Beyond the skyline – A Singapore beach getaway

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On the not so distant islands of St John and Lazarus, just off the coast of Sentosa Cove, we discovered a place where the Singapore skyline meets the sea. An anonymous piece of city paradise to actually dig our toes into the sand and wade in all shades of aquamarine.

The beach isn’t decorated with sun-kissed locals who live off the sea. No bangkas nor wooden boats delivered coconut juice or San Miguel beer up to our boatstep. Instead we found city folk kickin’ back their Havaianas for a day trip of frolicking in their bikinis, with tan lines leaving a mark on their air con weathered skin.

For my friends it was a welcome break from the concrete corporate playground we know Singapore to be. While the beach doesn’t compare to those back home in the Philippines, it was lovely to actually be able to jump off the boat and melt into one of the untouched coastlines in the city. Even until now, after 3 years of living here, Singapore can still surprise and delight. Two islands – St. John’s and Lazarus island – beyond the skyline and a beach getaway just a short ferry or boat ride away.

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A ‘glocal’ Thanksgiving

A holiday tradition is rooted in culture, heritage and religion. Catholics and Christmas. Muslims and Ramadan. Americans and Thanksgiving. Back then these traditions used to be celebrated in silos, compartmentalised by upbringing, limited to the country of birth and the generation who passed down the practice.

Now enter the age of the internet and social media, mobility, cheap and interconnected flights and the burgeoning desire to experience the world. Tradition is no longer preserved through lineage, from the past to the present, grandfather to daughter. It’s perpetuated laterally through the networks of foreigners and locals who are interacting. More people are getting exposed and the result is a new generation celebrating glocal (global + local) tradition. These are rituals adopted and experienced while living abroad and traveling.

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I am a Filipino, but since moving to Singapore I have celebrated holidays I would otherwise not have been able to do before. Last February I got a red packet for Chinese New Year. Last month I flew to Chiang Mai, Thailand to take part in the buddhist Yi Peng Festival or Festival of Lights. This weekend I will have Thanksgiving dinner with my friends, despite a majority of us growing up as catholic Filipinos/ buddhist Singaporeans who don’t usually celebrate Turkey Day.

Yi Peng Festival, Thailand

Yi Peng Festival, Thailand

Thanksgiving might be a Western holiday, but gratitude is a universal value for many cultures. Since I normally write my list of gratitude for my year end review, here are 4 things I’m thankful for about living abroad instead. What are you thankful for?

Expanding vocabulary 

Every country has their local vernacular. There are nuances in language and behaviour that you can only pick up by living somewhere for a long period of time. Words not only have a definition but a context. Aside from learning bits of broken Singlish, I realised that two people speaking in English might not necessarily understand each other.

Ex. ‘Take away’ and ‘take out’ both mean to have your food packed, but are mutually exclusive. Each phrase only has meaning in Singapore (take away) and the Philippines (take out).

What I’m thankful for: Learning how to understand, adapt and communicate with people in various contexts. 

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House warming’s and potluck

For me this has replaced clubbing and going out on the weekends. Going over to a friend’s house is nothing new, but the vibe feels more personal when someone has their own crib. The helper is not preparing the food. Someone is cooking and everyone contributes drinks and food. This is a new experience for Asians who don’t typically move out until they get married.

What I’m thankful for: The friendships that grew stronger from playing Cards Against Humanity at someone’s house. 

Accountability

It’s harder to slack off and take your job for granted when your salary pays the bills. You become more accountable to your life, the roof on your head, the food on the table and ultimately the good or bad decisions you make.

What I’m thankful for: Professional and personal growth because of how much living abroad challenges who you are and tests who you want to be.

Tioman, Malaysia

Tioman, Malaysia

Travel

When you live in Singapore South East Asia becomes your playground. It’s easier to take weekend trips to neighbouring countries where the flight is cheap and the cost of living is lower. If the regional air pass from Air Asia pushes through, and I can fly to 10 different locations in S.E.A. in one month, I’ll never be in Singapore on the weekends anymore.

What I’m thankful for: Being able to travel around the region effortlessly (thank you Changi!) 

Discernment 

The stakes are higher when you live abroad because you’re on your own. So you learn how to trust your gut and filter through your real friends.

What I’m thankful for:  Family who are always there for me. Old friends who will always keep me grounded. And new like-minded spirits who make Singapore feel less lonely.

A lesson on hawkerism

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The humble hawker center is the great equaliser. A public space that doesn’t give a damn about who you are and what you do, but only that you are hungry for local eats. Anyone, from the gray-haired auntie who sells tissue to the corporate ang moh during his lunch break is not only welcome here, but is also treated the same way. The only special care is given to the one commodity that can be enjoyed by everyone: food.

