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Leaving America for the Philippines: The changes in my life

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When I decided to move to the Philippines in 2013, I didn’t just see it as a career opportunity, but an opportunity to learn and discover more about myself

The choice to leave America wasn’t an easy one. It was all I’ve known, and a big part of who I am.

But growing up an ethnic minority in the US, cultural identity is not as straightforward. I was – and am – American, but many white Americans would never let you forget that you’re not 100% unconditionally American. (READ: 4 common micro-aggressions against Asian Americans)

Both of my parents were born and raised in the Philippines, so obviously they grew up with different values and traditions than their adopted country.

What are you? Answer: It's complicated.

But I eventually just stopped thinking about it, and I would answer differently depending on the context of the question. (READ: Where are you from?)


To white people, I was Pinoy. To Filipinos, I was American. And it became normal for me, and other Fil-Ams, to think of ourselves that way. I am Filipino and I am American.

When I was offered the opportunity to move to the Philippines in 2013 and join Rappler, I didn’t just see it as a career opportunity, but an opportunity to learn more about the Filipino side of me.

Getting started

So with only two balikbayan boxes and a one-way ticket in hand, I was off to Manila.

It’s been a year since I landed in NAIA on that hot summer day and a year since I wrote Why I left America for the Philippines, an essay that spread quickly online. I still get Facebook messages from people who've read it.

I've heard many snicker and read comments from people who thought it would be impossible for me to be happy here, that I was just naive and would go right back to California in a few months. There were a few times when I almost did.

It was a frightening move with changes that were difficult to adjust to. The quiet suburbs of California are nothing like the loud, crowded and chaotic concrete jungles of Metro Manila.

MOUNTAIN CLIMBING. The author (3rd from left) climbs Mt Batulao, Batangas, for the first time with friends. Photo courtesy of Vince Santos

MOUNTAIN CLIMBING. The author (3rd from left) climbs Mt Batulao, Batangas, for the first time with friends. Photo courtesy of Vince Santos


But I've adapted. My mind used to think in English; now it's Taglish. I don't have to convert everything to dollars to understand if it's affordable or expensive anymore.

I miss my Honda Civic, the very first car I've ever purchased and driving it wherever and whenever I wanted.

Now, I take the jeep or FX to the office. I've lived in a dorm (or the Pinoy version of it). I can eat at the carinderia and drink "service water" just fine. My biggest achievements had nothing to do with journalism. It was in little things – and changes I've gone through – where I felt the most accomplished.

It took me a few weeks to learn how to cross the street without fear of getting rammed by a jeepney, and it was months before I had the balls to jump into the sardine can-like MRT train.

The most painful change was ending a relationship with a woman I really loved – and still love.

But my story is far from unique. There are so many Fil-Ams who’ve returned to the motherland, made sacrifices and braved the chaos of the Philippines to do very inspiring things. (READ: Leaving Los Angeles to pursue greener pastures)

Country of contradictions

The Philippines is a country of many contradictions that took me a while to accept.

The darkness of the city slums contrasts the natural beauty of the country’s mountains and seas. The broken and seemingly unfixable system counters the resiliency, kindness and hospitality of its people. In the process of beginning to understand my ancestral mother country, I began to understand myself better. I saw many traits in Filipinos that I had, but there were also so many other qualities that would make me question my faith in what I was doing. (READ: Highways and slums: What I learned about the Philippines)

Last month I decided to go mountain climbing with friends at Mt Batulao in Batangas. As I made the dangerous trek up the mountain, my entire year in the Philippines came flashing through my mind. Through the rough paths I looked back at the stress, sadness, failures and triumphs that pushed the limits of my capabilities, and by the end of it – despite the sore muscles – made me a better person.

Just like the halfway point of the climb up the mountain, it's easy to get jaded here. Working in the news inevitably exposes you to scandal after scandal, so it didn't take me very long to get jaded.

But being jaded has not hindered my optimism that things can still change for the better. There is a role for overseas Pinoys, second and third generation Filipinos in building this nation, whether or not residents living here would like to accept it. (READ: The ties that bind: Empowering Fil-Am college students)

I can now relate to the homesickness of OFWs who are far away from home (except I'm the one in the Philippines). I've learned to love social media and technology more than ever before because of it. It's helped me keep in touch with the loved ones I've left behind, my new friends and old friends. (READ: Social media for social change)

Sharing stories

It's also helped me find great stories for #BalikBayan.

It’s been such a fantastic and inspiring experience heading this project from the launch until today, relying on nothing more than the eagerness of the global Filipino community to connect, learn and share their stories to operate.

I take something away from each and every beautiful story and insightful voice that comes across my desk.

The project, which was launched on August 1, 2013, aims to weave together the narratives of the Diaspora into one ongoing collection of stories and conversations that define us. (READ: #BalikBayan: Rediscovering Filipino identity)

In the past, many Filipinos – like I did – may have felt that their stories were too inconsequential to share. But there is really no such thing as a small story. Reading reactions from all over the Philippines and the world to my own story made me realize the potential value in finding and showcasing more of them.

#BalikBayan embraces the idea that you don't have to be a Manny Pacquiao, Jessica Sanchez, or anyone famous to inspire and have something important to say.

The biggest lesson I've learned from sharing my personal story is that it's important that we do it more often, to learn from each other – and hopefully become a better community by doing it.

And for those who thought I would never be happy here: you're wrong. – Rappler.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hat off to you Linx for this fantastic work searching on "Gnothis eafton" (know yourself) that might, or might not solve your ID conflict. I'm born from Greek parents, raised in France, moved to the US 20 years and back to France again. I'm visiting Greece quite often, I still speak fluent Greek, yet, when there, family and friends at greeting time will ask me "how long you gonna stay?" When are you living. Because for them it make sense, is logical, that after lived most of my life out will make my integration difficult.
Wrong and ignorance. I feel more Greek than them, Greeks of the diaspora are excelling everywhere in the world, be it in business or politics perfectly integrated in their adoptive countries.

Keep up your search,  you're  still young, it's just the beginning of a long journey to your personal research and pothen ilthes (Wence came you

Thanks also for the valuable links your post contains.





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