Walang ganyan sa States

The legalization of Uber in the Philippines reminded me of the “Walang ganyan sa States” ad I saw when I was a kid. Now that I’m working overseas, I can finally connect the dots about what it was trying to say about this Filipino mentality. My thoughts about how to channel that mindset into positive and progressive change on my latest article on Rappler. 

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Walang ganyan sa States.” (That doesn’t happen in the US)

Do you remember this pinoy catchphrase made popular in 2003 by a Petron advertisement?

In the advertisement, a balikbayan mother-in-law begins criticizing everything the moment she arrives back home – traffic, potholes and more.

Naturally, each and every critique ends with “Walang ganyan sa states.” But at the end, when her grandchildren shower her with affection, her son-in-law echoes the phrase to her once more, albeit in a different light. Truly, you won’t find that same sense of family back in the States, or anywhere else.

I was 13 when that ad first aired. But more than a decade later, I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Perhaps the tagline stuck in my subconscious over the years because it was witty, heartwarming and funny. As a child, I did not fully understand the ad’s subtext, how it tried to convey the Filipino inferiority and colonial complex – where everything ‘foreign’ is better. But now as an adult who’s left the comforts of Manila to seek opportunities elsewhere, the message finally hits a lot closer to home.

Greener grass

I realize with a smile that I am now the balikbayan mother-in-law, in those exasperated moments where I catch myself judging my nation; for not offering the same liberties provided elsewhere, when my patience is sorely tested by a bureaucracy seldom found when living abroad.

Beyond monetary compensation, quality of life is part of what makes living abroad compelling, especially when you work in a safe, “first world” country like Singapore. Not only is transport easily accessible, but I can also take a cab home late at night, free of the fear of being a criminal’s next victim.

‘Walang ganyan sa Philippines’

I also see that balikbayan mother-in-law in my friends who complain everyday about the horrendous traffic or derailing public transportation system. And they don’t even work abroad.

For well-traveled Filipinos, it’s not uncommon to come back home feeling a little heftier – weighed down by rich food, new clothes, but most of all, a heavy heart.

Every new exposure to the world is a double-edged sword that inspires as it disillusions, where newly informed expectations of home are often met with disappointment.

You love the Philippines but oh, the #ThirdWorldProblems. How often do we hear: “Why can’t our MRT be as efficient as the BTS Skytrain in Thailand?” or “Why can’t our streets be as clean as Singapore?” #WalangGanyanSaPhilippines.

The progressive mindset

These observations and complaints are anything but new. It’s a narrative Filipinos have grown up with, and bring as part of their baggage when they move abroad.

But when the Philippines made the local and international headlines about being the first country in the world to legalize Uber, my first thought was “Finally!”

It reminded me of when I first started using taxi apps when I moved to Singapore. I remember wishing that I had an Uber or GrabTaxi while growing up in Manila and could not wait until this global trend found its way back home.

The Uber news is a big deal because it’s a sign of how progressive the Philippines can be. But, it’s only one of many examples of how you can turn global learnings into a model that works locally.

Simply look to our burgeoning hostel and backpacking scene, a concept once commonly identified as a European one. Thanks to pioneers like the Circle Hostel in Zambales and La Union, it’s a trend that has since helped to etch our spot as a top global travel destination.

Then there is Mustari Raji, who tapped into his experience as a pool water treatment specialist in Saudi Arabia to create a floating swimming pool in the sea.

As a former national champion and coach, he gives less fortunate children living in coastal areas a chance to become the nation’s future champion swimmers.

The reality is that we can’t escape from the Walang ganyan sa Philippines” mentality. It’s only natural for us to compare and contrast what we don’t have, versus what we wish we did.

But instead of complaining, let’s imagine what we can do to become better instead. Let’s say to ourselves, “Walang ganyan sa Philippines. Paano natin puwedeng gawin yan dito?” (There’s nothing like that in the Philippines. So how can we do that here?)

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My new passion project: Out and Abroad

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After mulling about this for the longest time, I FINALLY started my passion project – a blog collective called “Out and Abroad” for all those like me who are already living and working abroad or thinking about making that big move.

Ever since I moved to Singapore I’ve noticed the lack of blogs or articles that chronicle real stories of real people (especially Asians) about this topic. Culture shock. Intercultural relationships. Work permits. Landlords. But so many people, both friends and strangers, have always approached or emailed me asking for advice. My vision for Out and Abroad is to be a blog collective and a platform to broadcast stories for like minded individuals. 

The reality is that more people are becoming ‘global citizens’ but no one is really talking about what that means on a personal level. The struggle is real. Haha.

