Why I Went Back to Manila After 10 Years Overseas?

Many have asked me why I have decided to relocate to Manila post my MBA degree. “What a waste!” a classmate said. “Why not stay in Hong Kong where it’s so easy for you to find a job?”

Most of my classmates were surprised.

I was one of the top students in my class, if not for my grades then for my extra-curricular activities where I headed up my class’ largest and most active organizations. I also worked in the financial industry for four years prior to getting my MBA. I had contacts within the industry, and interned in one of the growing and most aggressive banking franchises.

So why the hell am I going back to the third-world Philippines?!

A lot of my non-MBA friends thought it was because of the financial crisis.  That I couldn’t find a job, and hence, have moved to the Philippines as I enjoy my in-between-job status. “It happens to the best of us,” they said consolingly. “We know that the job market in Hong Kong isn’t that great.”

Others thought it was because I was trying to get my ex, Trader, back.

Actually, the reasons are farther from the truth than many think.

My return to my homeland after being away for the last decade had absolutely NOTHING to do with my ex and it wasn’t because I couldn’t find a job in Hong Kong.

In fact, prior to my coming back, I had a waiting offer for a job in Singapore working in a regional banking role and I was in final interview status to work for a top three IPO Chinese underwriter in Hong Kong. My friend who is founder of a private equity firm in Hong Kong was inquiring about my employment status, and if I really wanted it, I had friends at my previous employer and three other banks, and would not have a difficult time gaining good employment.

No, jobs can be found IF I wanted to. The option was open for me IF I wanted it.

But though I was torn, it was a conscious decision to come back.

Maybe it’s because of the family then?” a friend asks. “Maybe they want you to take over the family business?”

Yes, the answer had something to do with family, but my family didn’t force me to go back.

In fact, my mom expressed some hesitancy on my going back. She didn’t think I could take my selfish man of a father.

My dad on the other hand loved it that I was earning big bucks in Hong Kong. They were great bragging rights to many of his friends. “My daughter works for so-and-so bank and earns more than x amount of money. Of course I don’t want her to go back.”

As female, I was in no pressure whatsoever to come back and take over. My little brother is already taking care of our business, and help is appreciated but unnecessary.

I was also in under no pressure to go back home and settle down. My dad would rather I remain single than be married to the wrong man. “You need to find your match, Bonita,” my mom said. “It doesn’t matter if your match is in Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila or elsewhere.”

Yes, it was MY choice to go back.

Put it this way, if you asked me a year ago if I would go back home to Manila, I would throw my head back and laugh loudly at the ridiculousness of the thought. “No way Jose!” I’d exclaim.

I was lucky enough to get out of that strict and emotionally draining hell-hole that I was in no rush to get back. With money in the bank, I was already financially independent and totally free. I could dress whatever I want, eat whatever I want, go wherever I want, and did whatever I wanted to do.

And did I do — I bought whatever I felt like buying and did actually travel to two new countries per year. Every half a year, I’d take around 9 days off just to travel. And travel I did — Turkey, Germany, Czech Republic, India, Myanmar, Hungary, Austria, Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, the list just went on and on.

Then I woke up.

I woke up and decided it was time. After almost a decade away, it was time to go back to Manila.

It wasn’t because there was an opportunity open for me back home. There was none, and for someone post an expensive MBA, it was financial suicide. My current financial status for example provides me with a salary that is a significant 95% cut from my previous.

It wasn’t because my dad’s health was failing. There were a few close calls but he didn’t NEED me to be back home now. He was still healthy albeit a bit frail.

It wasn’t as if there was a guy waiting for me back home. Ironically, after 2.5 years of long-distance love, Trader and I are already living in the same city, a mere 20 minutes away by car, and yet we are apart.

No, the decision was similar to practically taking a knife and slicing all my connections abroad, packing and moving everything back home.

Six big boxes were all it took, and I was surprised by the lack of sentimentality that came with my momentous decision to go back home.

