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My father was a geologist. Or more specifically, a hydrogeologist. It was his job to study water availability in specific areas to determine whether it can sustain the requirements of whatever business or project will be set up in a particular location.
He was just among a handful in his profession here in the country. And modesty aside - not because he was my old man - he was probably the best. His clients were the biggest corporations and organizations, and many times, he would be called in to troubleshoot something another hydrogeologist already worked on, but was unsuccessful.
Anyway...on several occasions, I would hear people address my Dad as 'Engineer,' which is funny, because he wasn't one. And neither was his profession a branch of engineering. I guess it's because those guys who called him that didn't really know how to address him as a professional so they went with engineer.
I'm not sure if secretly my father liked being referred to as that, or he just got tired correcting these people, a number of whom were engineers themselves assigned to oversee the projects that my father was working on.
Honestly, it annoyed me. Not just the title, which was not appropriate, but the need to use one.
It's a culture thing here in the Philippines, for professionals to be addressed with a title. So, it is always a big deal for someone to become an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor - the big three in college degrees - because they'd have that title stuck to their names forever.
But let's not forget political titles. Someone may have been a mayor 50 years ago, but people who knew him as such will definitely keep addressing him that long after he has retired.
Even if the person was merely a councilor or a village chief (barangay captain), their names will always be preceded by their title - present or past.
So you often get confused when meeting someone for the first time who is introduced as 'Kap', (for barangay captain) or 'senator' or 'cong' (for congressman), and think this was an incumbent, when in fact it was a title from a long-ago job.
Why is it even necessary to attach a title to someone's name, whether incumbent or not, practicing a certain profession, or just for earning a degree?
Will trumpeting what you are, or were, add to your credibility or importance as a human being? Or will you become less of a professional if people did not refer to you with a title?
And here I thought you built a reputation because of what you can actually do, or what you've done, not by some title you want people to reverently address you with.
What about those other professionals whose jobs have no formal titles for them, are they any less competent?
Sometimes, people don't even deserve the titles they so zealously protect and almost demand people to address them with. There are those who finish law, barely pass the bar, and end up as notary publics. Yet, they are 'Attorney' so and so.
People who complete their PhDs always want to be referred to as 'Dr', many of them from the education department. I know there are physicians who aren't happy being lumped with someone who has a doctorate degree, because they argue it's not the same as being a medical professional.
I'm all for broadcasting to the world what you do for a living, and if you're any good at it, your work will speak for itself, no titles required.
It's a mindset that isn't healthy, and can be discouraging.
I totally understand parents who preen like a peacock after a child earns one of those coveted degrees, especially if they had to toil and sacrifice so much for this to happen.
And if their children end up as successful professionals, well and good. But let's not shout it at the rooftops every single time that your son is an engineer, or your daughter a doctor, especially if they don't have much to show for it yet.
Even if you're a successful entrepreneur, some even disparage you saying you're just in sales. And never mind if you're the most skilled and talented mechanic, able to bring to life some decrepit vehicle that could fall apart anytime, you ain't much because there's no title for that.
Titles should not define who we are and the work we do. The results and output that we give out because of how we do our jobs will build our reputation. And that's far more important than any high-falutin' title attached to a name.
Come to think of it, when someone does some heroic deed regardless of what they do for a living, is their name prefixed with 'Hero'?
I didn't think so. But I know people far and wide know exactly who that person is and what he did. And that's all that really matters.
Images: Lead image created with Canva; other images from Unsplash