I’ve always admired how the love for affordable, yet delicious food transcends race or class in Singapore. Sure we Filipinos love our food, but our food is still segregated by the principle of the 99 and 1 percent. Not every sosyalite eats kanto food or grabs lunch from the sari-sari store, unless you’re in Boracay. And no, choriburgers don’t count.

While in Singapore this open-air food court is literally a melting pot of different cultures for different cultures.

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Endless stalls of dishes representing the 3 main ethnic groups in the country – Malay, Chinese and Indian. Chicken rice is for noobs and tourists. Pick your MSG poison in the other foodporn worthy dishes. Nasi Lemak. Beef hor fun. Ayam Penyet. Prawn mee.

Seating is first-come, first-serve, with absolutely no reservation nor pretension. Navigate your way through the maze of stalls during rush hour, past the tables that are marked by the packet of tissue paper – the local symbol for ‘this area is occupied.’ Never in your wildest imagination will you ever expect to feel the hangry rage towards the trivial tissue paper, which stands between you and ordering your food.

For the longest time I tried really hard to discover the other side of Singapore, beyond the manicured façade of Orchard and industrious skyline that expats and tourists flock here for. (Read: The Unlikely Character of Geylang)

I wondered who the Singaporean was without the kiasu, on their day off from work when they aren’t busy with being busy.

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One Sunday morning I finally discovered my answer at the tip of my chopsticks,  while devouring my plate of wanton mee and sipping my glass of teh tahrik. Hawkerism is the kind of consumerism that I can stomach. No politics or money. Only the love for good food.

Yuppies & OFW’s

Yuppie life

Yuppie life

Yuppie. Or in other words a ‘young urban professional.’

An expat is a yuppie, and Singapore is filled with yuppies from all over the world. In fact, aside from OFW’s (Overseas Filipino Workers), who are typically associated with domestic workers and nurses, the Philippines is also a # 1 exporter of yuppies. An educated, ambitious and often preppy upper -middle class with a growing affinity for All Day Breakfasts, instagram and Happy Hour deals of draft beer or cider. Singapore can feel like home, partly because almost half of everyone you know in Manila will eventually end up in Singapore.

Indeed yuppies are also OFW’s, but they are not the ‘unsung heroes’ of maid’s becoming CEO’s. We represent the shinier, flip side of the coin.

photo-1Sometimes I wonder who the Singaporeans are referring to  when they complain about Filipinos. Are they discriminating against the Lucky Plaza crowd, or me as well? Do the locals know the difference? Or more importantly — is there a difference? A filipino is a filipino.

Then, I wonder if we are also guilty of the same judgement. The ubiquitous class divide that persists whether at home or abroad.

The new chapter begins

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One month ago I was unemployed, and packing my bags for my solo trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. Now I’m back in Singapore and a few weeks into my new job in a creative agency.

My team is great, and I really see a lot of hidden gems in the next 6 months. A lot of people thought that I was crazy because I wanted to leave the client side, but the grass is always greener where you water it. Anyway, I prefer to plant a field where creativity can blossom. As I said before, it’s about the culture you buy into. 

I feel like I finally have my bearings. Singapore feels like home. Friends, family, boyfriend. Work is stimulating. I joined the gym (I really need to get back into shape!!!) I can start saving again.I’ve let go of the past in order to embrace the future.

There are vacations to plan. Blogs and articles to write. Dreams to realize.

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Speaking of blogs, I was overwhelmed by the response of my Lessons From A Corporate Life which Rappler published on their site. 5k shares! I’m happy and thankful there are people who could relate to the corporate question mark.

I’ll be sharing more about my trip in the next couple of blog posts, including the one I wrote this weekend for We Are Sole Sisters, and when does a foreign country feel like home.

Happy Sunday night everyone. Have a good week ahead. xx

Reality check: What to ask yourself before moving abroad

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Moving will always be a romantic notion. The Instagram filter of rose tinted airplane wings peeking out of our in-flight window. While en-route to our next destination our possibilities are suspended thousands of miles in the air. However, be wary, because we’ll no longer be protected by limbo – the state of in between —  upon arrival. Reality will materialize with every step we take outside of the airport.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Even before you accept that job offer abroad, book that flight or pack those bags, allow me to disillusion the dream to the state of realistic idealism. The Big Questions are inevitable, but asking them upfront will help every twenty-something year old embrace the opportunity cost of moving abroad while staying wide-eyed and inspired.

@ the Pond's Institute for my first business trip in Shanghai

@ the Pond’s Institute for my first business trip in Shanghai

Don’t leave for the sake of leaving.

