There are times amidst the hectic life I lead that I sometimes ponder on how different I have become from the person I was when I first migrated to this country 5 years ago. Gone was the uncertainty that I felt or the awkwardness. In its place is confidence and security with oneself. I remember going back to Manila for a holiday 2 years after I migrated. Whenever friends or relatives asked me how life is like overseas, I always said "I feel like I've grown ten years older."
I may be exaggerating but in reality that is how I felt. Trying to make your mark in a foreign country is quite difficult, mind you. The dollars don't come poring in the bucket load nor they just grow on trees for everyone to come and help themselves. You want money? You have to work - HARD - and believe me, you have never worked hard in your life until you've worked overseas.
It's not just the work. It's the whole mindset of the culture that makes you change. I have realised upon setting foot in this country that Filipinos of my generation are, unfortunately, very shallow. I know I may be generalising with this statement, but raise your hand if you happen to know a person who does NOT possess one of these traits:
1. MUST have the latest mobile phone
2. Brand label of clothing is very important even if it's expensive and you clearly cannot afford it
3. MUST have Starbucks even if it's ridiculously expensive and you clearly cannot afford it
4. MUST have the latest technological gadgetry and it is essential to show it off, even if you cannot afford it
5. Girls - a boyfriend with a car is a MUST
6. Boys - a girlfriend who is a virgin is a MUST
7. Wearing glasses is so nerdy and should not be considered especially if you are in your 20's
8. Wearing clothes that are different is wrong
Let me elaborate on each point.
Point number 1 - Jesus! Mobile phones in the Philippines costs around $35,000, even more! That is a lot of money considering wages are only P250 a day. Mate, save your money and pay the bills! I'm sure that 90% of the time, the money used to pay for the said phone is utang. It's just a freaking phone! Besides, you don't use it for phone calls anyway. You spent all your money on the blasted phone that you don't have enough money to buy a charge card so all you can afford is SMS messaging. Figures!
Point number 2 - I have to admit that I love labels myself, but I refuse to fall into the trap of buying them even if I cannot afford it. I recognise that labels produce better quality clothing, but in a country like the Philippines where it can get really uncomfortably hot, it doesn't matter what you wear. You'll just sweat anyway! Now, because people are so adamant to own brand labels, they resort to buying 1st class fakes. Not only are you ripping off the economy by doing that, but you also look stupid when you're totting a fake Louis Vuitton bag. Don't fall into the trap of buying fakes just to look "cool." If you want the damn thing, then save up for it! Or better yet, put your money into a savings account and watch it grow.
Point number 3 - Ah, Starbucks. I don't mind it, but I like Coffee Bean better. Here in the good ol' Oz, we are quite lucky that we have numerous cafes that we can have coffee wherever and whenever we want. We are not limited to just one or two places. Now, Starbucks is a revolution in the Philippines. I have never seen a place where people are queueing up by the numbers just to get a cuppa and a place where it is filled with people who drink their coffees in the slowest possible manner! What is this? A business meeting or a student project discussion perhaps? No? All for bloody show that's what! Oh, look at me! I'm drinking Starbucks coffee/Frappucino. So fucking what? It's just coffee! My fucking espresso maker makes better coffee that they do! Besides, a huge number of the population are not in the position to pay P150 pesos for coffee.
Point number 4 - I love gadgets. If I could, I'd buy the latest IBook, buy a 40gig iPod and a Bose speaker to replace my sound system, and the latest imaging software. Oh, and also a professional 7mp digital camera! But I can't! Because I cannot afford! Well, tell that to the idiots who insist on buying these things even if they are paying through the nose just to get it, possibly getting into so much debt and maxing out their credit cards. Of course, don't forget to show it off! I'll just be in the sidelines laughing my arse off if and when it gets stolen.
Point number 5 - You want a car girl? Get your fucking own and hire a driver!
Point number 6 - If you want a virgin, then stop trying to sleep with every girl you meet! These are the kind of men that I'd love to kill. You want a virgin? Go to a nunnery! You might get lucky. Oh, and mate, if you find a woman who is 25 or older and insists they're virgins? It could be one of three things:
a. They're nuns
b. They're totally fugly or;
c: They're lying!
Point number 7 - When I went back to Manila for a holiday, my relatives and friends were shocked to see me wear glasses. I have always worn them, but before I could get away with removing them and just use them for reading. Now, I'm blind. I can't drive/work/read without them. I got asked the question, "Do you really have to wear that ALL the time?" Well, duh! This is probably my most hated comment. So what if I wear glasses? I felt like I was in high school, getting teased for being a "nerd" because of my eyewear. Well, you don't like it? I'm not forcing you to like it, but don't pass judgement on me just because I happen to wear this so-called "accessory" you insist I don't really need. Well, I hope that when the day comes that I am stupid enough to listen to you, you happen to be crossing the street while I'm driving and then I'll run you over... just because you insist that I should not look nerdy!
Point number 8 - Uniqueness is discouraged. How fucked up is that? I love dressing up, being different and stylish at the same time. I love mixing and matching different eras, and at the moment I love the 80s preppy look and the Boy London look. I often get compliments because of it too. If Filipinos want to stick to their post-Nirvana American style, then go ahead! But don't try telling me that you're cool, because according to the rest of the world you ain't!
It is unfortunate that living in a foreign country makes you see all the unpleasantness surrounding your home country. I wish I can do something to make things better but nobody can help these people but themselves. The Philippines has the potential to be great, if only the people stop concentrating on the most banal issues and just concentrate on helping out the ailing nation.
I really wish I can have this life back in the Philippines where I am close to my friends and family. At the same time, I know that I have to be practical. If I want to have a comfortable life for myself and for my future family, I have to make a sacrifice and leave. Thus, I am here for good.
I just hope that when I go back, I wouldn't have to write too many bad things about my trip upon my return and rather focus on the positives...