Timing plays the Devil’s Advocate, back then, until now, and always.
Seven years ago, in 2005, I sat in a room filled with kids just like me: bright, promising, driven. I met Jose Rizal, this dark-skinned guy with a semi-stache resembling our national hero, whose math skills were probably much better than mine. (Math sucks.) How could I compete with this reincarnation of Jose Rizal? I was just a wide-eyed girl with fire in her eyes — smart enough, but never really the smartest; talented perhaps, but not yet the best. Hard working? Yes, very. To make up for what I lacked.
I know it’s silly and cliche, especially for a rationale person like me, but my life has always given me reasons to believe in providence, fate, that everything happens for a reason. While I believe in creating opportunity, sometimes we stumble upon it by chance. Those instances are what make me a believer, kneeling down on the holy ground of the Universe, with a transcendental edge over Jose Rizal.
Fast forward to :44 and 1:27
Seven years ago I became a follower, in that fortuitous moment of getting my life-changing scholarship back to International School Manila (ISM).
In 2000 I left because of financial difficulty (international education is expensive), only to return by chance, because my mother was in charge of the refreshments for the initial screening, a few days away. A test I wasn’t allowed to take in 2000 because I didn’t come from a local school. A test that now would coincidentally put me back in the same grade, for a scholarship specially made for that year. It’s like I never left.
Fast forward to 2012, and I’ve committed myself to yet another accidental opportunity: Singapore.
It was not my initial intention to work abroad. I already envisioned my future in the Philippines, however, I just wanted to wait out my options until I came back from a long-planned trip to visit my sister in Singapore.
But as per advice from my parents, I did send one email, to an opening indirectly referred via Twitter, which was closed by the time I arrived. Little did I know that a quick follow up to meet over Sunday lunch would change the course of my life. I had my interview a day before I flew back home.
Then I packed my life into a suitcase and flew thousands of miles away to jump start my career as a fresh grad, in a digital agency, pretty much side-tracking from a post-college path I thought would be journalism, and totally starting anew.
Leaving would be easy to do, I thought. I’m single, unattached, and pretty independent already. But it seems that letting go was/is heavier than my 30kg suitcase.
What I’m attached to, I’ve come to realize, is the prospect of possibility; opportunity in the past tense; potential unrealized by the circumstances that did not fit. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, except I can’t skip through the pages to peek ahead. In real life, I can only take everything as it comes, one at a time. Goodbye almost-lovers! Goodbye career I spent months, years, preparing for back at home, trying to do my part in uplifting my country. Well, directly at least.
It’s hard to have itchy feet, when there’s a nagging heart, indicating that home means something to me. And that’s always a good sign.
Frankly, I had/have mixed feelings. Did I sell out? Turn my back away from the Philippines? Due to experience, I know not to take good opportunities like this lightly. I learned to pay attention to what my life is telling me and over time, digital kept revealing itself to me, in glimpses. I was always a digital native, born in the days of xanga.
It feels like 2005 again, where for reasons unbeknownst and bigger than me right now, I am here in Singapore; being given the chance to grow exponentially, in a global environment I thrive in and have been longing to be in again, helping both my family and myself. Among others, these were some of my non-negotiables. It may not be journalism (for now), but I always write out of passion, not profession. The more I live, the better I write. In exchange, I’ll be committing to this blog like never before, always using the Philippines as a point of view.
A quote in Art of War says, “Plan for what is difficult while it’s still easy, do what is great while it is small. For this reason, sages never do what is great, and this is why they can achieve greatness.”
The digital world is a different beast altogether, but my intention was always to harness and understand the internet and social media — whether in journalism or in this case, advertising and marketing, so I can develop my skills for some bigger, future cause, whatever it may be. First, my priority is to build technical, intellectual, social and financial capital in the best way I can. The idealists forget to tell you that chasing your dreams isn’t cheap.
I also find comfort in what Reina Reyes, the Filipina Rappler featured as the girl who proved Einstein right, wrote. “As for myself, I look forward to going back – not to return to the home I left, but to start on the one I’m going to help build.”
Leaving ISM only to come back on scholarship changed me the way taking my undergraduate in the Philippines did. I see it as a checks and balance system, to ground my dreams on reality, and to learn how to earn them the hard way.
You see, after I confirmed my acceptance to Singapore, my mom revealed that I wasn’t a clear cut choice for that scholarship. One person fought for me. (As I said, my math sucks.)
Maybe I was a wild card, but knowing that chance can easily gift someone else, like Jose Rizal for example, is part of what drives me. I also owe the unfolding of my life to the people who vouched for me, like the guy I just met in Singapore who referred me. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” Bill Gates said. In return, it’s why I stand up for the people I believe in. One person can make a difference. I owe it to them, as much as I owe it to myself.
Work hard, but also be kind because we fly on the good graces of others, like family, friends, orgmates, and even strangers. In my intoxicated glory, what I do remember is giving thanks to everyone during my despedida — to the people who challenged and took care of me when I was down. Now I can begin a new chapter, with less distractions, more focus, which was always my stumbling block.
Why am I here? I’m not exactly sure yet, and it scares me that I might have risked everything for nothing. I’ll take comfort in the divinity of meant to be. If the Universe has bigger plans for me, then it can find me at its church, giving thanks.
Related articles from fellow Filipino scholar Natashya Gutierrez
Memes found on Facebook