Even though it sounds sexy,  don’t move unless it’s an industry you can be remotely interested in. Your job makes up a majority of your day. You don’t want to be miserable when you’re miles away from home, away from family and friends. Even if twenty-something-year olds don’t know what they want most of the time, the1/100000 part of us that does is what matters. Going abroad is always the best jumpstart to any twenty-something’s career so make sure the work will excite you.

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Back to basics

Don’t be blinded by the numbers or exchange rate.

The worth of your salary is relative to the country’s standard of living and your personal lifestyle. Even though Singapore pays well compared to other Asian countries (especially for fresh grads), remember that your parents don’t pay for your rent. You don’t inherit a car. You literally earn your life abroad. Is it enough to pay for partying every weekend?

Knowing your worth.

What’s your worth as a professional? Filipino? Do you know your rights? It’s a scary world out there with various cultural norms. Don’t let people take advantage of you because of where you’re from. Remember that you’re no longer the majority. As a foreigner there are laws you have to respect and perceptions to be wary of but you can’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe is right and demand for the value you think you’re worth. Never sell yourself short. Draw the line even as early as a twenty-something-year-old.

Skyp with loved ones... even the doggies!

Skype with loved ones… even the doggies!

Relationships matter

Independence is a liberating feeling but it’s foolish to say that relationships don’t matter at the end of the day. Relationships are the constants in this generation of flux, especially when you move abroad. Family and friends keep you grounded. They will always feel like home — whether that’s back in Manila or your new residence. Don’t let new found freedom allow you to lose the relationships that matter most.

Did you move abroad? What went through your head before you left? 

Writing beyond the border

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“Why did you move to Singapore?”

It was the summer of 2012 when a fresh-faced twenty-something-year-old me was experiencing the liberating yet anxious post-college feardom. My batch is the generation energized by possibility, yet scared of uncertainty. But one day during that fateful summer when the opportunity to work abroad presented itself, I said f*ck it. I took the leap, boarded a plane and moved my life thousands of miles away.

But why?

I was not alone

After moving to Singapore I realized that I was not alone in this pursuit. Now more than ever my generation – from the Philippines or elsewhere – not only wonder about life beyond the border, but can actually cross it themselves at a young age.

Instead of feeling guilty for leaving (diaspora! brain drain!), I believe that it should awaken you personal and professional growth. Only then can you bring the experience back home and help pay it forward some more. To me that’s how progress is born and that’s how I’ve seen the Philippines grow over the years, from Jose Rizal to the OFW’s to the globalized Filipinos around the world that I want to feature here.

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This is not your typical travel blog.

So whether you’re a traveler, expat, third-culture kid, nomad, dreamer, wanderer, or someone thinking about leaving,  I want this blog to be both a travelogue and a realistic looking glass of the joys and struggles of living and traveling abroad. I want it to be a support system for the globalized twenty-something year olds considering taking the leap or have already taken it.

Smile for courage

Smile for courage

Who is this blog for?

Stories from a foreign filipina is for those who consider travel as a state of mind that pushes people off the edge to explore the uncharted, beautiful and often challenging territories of their life; for those who believe that travelling is less about the physical space and more of the willingness to be open minded, learn and accept a different point of view. This, among other reasons, is why I left, and probably why you might too. And if you do leave, I hope this blog gives you the courage to jump and the net to fall back on once you do.

Note: From senorica.wordpress.com, I finally bought my domain: www.ricafacundo.com :)

Life update: It’s only the beginning

It wasn’t that long ago when my bestfriend pointed out that I’ve gone through a lot of life chapters lately. If I thought moving to Singapore 9 months ago (!) was the wild card that woud provide me with enough quarter life/twenty-something changes/anxiety to last me for at least a year, boy did I not expect what would unfold in the last couple of months.

I always knew that life after college was just the beginning, but I didn’t expect so many ‘beginnings’ to happen all at once. Most of the Filipino colleagues I’ve asked agree with me when I say that the world was much smaller back in Manila, and even more in college. Living abroad has opened a pandora’s box of possiblities — both good and bad experiences — but I would never have it any other way.  

I remember being a mess when I first moved here in July 2012. I was so confused back then (and there’s no use repeating it again) but now I thank the stuff that went down for making me wiser and tougher.

I’m definitely still unsure about a lot of  things but I’m going to stop worrying and just enjoy the present. Really,  I’m starting to believe that confusion is a timeless/ageless feeling and accepting that fact early on will make us much happier! So, suck up all the quarterlife crap and just live. I think it’s better to enjoy the fruits of decision than wallowing in one’s indecision. If it’s the wrong choice, ride it out, then make a better one next time.