So why the big rush to come back home?

Three reasons, as follows:

1)      It was a logistical decision. The Philippines had the most financial upside.

People thought that my decision to go back was an emotional decision.

It’s not.

Rather, it’s really a question on where I wanted to settle down over the next 10 to 20 years.

If I wanted to live and die abroad, there is no point going back to Manila and start over.

However, if I wanted to actually make the name for myself in Manila, if I stayed longer abroad, the opportunity costs for me would be too high to go back later on.  Financially speaking, it wouldn’t just be a 95% salary discount I’d be taking.

In addition, even if I went back at the age of 40+, all my history back in the Philippines would be wiped out. My network in Manila which had already grown weak would be almost negligible. My contacts would have no sentimental connection with me. My life is overseas and everyone back home would treat me as a foreigner.

Post my MBA, I can still afford to make that radical decision to come back. I haven’t yet started another phase of my career and there was a nice story to tell for me to come back home. However, if I’ve worked in Hong Kong for far too long, there would no foundation back in the Philippines for me to stand on.

And come back I did — for the promise of unlimited upside.

People always see Manila as a land of filth and corruption.

This is partly true.

80% of my countrymen are still dirt poor and corruption permeates all levels of government. The streets are dirty and the news bombards us with stories of rape, murder and pregnant stars and scandals.

Whereas other people see the downside, I actually see opportunity. Two ways:

One, with inefficiencies lie opportunities for the efficient.

Filipinos are not stupid. They are some of the kindest, most talented people you’d ever meet. We speak fluent English, and are open-minded to work with a wide range of nationalities. This is their upside. They are smart and competent.

The downside is, they can just be, at times, lazy, and are not used to hard, fast work.  They love to dilly-dally and chat around the water cooler over the latest political and entertainment gossip. There are a lot of under-the-table dealings enough to make people with high morals uncomfortable.

My thought is, given this environment, don’t you think there are opportunities for those who work harder, smarter and are more organized especially if you can mobilize your countrymen in a pursuit of a goal?

My people are not incompetent.

Far from it.

They have a lot of potential, and it’s really about trying to squeeze as much potential out from them as possible.

Imagine the possibilities…

Two, the Philippines still have a healthy business environment for small to medium sized enterprises.

Let’s not even talk about the tax exemptions, but the Philippines thrive on the concept of pakikisama or relationship.

Everyone knows everyone who also knows someone.

It’s scary.

Maybe it’s because the business community is so small but unlike Taiwan and Hong Kong where you can still operate with the guise of anonymity, the Philippines thrive by doing business with people you already know.

Everyone is an “auntie” or “uncle” or a “compare.”

And if given the choice of doing business with a stranger or a friend?

Most people would rather do business with someone they know.

Fortunately, my parents are active enough in the business community that they can pass on that goodwill to us children. Now who has that priceless leverage?

As my mom said, “In Hong Kong, you sure couldn’t get an appointment with Mr. So-and-So, a person of that stature. Here, it’s just one phone call.”

And it’s not just my family.  So don’t think I am bragging because I get no pleasure from doing so.

It’s just how the business community operates.

Admittedly, this rationale had something to do with my breakup.

Think of it as a call,” I explained to a friend. A call is a financial derivative product where your downside is capped by way of the fee you pay for the right to buy a product at a stated price. In return, you get the upside when the stock price is higher than the strike price.

Take for example you buy a call for USD1. Your bet is: if the price of a stock, say Amazon, is higher than the strike price of USD 10, you get all the profit above USD 10, minus the USD 1 fee you paid for this right. Hence, it the stock goes up USD 20, you get USD9 of profit (Calculation: USD20 – USD10 – USD 1 fee). This is because you only have to pay USD 10 to buy the stock regardless on how high the stock price goes.

If the price is below USD 10, then you only paid USD1 for the right. You will not pay USD10 for Amazon if the price is USD5. You’d rather buy Amazon via the open market at USD 5. So your biggest loss is USD 1 no matter how much the stock price dropped.

