A few weeks ago, I was visited by some friends from Hong Kong.
It was my mentor back when I was working in a British bank, and he brought some of his high-flying friends. They were looking to invest in some Philippine property because it was “hot” at the moment.
At that time, I was unable to entertain them too much because I was busy with a car show. So, I only met them for drinks at Solaire, the newest-opened casino in Manila.
Our conversation revolved around the finance industry, making money, the Philippine economy, politics and why real estate and stock market prices in the Philippines were so inflated — all in less than two hours.
It made me miss the intellectual stimulation I used to enjoy back in Hong Kong. 🙁
One of them was also quite cute. He actually used to be one of my old clients back when I was working for a Swiss bank, but I’ve only met him that day. Him and my mentor are very good friends.
It reminded me of all the eligible bachelors that are in Hong Kong, and how I wasn’t able to partake of any of them since I was loyally attached to Trader for the entire duration of my Hong Kong stay. I am reminded of what could have been, if only I didn’t come home to Manila to help out with the family business.
If I may remind you, coming back home to Manila after nine years abroad was MY choice.
Contrary to popular opinion, I wasn’t dragged back home kicking and screaming. My parents, lovely people as they are, gave me the freedom to actually grow away from their tutelage, and even encouraged me to earn tons of dollars abroad.
Secretly, they were quite proud of my uber-high income and my achievements, and bragged about them whenever I would come and visit. In addition, it was a bit of a relief to them that they never really had to worry about me any more since I was doing well overseas.
But after my break-up with Trader, I was hit by a sudden epiphany.
After nine years of living overseas, I simply woke up and decided that I want to go back and live in the Philippines. This came as a surprise even to me since never once in my entire nine years abroad had I ever had such a thought.
Which was why, I always tell people when asked why I went back, that I was called back home by God. I don’t know why, or how, but for some reason, everything was pretty smooth despite initial resistance from mom and dad to let me go home. “Sayang naman (What a waste),” they said. “You were doing so well abroad and you just finished your MBA.”
Well, I can be stubborn too, and just like that, I packed up all my bags and returned back to the Philippines. First, flying back from London to Hong Kong before shipping everything and my sorry ass back home.
I remember when I arrived, I was surprised by the whoosh of hot air that greeted me at the airport. It was January 21, 2012 and I was warmly dressed after having stayed in London and Hong Kong.
Boy, have I forgotten just how hot it can be back in Manila!
Everything was a culture shock for me. I hope people wouldn’t take this the wrong way but I found the system here inefficient, corrupt and slow. On my second day back home, I was immediately exposed to the corruption in the government system. Public servants were not so subtlely asking for outright bribes!
It was a welcoming sight — and yes, I am being sarcastic here.
At first, the change was tough.
Since I haven’t lived in Manila for almost a decade, I was almost a foreigner in my own country. I didn’t know my way around at all, and didn’t know how to drive.
I also didn’t have a job for the first few months, and the lack of income (thank God for savings!) took awhile to get used to.
Thankfully, I was supported by my parents, and my little brother embraced me with open arms. He gave me a job at his own company, which sells car accessories wholesale, and even allowed me to be the third wheel during dates with his girlfriend.
I remember nights when I would go and watch movies with the both of them, his girlfriend a bit irate that there wasn’t a lot of privacy, but couldn’t do too much about it. I have a lot to thank my little brother for — he made my transition back home a lot smoother.
It was hard though.
Well, for one, I had to contend how to be single again. It hurt a bit in the beginning because I have never really faced a relationship ending because of a third party, and because I didn’t see it coming. It also hurt that Trader and the girl he exchanged me for started dating very quickly.
I went out on several blind dates, and even tried a speed dating event, which was fun. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to find love. It would really open your eyes.
But nobody really caught my interest.
And yet, I never really lost hope. 🙂
Unlike other women who became bitter about their singlehood, I embraced it. I learned more about myself again, and I’ve always believed that God was in charge and He has a purpose for me to be back in Manila.