It’s only the beginning:

1) Ricafacundo.com – Tales from a Foreign Filipina. Watch this space for upcoming stories and advice for anyone who has ever lived/traveled abroad or has simply thought about it as well as features on global filipinos making waves abroad

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2) Welcome to the expat/corporate life!

New job @ Unilever.

3) My first business trip to Shanghai last March, 2013!

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4) Published my first byline in a foreign magazine (Run Magazine) for #FreeLanceFebrurary

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5) Conducted client/agency’s first ever Google Hangout with my short-lived but fun stint at Dentsu.

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Sole Sister: 5 Things You Thought You Knew About Singapore

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This article on WeAreSoleSisters is dedicated to all the people who always ask me whether Singapore is boring. Boring is a state of mind! A state of mind you should never have. After over 6 months of living in this bite-sized country, I debunk some myths below.

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One of the (many) perks of living in a new country is getting to know it intimately and in your own terms. Traveling, on the other hand, can sometimes be a one-night stand where you don’t have enough time to undo an experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. How long does it take until you know a place?
Ever since I moved to Singapore from the Philippines people have curiously asked me same kinds of questions like “Isn’t Singapore boring?” or “Will I go to jail for chewing bubble gum?”

While every place has its stereotypes, uprooting oneself and moving is like taking your long-distance relationship with a country to the next level: accepting and understanding each other — faults and all. The funny thing about migrating is explaining on behalf of a country that isn’t even your first home.

Singapore, which is dubbed as both the most emotionless country and best place for expats in 2012, can’t be that bad, right? Based on my experience living here, below are 5 things you thought you knew about Singapore.

Broke-back in Singapore
Compared to its South East Asian relatives, Singapore is that wealthy auntie with a high standard of living. As a first world country, both locals and foreigners pay the price for the convenience of Orchard road, manicured streets and efficient MRT’s. A taxi fare may be equivalent to a full course meal back where you’re from.(Warning: Do not convert.)

Tip:What you splurge on shopping, you can save on affordable 3-dollar chicken rice or duck noodle meal at a hawker stall. Singapore is cheap where I believe it matters most— food! Here cheap is never synonymous to bad tasting food.

Saving never tasted so good.
While a nightlife in Singapore can be expensive, if you’re resourceful it doesn’t have to be. Once you arrive in Singapore, hoard. Buy a bottle at the Duty Free in Changi Airport and bring it to the bridge of Clarke Quay for a chill one-of-a-kind drinking session.

Dying of Boredom

There is more to Singapore than shopping at Orchard road. In fact it’s a global hub bursting at the seams with free talks, networking opportunities, foodie tripping, first-class art exhibits and awesome music festivals and concerts.

Take for example Creative Mornings, a free monthly breakfast series of inspiring Ted-like talks, Lego exhibit at ArtScience Museum, or ZoukOut and Laneway with big acts like Calvin Harris and Gotye. Or instagram to your tummy’s desire with the wide range of novel places to have brunch. Singapore is not boring if you make an effort to not be bored.

Tip: Check out Meetup.comTheListCityNomadsTimeOut SingaporeSistic for event listings.

Soul-less Singapore

It’s easy to mistake Singapore as only a man-made city with an industrial skyline, a consumer appetite and technological aesthetic. Where is the arts and creativity?

But for a developed country, the culture thrives in being cosmopolitan.Its bite-sized multiculturalism where eating briyani from India or nasi lemak from Malaysia is part of your every day menu and not saved for special occasions. You don’t have to travel far to experience celebrating Hindu or Chinese holidays.

Tip: Walk down to China Town or Little India during Chinese New Year, Hari Raya or when you want a gastronomical excursion.

Strictly Singapore

Singapore is strict but in a way that makes every day life easier. No, you will not go to jail for chewing gum (only selling and importing it) and yes you can smoke a cigarette in the streets (only if you throw the butt away properly afterwards.) A plus for partyphiles and travelers is being able to pass out in the cab ride home without fear of being raped or mugged. Sometimes it’s a relief to enjoy a place without policemen lingering around.

Tip: If you can adhere to the rules in Singapore, like using the pedestrian lane for example, why not do the same in your own country.

(Small) Size Matters

Singapore is a small country with a great backyard for travelers. What it makes up for size is accessibility as an Asian hub and commuter city with good urban planning. While there’s only space for one city, you can easily plan a trip to Malaysia and Indonesia,which are just a bus and ferry ride away!

Tip: If you need to escape the city for a while, consider taking a trip down to Malaysia on the weekends for a cheap change of scenery. Use gothere.sg to find the best route to your next destination in Singapore.

See original article on WeAreSoleSisters
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