The assistant

"It is my honor and privilege to introduce our keynote speaker for today..."

She stands quietly by the side of the podium. She rifles through the many papers on the clipboard she was holding. She's been doing it for the past few minutes, but this time she takes the first few pages off the clipboard. Ten pages, single-file, double-spaced, filled with annotations and edits and highlights. It was the speech she wrote.

"Ladies and gentlemen, my boss..."

The applause swells. She clutches the speech and hands them, swiftly, over to her boss. He goes up the stage, fixes the microphone, composes himself, basks momentarily in the applause.

"Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat."

She slightly moves backwards, but generally stays by the side of the podium. She fixes her glasses, and checks her clipboard again. It's the same speech, but with even more annotations and edits and highlights.

It's been exactly a year since she took this job. Some of her friends thought she shouldn't have. She's a smart person, they say, well-read, well-articulated - surely she deserves better than to be someone's personal assistant? But it's an honor and a privilege, she argued, to work for the government, for this government, for this person who has done so much for this country even before he was appointed to this position. And also, she said, she's looking forward to learn a lot more than from the books she's read, more than from that internship where she ended up merely making coffee and arranging files. She's looking forward to learn more not just from him, but from the people around him, the people he talks to, the people he meets.

She's been standing on the side for exactly a year now. She helps write the speeches. She fact-checks the statements. She keeps tab of the schedules. She ties up most - not all; she can't - loose ends. But a lot of times she just stands there, listening, sometimes taking photos with the camera strapped around her neck, as he talks to business leaders, to colleagues, to dignitaries, to someone who just wants to be heard. Or, in this case, to an audience of 500 people who don't seem to pay that much attention.

Has it been worth it? Her friends say a year is enough; her friends year she should now go work for a conglomerate, or a non-profit - anywhere but the government, anywhere where her abilities can be better used, where her worth can be best realized. Maybe soon, she thinks, but not yet. It's not yet time.

She lost track of the speech. As always, her boss went off-script again.

"And I hope you have a fruitful time at the conference. Maraming salamt sa inyong lahat, at mabuhay."

The applause swells again. She comes up to the podium and gathers the ten pages her boss just read off.

"Good job, Ady," he tells her.

"Thank you sir," she replies, quietly, before rushing back down the stage and gathering everything in her clipboard.

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