A call can be synthetically created by combining a bond and a stock. You get all the upside of a stock and even if the stock went bankrupt, you still had the steady cash flow of a bond to fall back on.

Previously, Trader and I operated in lieu of a call.

I was more than happy to be the bond and work for a high steady salary, while he was the stock, free to make whatever bets he wanted to do.

This way, if we did ever get married, our family gets all the upside. Trader can be riskier and try to see if he can gain more money in his business, while if all hell breaks lose, we still have my salary to fall back on.

But after we broke up, I realized that my upside was now capped. No longer did I have that adventurous man who can bring our family to greater heights. There was just me, myself and I.

And if I wanted to make the most of life, I needed to be that stock. That upside.

What was my downside anyway? Nothing really. All I had was the capability and hopefully the luck to make good.

So off to Manila I go.

2)      It had to do with family.

When Trader and I broke up, I had an epiphany: when all things fail, you still have your family to back you up.

Despite what anyone thought, the truth is, I really cared for the man. Despite our arguments, I would have done everything if he asked, be it for him and his family.

And there I was in London, all alone and completely devastated. I’ve always laughed at people who commit suicide during heartbreaks, not really understanding why the hell would they do something that drastic. But during my breakup, I understood.

It wasn’t easy at all. People who thought of me as unemotional would’ve been surprised at my state. I tried to laugh and cried hard. I slept over friends’ places because I was afraid of what I would do if I was alone. I couldn’t study, couldn’t eat and found myself puking.

My family was there to help me pick up the pieces.

They were back in Manila and were almost 12 hours away by plane. But through constant reassuring emails and expensive long-distance phone calls, I have made it through.

And for that, I am grateful. I realized that family truly never really leaves you. They will always be there for you even when others had abandoned you.

Blood is indeed thicker than water.

So yes, I came back for them.

Because after ten years of holding birthday parties and having a different group of guests attend, I was tired of the change. I was tired of never really seeing my family grow old, my friends married and with babies. Every year, my life changed and I was quite tired of the instability of it all.

Just imagine, over the last 1.5 years, I moved all my things six (6) times.

Enough is enough.

I wanted the stability that my family, and my extended family of friends.

It was time for me to actually be in one place where I belong — in the midst of my family. And actually be there for them as they have been for me.

Even if it meant parent-sitting my ailing dad and makulit na mom. Going with them to the mall and having dinner with them even if I have better things to do. Because this is what it means to be a good daughter.

Even if it meant having a pay cut and working WITH (and not FOR) my brother. At least, I can be his guiding force to make better personal and professional decision. I also trust him. Because this is what a good sister does.

And in return, as you take care of your family, they also take care of you.

If I stayed in Hong Kong for another phase of my life, I doubt it I would enjoy the time with my parents as much as I do now. People always say they regret not spending more time with their parents. I don’t know if it’s true but if too many people say that, then it must be.

I don’t think I would be as close with my brother as I am today.

These are things I can be thankful to God for.

3)      And lastly, I do want to be a better person.

To be honest, Hong Kong made me a worst person.

Because it was a dog-eat-dog society in an era of recession and job uncertainty, Hong Kong made me impatient, direct and stressed. It’s a play of survival and I was able to adapt and be good at it.

Because I was good at what I did, my confidence increased. My career was my own doing and though it took a lot from me, I embraced the rewards. The money, the recognition.

Consequently, my stubbornness increased. I wanted a career and deserved my career. I deserved a life of my own. It was really about me, me and me. I was like a bull seeing red and charging full speed ahead.

Some people said I was materialistic. I bought whatever I wanted, even if they were termed to be “luxurious.” As if owning three Prada bags, a Miu Miu bag, and a Louie Vuitton is evil.

