Pasay’s lost glory days

A few months back Candice – an old editor whom I’ve actually never had the chance to meet in person – asked me to contribute a story to her lovely blog project called The Story When – a collaborative project that weaves individual stories into a casual anthology.

These are personal stories you hear from relatives, strangers, that often slip through time, but are reflective of that certain period. Capturing it as written word is a way to preserve history. I wrote about Pasay’s lost glory days, re-told from the passenger seat of my pop’s car.

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The bustling Metro Manila metropolis is no stranger to urbanization. Every time I go home to visit from overseas I’m always on the look out whether anything has changed. Are there new buildings? Has the traffic gotten better or worse? Is yet another new mall being built? What’s the hottest new club?

It’s a city constantly under construction. Even though I’m only in my twenties, I have already witnessed how much Metro Manila has changed, for better and worse, under the guise of different leadership and foreign exposure.

As a Makati girl, I have experienced the rise and fall of Embassy Super Club under its different iterations, the influx of traffic into ‘The Fort’ as new condominiums, bars, restaurants, and offices has turned it into the central business district and the hippest place to be seen hanging out with friends after work or on the weekends.

But once upon a time, before the gated villages of Makati started to rise, Pasay was the land of rich and the ‘mayaman’, recalls my pops.

When he would drives us around the city as kids, instead of playing the radio in the car, he would reminisce about the good old days.  Every car ride was like taking a trip back in time. Pops would make kwento about every nook and cranny in the city—a backstory that we would probably never learn in school or even make an effort to Google. These are stories that are passed down through the generations, not via the Internet, but straight from the mouths of people who actually lived through it.

Pops tells us that, back then, Pasay shared a long coastal area with Manila and Paranaque—often a site for swimming or witnessing a scenic setting sun by the bay to mark the end of the day.

With a population of about 20 million people, Pasay was peaceful, unpolluted, well lit, and decorated with trees. People took long walks in the evening because it was safe.

Before Dasmariñas and Forbes, Pasay housed a community of ungated villages and walled properties with no condominiums. The old residents of today’s gated Makati villages were once residents of Pasay. Even the original Polo Club was located in Pasay.

Like the Makati and Fort Bonifacio of today, Pasay was the gateway city and a center for trade, so its development was fast. But with a heavy heart, pops says that the fast urbanization, although planned well by the colonizers, was not executed well by the local government at that time.

Now Pasay has become forgotten, barely part of the local vernacular of the Metro Manila youth. Despite the stories I’ve heard over time, even I don’t have a clear picture of what Pasay looks like now, what more of the glory days back then. I only have the ruminations of my pops to capture that moment in time. And it’s my job to help him preserve his memories by sharing it for the next generation.

But as time continues to pass by, it’s possible that the home I know today might suffer the same fate as Pasay or continue to blossom into the metropolis of tomorrow.  I’ve already seen it change so much in such a short span of time. I can only trust that years from now, I too will reminisce and share about Metro Manila as I’m driving through the city with my kids.

Read the original article here and view more stories from The Story When. 

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The boundaries of free speech as a foreigner

Photo from the internet

Photo from the internet

My thoughts on the Edz Ello controversy and the boundaries of free speech as a foreigner. I’ve changed the headline from what was originally posted on Rappler. I’m using OFWs as an example but I think it’s a common concern for anyone living abroad regardless of their nationality.

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Filipinos are no strangers to making the headlines in Singapore.

Last June 2014 a Philippine Independence Day celebration in Singapore was the subject of xenophobic heckling and harassment online, causing the organizers to cancel the event.

(READ: Pinoy group in Singapore drops Independence Day event plan)

A few days ago the couple behind The Real Singapore, a popular alternative news site, was charged with sedition. The cause? They allegedly claimed that a Filipino family caused an incident during Thaipusam, a Hindu festival celebrated by the Tamil community.

Online forums are regularly flooded with comments referring to Filipinos as “foreign trash” or “cockroaches,” making Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) feel angry, ashamed or even apathetic. These derogatory comments are nothing new. The question is whether OFWs should feel obligated to defend theirkababayantooth and nail in a nationalistic effort to change the narrative about Filipinos abroad.

