I told the BBC I would never leave the Philippines for better opportunities abroad.

A wide-eyed know-it-all that couldn’t keep her mouth shut.

Yes, I did. Back in 2011, I went on record and told the BBC exactly that. You see, the 28-year-old me had it all figured out. If all the educated and passionate young people stayed in the country, we could work together, reverse the brain drain and come up with a plan to solve the problem that is the Philippines.


Six years later with Singapore and China under my belt,

I suddenly feel the urge to look back.

Having OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) parents, I learned early on that the best and the brightest sometimes had to fly to greener pastures to provide for their families. With jobs that paid at least twice as much and a weak Philippine Peso, it was more than a compelling offer to leave. It was just dumb not to if you had the chance. My parents spent more than half their lives working in Saudi Arabia and the United States and since I was with them, I saw first hand what being an OFW really meant. I felt the loneliness of always living on borrowed land. I knew the right mix of work and grace it required to chirpily co-exist with people who are not your own. I experienced the confusion of never knowing where home was.

Don’t get me wrong. I was comfortable in my life abroad but why did I feel so excited to have my yearly vacation in the Philippines? I excelled in English, undoubtedly my favorite subject, and sucked in Filipino. But I loved swearing in my native tongue. Nothing like a pop-cracking, “Tang ‘na naman eh!” or a “Gago!” to really signal my discontent or my joy. When I became a teenager, I discovered Eraserheads, Rivermaya, and Parokya ni Edgar. I committed their words to heart. I made a conscious choice that I am a Filipino. Even though I grew up in Saudi Arabia, there was no way it would ever be home for me.

So I flew back to Manila to finish my last years of high school and then on to university. I was influenced by the patriotism of my professors and peers. The Philippines was in a pretty crap place having just elected a former action star into office but there was hope, the youth was on fire. We marched on to the streets for the 3rd installment of EDSA people power. The music scene was amazing with indie acts like Up Dharma Down getting worldwide acclaim. The art scene was thriving and almost every weekend, there was some small art gallery opening or crafty hand-made bazaar.

I did my part by writing about the hipster happenings in Manila on my blog aptly named MusaManila and on various publications like Inquirer and Rogue. I also started a movement with 3 influencers (way more popular than me), I wore something Filipino-made every day. We called it the Postura Project and it was all about showing off Philippine design and textiles. We encouraged people to join us and wear the country on their sleeve. I was filled with so much enthusiasm. I remember telling a close friend that I felt that we would be the generation to turn things around. So brazen and drunk was I that I proclaimed, I would never leave home. I was dedicating my life to my country.

But then in 2013, things changed. My then boyfriend got an offer he couldn’t refuse. It was a job in Malaysia. And after much deliberation on my part, I ate my words, buried my face, packed my bags and flew to be by his side. I was too ashamed to write again. I betrayed my country and lost the overarching plot of my life. But today while thinking about Independence Day, I don’t know why. I was flooded with these thoughts and had an overwhelming need to write.

Maybe it’s because I’m in a part of China where I can’t find any Pinoys. I thought we had conquered every corner of the globe! Not befriending a single Filipino in the 52 days I’ve been here is a shocker! I miss being around my own people. I miss the Philippines. And despite being continuously disappointed by the news coming from my country, deep down I know it’s the only place I can truly call mine.

I’m still deeply invested in my homeland, both emotionally and literally. I’ve held on to Philippine stocks purchased in my early 20s. I recently bought my first property and also my first painting by a Filipino artist. When I got married a couple of months ago, I insisted to my Singaporean husband-to-be that even though we were having our wedding in his country, I would fly back home and get Philippine suppliers for dresses, decorations, flowers, tokens, video, makeup, etc. Whatever Filipino-ness I could squeeze in, I did.

Dahil tang ‘na Pinas,

mahal pa rin kita。

Kahit nakakaloka ka sobra.

Eight years after that interview, I am definitely not naive enough to think that staying in the Philippines is the solution. I don’t know what is. I still don’t have the answers. I only have some ideas and this silly niggling inside of me telling me not to give up. And maybe to pick up the pen again.



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