There has always been two sides of every coin. With every good comes the bad, and as my head was poked out for everyone to criticize on, I was a prime target for ridicule, talk and jealousy. I was the type of person who people loved, disliked, admired and feared.

To be fair, I still I don’t and still don’t think there as anything wrong about buying things you can very well afford. I worked hard for the cash, so why derive myself the pleasure of spending it so long as I am still cash flow positive? I like beautiful things and I earned them. So why not?

People had a love-hate relationship with me.

A lot of people loved me, but a lot also disliked me.

Why?

Because of my efficiency, I got a lot of things done. My colleagues well respected me as the results-oriented person whom you can always count on. However, because I was very results-oriented, I didn’t care too much taking care of other people’s feelings. Why waste time bullshiting around if there’s tons of things to be done?

Because of my confidence, people trusted me. Some hated me and thought of me arrogant, close-minded and conceited, but a lot of people also looked at me for guidance. I soon became one of the go-to people for advice and friendship in my class.

Because I was too busy, I became selfish. The world did kinda revolve around me. I had no time for others.

Now for this, I am sorry and ashamed. I was a good person and my intentions were correct, but I dared people to contradict me if they wanted something otherwise.

Though I was open-minded to listen, I wasn’t a good listener, and one needed to prod me first for me to listen. My thought then was, If people find it important, they would tell me. Little did I realize that most people would hold grudges and build up resentment for you.

Anyway, it was not a very healthy way to live.

I was a great person with a good heart, but I had my faults too. And I realized that it’s man’s responsibility to be a better person.

I realize that now after much self-reflection.

Weeks and weeks of it.

That’s why I wanted to change. Become a better person. Being open to other people’s advise and assistance. Stopping and smelling the roses.

I couldn’t really do this in Hong Kong. The environment doesn’t call for it.

But I can do it in the Philippines.

Back home, I can get my groove back.

Re-prioritize.

Re-balance.

Be a better person.

Consequently, I want to get my balance back.

Find the man of my dreams, build a family. I think it has to do with family too. I realized I wanted two children. That would be really nice, it’s almost time.

Be surrounded by friends and family. Ahh, that would be really nice.

And finally, get myself back.

The real me.

And I sincerely believe the best place for that is in the Philippines.

Post-script: Now that you know why I came back, I have to admit. I really don’t know what the future holds. Ever since arriving back in Manila last January 16, the changes had been full of ups and downs.

Fortunately, God has been really good and my move has been more up than down.

I think about the time when I spent abroad and miss Hong Kong terribly. I miss my friends and I miss the excitement. I would lie if I said I didn’t miss the salary.

Hopefully it is the right decision. I leave it up to God’s hands now. Please pray for me.

Take care and have a great week ahead!

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About Bonita

I'm a forgetful person. But I think a lot. Every day, a lot of thoughts enter my head. That's why this blog came to be: first, to keep my memories alive through the years, and two, to actually see how I and my thoughts have changed. Please note that I seldom draft or edit my posts. Sometimes, if I'm not careful, I offend some of you, my readers. And while I apologize for making you feel uncomfortable, I am not sorry for being honest or for making well-intentioned mistakes. I will however be the first to admit if I change my mind. Hence, do read and proceed with caution. My life is as colorful and as boring as you make it. I complain many days, but offer some encouragement in others. Life is fluid, it changes. So keep the positives and throw away the negatives, and I do hope that at the end of the day, you will enjoy reading the blog and leaving comments here and there if my posts touches you. Happy reading!
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36 Responses to Why I Went Back to Manila After 10 Years Overseas?

  1. Glad to hear you’re finally back. For me, for now, can’t seem to imagine myself going back to Manila. Just so much pressure, prying eyes, issues etc. Like you, my parents are getting old. Although for now, I’d rather be overseas, but the Mainland is starting to get to me. AGH.