Six months after I arrived, I met Boyfriend online. Here is our love story.
It was totally unexpected for us both, and such a great surprise. At that time, I only signed up since a lot of the eHarmony articles were very well written. He signed up because he watched a show trumpeting the advantages of using a more scientific eHarmony.
Boyfriend has been single around three years when I met him. He was open for a relationship but wasn’t actively looking. For some reason, everything was smooth sailing between us, and we found out how compatible we were, and how much fun it was to be with each other.
On the eighth month of being in Manila in September, my dad was diagnosed with fourth stage cancer. It was liver cancer, and it was malignant. It was 6 cm x 7cm big, and was located somewhat in the center of his liver.
At that time, dad was already in his wheelchair, and he used to pick me up from the office with mom driving at 4pm, and we would go to Rockwell together to watch the latest movies. As a Makati resident and a senior citizen, him and mom could watch movies in Makati for free, and they readily availed of such enjoyment.
It was a shock to the family.
A month after he was diagnosed with liver cancer, we underwent aggressive treatment to try to save his life. We chose Selective Internal Radiotherapy Treatment (SIRT) because it was a targeted treatment that focused merely on the affected area. It was expensive and risky, but we wanted dad to get well.
We were heart broken and surprised. My dad, of all people, should not pass away! He was invincible! He was always there! When he was in a room, his energies was just so strong that no one could ever ignore him.
But left us he did, and the last few months was spent comforting my mother, who has always been at my dad’s side ever since they got married 40 years ago, and adjusting to the many changes of a father-less family.
We also had to deal with the legalities and details of separating the estate, which is another difficult issue as well.
One year and a few days after I arrived, I buried my father at the Heritage Park Cemetaries. And despite my sorrow, I wonder whether this was the reason why I went back.
To spend the last year of my father’s life with him, accompanying him and pushing his wheelchair all around Rockwell.
To provide my mom with comfort and company as she copes with the death of the person closest to her heart. To help her gain back her life and independence after living in my daddy’s shadow all these years.
To help my brother with his business and help it grow. To provide him with wise counsel when needed when it came to his personal and professional life. To be closer to him especially as my dad is no longer around.
To employ more Filipinos and support their families. Part and parcel of being self-employed and being a boss.
To learn more about the Philippines and how things work here as I prepare for a future living here in Manila.
And lastly, to meet my Boyfriend and get into a relationship with him. To help him with his own business as he supports mine. To make each other happy as we figure out if we’re actually the one for each other.
Yes, there are many things I miss about being abroad.
I miss the money of course, and the travels. Back then, I used to travel to two new places a year, a luxury I can no longer maintain now that I am in a lower-income sphere where I do not get paid as much.
I also miss the diversity of very interesting men in Hong Kong who are super-duper smart and are well informed about the world.
I miss the Asian Wall Street Journal which I get and read for free back when I was working in an international bank.
I miss the freedom of buying whatever I want whenever I want it.
I miss the freedom of not having curfew and staying out whenever I can.
But do I regret coming back?
No, not a single bit. 🙂
Yes, there are pitter-patters of regret that steal inside my heart now and then. And I am glad to have the knowledge that IF I wanted to, I can always move back to Hong Kong and find a life back there again.
But as I look around at my colleagues, my brother, my mom, and especially my boyfriend, I can confidently say, I do not regret coming back.
And I am happy, just the way I am, where I am now.
It’s funny how life is. Two years ago, I never expected that I would come back. At that time, I was finishing up my master’s degree at HKUST and is faced with tons of professional opportunities. I was dating somebody else as well and it seemed that my future was with him.
Today, I am in a different place. Different, yet happier.
My favorite verse in the Bible is in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to help you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”
Yes, life brought me to a different direction, but I am glad I made that leap.
I am glad that I went back. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Have a great week everyone!