But the controversy sparked by Edz Ello, a Filipino nurse working in a government hospital in Singapore recently charged with sedition and lying to the police for posting hateful comments about Singaporeans online, paints a different picture.

Instead of defending a fellow Filipino, the OFW community too condemned his actions, to the extent of saying that he deserved the strict consequences that followed.

RACIST COMMENT? Filipino Nurse Edz Ello, an OFW in Singapore is fired from his job for allegedly making these racist comments on Facebook. Screenshot from Facebook

RACIST COMMENT? Filipino Nurse Edz Ello, an OFW in Singapore is fired from his job for allegedly making these racist comments on Facebook. Screenshot from Facebook

The unspoken rule: don’t bite the hand that feeds

Most OFWs believe that it’s a privilege to be working overseas, especially in Singapore, where the earning capacity tends to be much higher than back in the Philippines.

Regardless of your nationality or income, the bottom line is that every expatriate and migrant worker is a guest in a foreign country. It’s an implicit agreement – that locals expect respect and sensitivity from those who would share their home.

In the case of Edz Ello, both Singaporean and Filipino netizens alike felt that the hateful comments he posted reflected the exact opposite. They said, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds,” an unspoken rule about not offending your benefactor that OFWs are all too familiar with.

Boundaries of free speech

While OFWs are used to a culture of freedom of speech back home, once we venture beyond our borders the boundaries become gray. Living abroad makes us more self-aware of our actions, especially online, not merely out of fear of being deported or arrested, but also out of respect to our host country.

Singapore, on the other hand, is known for its strict laws about voicing opinions publicly.

The priority of the government is to preserve harmony in a multicultural society, where race is a major social identifier for locals. As mentioned by Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, “You have full freedom of speech [in Singapore] but it doesn’t extend to offending somebody else.”

So similar to how religion is a popular yet sensitive topic in the Philippines, such inflammatory comments along national and racial lines can elicit controversy in Singapore. This is increasingly relevant amidst growing concerns about the influx of foreigners in recent years, with an almost 40% foreign population.

Goodwill ambassadors

172,700 Filipinos work in Singapore, according to the latest publicly available Philippine government data. As part of the foreigner population in Singapore, the responsibility of OFWs is to become goodwill ambassadors for the Philippines.

We are guardians of the Filipino name for the world at large, whose only points of reference about the Philippines are sweeping generalizations and often negative stereotypes. That’s why the OFW community did not speak up on behalf of Edz Ello. They agree that his actions unfairly represented Filipinos. Even some locals echo the same sentiment – don’t let the actions of one Filipino paint the wrong picture of an entire race.

The Ello controversy reminds us that nationalism goes beyond our bloodline, heritage, language and the color of our skin. It’s about knowing that we can be better Filipinos, while holding our fellow kababayansaccountable to that very standard.

As an OFW, that means doing our utmost best in protecting our name abroad. Then perhaps, we’ll be making headlines for all the right reasons.

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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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.

PUBLISHED ON RAPPLER: On being Filipino abroad

Writing ‘Beyond Nosebleed‘ and ‘Waking up to being Filipino” last year for Rappler and Interaksyon really helped me embrace being a ‘Foreign Filipino.’ I found my voice not only as a Filipino but as a writer. It’s a niche that speaks so strongly to who I am and what I believe in, however, is not as defined as being a ‘sports,’ ‘news’ or ‘lifestyle’ writer. Whenever someone asked me what I want to write about, I was always unsure of my answer. It was such a grey area.

Now that I’ve moved to Singapore it makes more sense. This is the continuation to being a ‘Foreign Filipino,’ a story that also belongs to the thousands of expat Filipinos abroad. A large work force whose voice has yet to be really heard. This is what both my blog and Rappler’s new #BalikBayan section is about.

Thank you as always to the Rappler team (a shout out to Maria Ressa and Michael Josh) who asked me to write this piece. Personally, it was an opportune reminder of why I moved abroad in the first place.

Also check out our Google Hangout with Filipinos in every continent discussing what it means to be Filipino abroad. Great insights :)

AT HOME. The author discovers how much a Filipino she is in another country. All photos by Rica Facundo

AT HOME. The author discovers how much a Filipino she is in another country. All photos by Rica Facundo

SINGAPORE – Last year, I was bemused by how I felt more Filipino in Singapore than back in the Philippines.