    Good luck with your endeavors in Manila. Hope everything is smooth-sailing. 🙂

  2. chichow says:

    within reason 1, does this mean that
    – you’ll be the “call” AND marry AND raise a child AND fulfill family obligations
    – and does it mean in a future, the relationship is inverted (wrt to Trader) and the men are “bonds”
    – or up the risk profile and swing away with 2 “calls”

  3. david says:

    Hello
    I am david and live in united kingdom (manchester city),a single man with a son, i
    am a Petro-Chemical Engineer…i really need a caring, romantic,discipline,
    and focus lady who live in any of this country..(malaysia,hong kong, or singapore)from the
    age of (30yrs to 47yrs)..pls any sincere person should reach david…on
    (daviddenton449@yahoo.com)…hope to read from you soon….
    Take care…
    David.

  4. Accidental Visitor says:

    For some reason, I got to read this blog, I’m not even sure how, but I think I was meant to read it. I just moved back to Manila 6 months ago, probably because of the same reasons you mention. I think we have the same life, but maybe yours is progressing a few months ahead of mine…. Any updates to what you think about your decision to come back to Manila?

  5. Bonita says:

    Thanks Accidental Visitor! Well, a year later, lots of things had happened.

    Like many Fil-Chi women, I got my feet wet by joining the family business. Re-met a lot of old friends. Got culture shocked by how people worked here. Ate tons of sisig and great food. And met my boyfriend (after several tries of disastrous dating).

    How have you fared so far? What has happened to you after you came back?

    • Scott says:

      Hello, I somehow stumbled into this blog of yours & I’m also at the verge of going back, some are the same reasons as yours. Family, friends, what Im turning out to be, basicly to live a life. I would quit everything now and just fly home tomorrow, but I know I should look before I leap. What’s terrifying me is basicly failure. I have saved up, and wishing to create my own work, either franchising or something from the ground up, but I’m just afraid to regret my decision I guess. How are you faring now? It’s been a year and a half.

      Thanks for your blog btw,
      Scott

      • Bonita says:

        Hi Scott,

        I came back home, worked in our family business before meeting my husband and marrying him after a year of dating. I now have a small business I call my own. Overall, a possible future for you if you went back home.

        But wait, before you come back and set up your own business, here are my thoughts about this:

        https://namelessintaipei.com/2014/07/27/corporate-vs-own-business/
        https://namelessintaipei.com/2014/08/31/is-entrepreneurship-for-you/

        Truth be told, I think entrepreneurship is noble and I have a small business now myself after coming back. But it’s definitely no piece of cake. If you already have a cushy job and stable life abroad, it might be worth reflecting whether your desire to move back comes from dissatisfaction with what might be already a good thing, or whether there’s actually something missing in your life abroad. If its the former, coming back will only bring regret. I still think about the money I used to make abroad and why I was so stupid to give it up. However, if your salary is not that high and if your personal life is not flourishing, a change to come back home may be in order.

        Money-aside, I am in a much happier place right now, and I do not regret coming back. But I think it’s because I came back for the right reasons. Spending a year with my dad before he passed away is a good reason to come back.

        Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any followup questions!

  6. Pingback: Who would have known I’d learn something from Tim Gunn? | Nameless in Taipei: The Life of an Expat Balikbayan

  7. chichay says:

    thanks for sharing your thoughts . . .by september we are officially 10yrs old in this country(usa). . . and in the past weeks i ‘ve been thinking of moving back. . . praying to God to guide me . . thanks again. . . i am a nurse by the way. . 🙂

  8. Bonita says:

    This was really encouraging Chichay. Well, it depends why you want to go back. Why do you want to go back btw especially since as a nurse, you earn a lot more than what you would earn back in Manila?

  9. Ms. Curious About Moving says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about going back home to the Philippines.
    I have been contemplating whether or not to go back as well for a couple of years now but I have not done anything about it except think if it would be a wise choice for me to do so. I’ve lived in USA most of my life (since I was 15 yrs old). I have visited my family and some friends who are still in the Philippines a total of 6 times since I first left the Philippines in 1986. My last recent visits were just last year and the year before the that. I am planning to go back and visit again next year.

