ikaw, kinsa ka man" ("And you, who are you too?"), came the toolkeeper's answer in a voice not wanting to be outdone.

"Si Mr. Amores 'ni. (giving the Division Chief's name)".

"Si Mr. Amores, san binuang mo." ("Mr. Amores, of your crazy prank."), replied the poor guy, still not believing.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the caller was indeed Mr. Amores.

The toolkeeper received disciplinary action, perhaps more because of his admission that he slept on the job than his phone discourtesy.

The lesson here is we should start learning the proper phone courtesy before it's too late.... before we became the Refinery guard... or the toolkeeper.

-- END --

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