Don’t worry. I’ll still be using ForeignFilipina as my personal blog (it will never go away!) My sister has asked me what’s the difference. My reply is that Out and Abroad is not about me. It’s about the community I want to build.

Writeforus

Anyway, I hope you guys can help me out in two ways.

1) Like our Facebook page

2)  I’m looking for contributors, particularly Asian women. Please let me know if you know someone who might be interested or write to us at outandabroad@gmail.com.

Thanks :)

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 realities of job hunting and working abroad

Pic from internet

Pic from internet

Unlike traveling leisurely, working abroad typically requires a contractual commitment. Overseas professionals don’t measure their stay in a country in terms of long-weekends or vacation leaves, but by the length of their work permit. It conditions us to think ahead, to constantly re-think our priorities and consider several factors.

The “What’s next?” is not that simple when you’re working overseas. It can refer to the next job, the next country you want to live in, or whether it’s time to go back home.

I’ve been living in Singapore for 2 years, with more than 1 employer under my belt. So I’ve picked up a couple of things about the paper work and discernment process involved when transitioning in-between jobs or job-hunting overseas. This is what I learned:

Your right to live in a foreign country is tied to your work permit.

It’s like a race against time, whether you decide to continue working in the country and need to find a new job, or to pack up your belongings and go.

Once your employee contract is terminated, so is your work permit. If you’re in Singapore this gives you 30 days to legally stay in the country or else you have to do a ‘visa run’ by crossing the border and re-entering as a tourist.

Save to sustain your life overseas

When we’re young our instinct is to spend now and save later for when we’re older. But working overseas forces us to change that mindset. We need to save to sustain our life abroad; especially with a volatile job market or when we’re in-between jobs with no idea where the next pay check will come from.

Expats and foreign workers don’t live with their parents so rent becomes the biggest leech, especially in Singapore, which was recently dubbed the most expensive city in the world. You should also save so that you can travel guiltlessly before you start your next venture.

Where is the pension?

As a twenty-something, a pension fund is the last thing on my mind. It’s another piece of paper work in a government system that I don’t fully understand. While Singaporeans have CPF my dad recently pointed out to me that working abroad doesn’t automatically add to my SSS or Social Security System retirement fund. So it’s worth trying to understand the legal jargon that we might have taken for granted if we stayed at home.

Pic from internet

Pic from internet

What’s next?

Perhaps the most difficult part of working abroad is discerning whether to stay, when to leave or to go back home. I have faced this crossroads more than once in the last 2 years. My choice was always to work abroad for the opportunity to be shaped by the world. There is no right or wrong, only trial and error in discovering what’s next.

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 :)

What happens when you live abroad (Part 2)

Volunteering at aidha two Sunday's a month! Aidha is a micro-business school for domestic workers

Volunteering at aidha two Sunday’s a month! Aidha is a micro-business school for domestic workers

Two weekends ago I was at the aidha graduation when I was listening to the newest batch of domestic workers give speeches about their remarkable journey towards self-empowerment. These women, who were raised with limited opportunity, spoke with the kind of courage that creates it; the kind of courage that endures against the self-destructive demons of discrimination and doubt; the kind of courage impartial to upbringing. Sometimes it’s the kind of courage we forget to have.

So, I sat there thinking about how we — the filipino domestic worker and me, the newborn expat– were not very different from each other.

Another fun mentoring session at aidha

Another fun mentoring session at aidha

We both left Manila in pursuit of a promising future. Our suitcases were heavy with the stories that brought us to Singapore; chapters worth of family, friends and dreams.

However, I have the bachelors degree, she doesn’t.

I live with my sister, and she doesn’t.

She discovers, only months after arriving in Singapore, that her husband found another woman. She contemplates committing suicide.

Yet despite these circumstances she stands proudly on stage. She speaks of the business plan she learned how to write through aidha (a micro-business school for domestic workers); of her ability to now speak impromptu in front of an audience of volunteers, expats and representatives from the embassy; of learning how to use the computer.

While I sat there in the auditorium listening to her story, I found strength.

I remembered how six months ago I wrote about how living abroad makes people more acutely aware of their demons. As a fresh grad in pursuit of my dreams, I am accountable for reaching them.

The twenty-somethings of my generation fear about being in the wrong career path; that we might not be resilient enough to weather the storm. Some let our college course or lack of experience be the greatest bias, telling us that we’re not good enough to venture out of our comfort zone. But six months in I realized that shallow water is made of excuses.

I know it can be scary to venture into the horizon, but the woman on stage reminds me that the only way to sail past our limitations is with courage.