Read: Beyond ‘nosebleed’

Given that I am a “foreign Filipina” born in Indonesia and attended an international high school, I was excited about Singapore. I knew it to be a cosmopolitan city of Chinese, Malays, Indians and foreigners that could teach me about other cultures.

After all, globalism is finding the common thread among different races. Moving abroad was the perfect opportunity to assimilate and localize a new way of living.

But for a while I was confused.

I didn’t expect moving abroad would first shed light about how Filipino I was before connecting the dots with other nationalities.

I didn’t have to speak Tagalog fluently or discuss Philippine politics or history to brand myself a Filipino. Understanding the issue of Filipino identity became more of a practical matter.

Rather than attempting to discover Filipino identity, which is what being Filipino meant when I still lived back home, living abroad actually brought out the Filipino in me without my even trying too hard.

MOVING. Rica documents the day she moved to Singapore

MOVING. Rica documents the day she moved to Singapore

‘Filipinoisms’

In Singapore where rules are strictly enforced, it’s the Filipino who thinks twice about crossing the street on a red light. Yet it’s the same Filipino who will most likely not practice it when back home.

In Singapore, where complaints about train delays are common, Filipinos will have the patience to smile about them. We are used to relentless traffic on EDSA as our resilience stems from surviving bigger struggles like poverty and natural disasters.

In Singapore, a global hub for professionals, Filipinos are in the habit of saying, “I’m sorry” a lot when they don’t have to.

In Singapore, a country with a strong and strict work ethic, I’ve learned that skills can be developed, but compassion can never be taught, which is what I’m thankful for about Filipino culture. Imagine the double-threat we can be if we can harness both traits.

In Singapore, or any other country we migrate to, our lifestyle changes.

The collectivist culture that characterizes most Asian countries breeds a brand of independence that’s rooted in our parents and helpers, and grows with interdependence.

Usually full independence isn’t granted until Filipinos are much older, so our lack of domestic skills — cooking, cleaning and doing laundry, on top of financial illiteracy, become more apparent when living abroad.

Newborn expats from the upper-middle class might Google “how to remove stains from color bleeding” and “how to declog your toilet or shower without yaya.” The Philippines may be a third world country but you can appreciate how home can spoil you when you don’t have to pay for rent.

Indeed I’ve realized that we need contrast to see the fine lines outlining who we are. The exposure abroad makes us hyper-aware of the strengths and weaknesses born out of Filipino culture—traits we can leverage and work on to become better Filipinos, to compete in the globalized economy, learnings we can take for those of us who pay it forward when we move back home.

The bigger picture

The exposure abroad also provides a larger common denominator among Filipinos of various backgrounds. By taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture, trivialities such as language, geography, skin, and socio-economic class become less important.

This Filipino connection became apparent when I attended the event of an NGO where I volunteer. I was listening to a domestic worker speak about the struggles of working in Singapore.

Despite the difference in our educational and economic background I could relate to the tentativeness of our work permit to the stereotypes we need to challenge. Plus, we both left Manila in pursuit of a promising future. Our suitcases are heavy with the stories that brought us to Singapore—chapters worth of family, friends, and dreams.

SMALL WORLD. In her new world, Rica still finds herself connecting to her Filipino roots

SMALL WORLD. In her new world, Rica still finds herself connecting to her Filipino roots

The modern day Filipino

Now that it’s easier to travel, work or study abroad, I’m excited about the exposure Filipinos will get at a younger age.

Unlike before when third culture kids (TCKs) were born from the circumstances of where their parents were based, the new generation will be globalized and localized as an offshoot of choosing to move abroad.

I believe it’s the overseas Filipino workers, expats and “foreign Filipinos” alike who will till the future of the Philippines, not only on remittances, but with a better understanding of who we are and can be as a country.

It’s been a year since I left Manila. Indeed I still feel more Filipino abroad than I do back home but I use that point of view to my advantage.

Here I’ve realized it is less about finding your Filipino identity but embracing how the underlying cultural DNA brought you up as one. It’s about appreciating the nuances and values that differentiate you from the rest of the world. – Rappler.com

See original article here

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 :)