    I am now in my early 40’s and single again. Although most of my closest friends and family lives here in the United States my heart craves my home town in the Philippines. I still remembers the simpler life then and being completely happy with it. How I want that way of life back; however, I know that many things have changed in the Philippines and life is no longer simple over there as I remembered it. Unless you are born with silver spoon, it is not easy anymore to live a worry-free lifestyle in the Philippines. Unfortunately, I am not this fortunately. The only thing I am fortunately about is that I am not lazy or easy go lucky type of person. I work hard for the little nest egg I have set aside. I don’t want to lose it all by moving to the Philippines unprepared. My most worries is that I really do not have a foundation base in the Philippines since I haven’t lived there for over 25 yrs. Base in what I been told by family and friends in PI, there are many games which people play there that I do not know how to play nor want to play (corruptions). My goal is to open a business of my own sana but worried of the many ways the business could fail. I know my fear is in front of me but this helps me take my time to thinks things through.

    I hope you will provide an update to your post on how you are doing now.
    I would be great to learn from your experience if you don’t mind sharing.

    Sincerely,
    Ms. Curious About Moving

    • Bonita says:

      If you go home, you will second guess yourself. You will be disillusioned. You will be disappointed. Money would not come as easily as overseas and you will miss your friends and lifestyle back home.

      I went through all the motions said above. Everyone I knew who went back home all share the same sentiment.

      Some people came back to find a mate. Most of my friends remained single. I found my husband less than a year to moving back.

      All I am saying is, coming back home… That choice is personal. You have to think if you want to really want to go back, and are ready to spend the rest of your life back in Manila no matter how hard things get. You have to be sick of where you are now. You really must want to go home before you do.

      If the choice is personal and you are stubborn to make that move, then yes, you are now ready to go home.

      >

  10. Bonita says:

    If you go home, you will second guess yourself. You will be disillusioned. You will be disappointed. Money would not come as easily as overseas and you will miss your friends and lifestyle back home.

    I went through all the motions said above. Everyone I knew who went back home all share the same sentiment.

    Some people came back to find a mate. Most of my friends remained single. I found my husband less than a year to moving back.

    All I am saying is, coming back home… That choice is personal. You have to think if you want to really want to go back, and are ready to spend the rest of your life back in Manila no matter how hard things get. You have to be sick of where you are now. You really must want to go home before you do.

    If the choice is personal and you are stubborn to make that move, then yes, you are now ready to go home.

    I hope it helps!

  11. April says:

    I absolutely love this writeup! I’m in the middle of a quarter life crisis, choosing between working in the “stable” corporate world, eventually abroad… or starting a business of my own here in the Philippines. OFWs are common in my family and extended family, and they view that a person who works abroad is prestigious. My family has been telling me that it’s such a waste I’m wasting my intelligence and potential large salary over starting up a business. Your insights are helpful in encouraging me to pursue my passion. Thank you.

    • Bonita says:

      Hi April, thanks to your comment, I’ve written my more comprehensive answer on my new post. It’s really up to you. Money comes a lot easily abroad so you really have to ask yourself why you want to come back. It’s not as easy to make money here as you think, and the world is a more complicated place. People have no qualms trying to escape from their obligations and cheat you if they think they can get away with it. Just be careful that you’re coming back for the right personal reasons and not for the “ideal” that you’ve put Manila up to be. It’s not all fun and games here, and Manila for a tourist, is way different from Manila as a local.

      That said, I am glad I made the choice to come back. I think part of this relief is that I don’t have that big a financial pressure. My mom can still support me and if I do fail, someone is still bailing me out. I am also still young enough to work and suffer through months of frustration. I don’t mind failure and I’m an eternal optimist. 🙂

      The decision is also up to you. I really hope that I’ve helped.

  12. Gracy says:

    I love your blog so much. I read this entry and also the “Enjoying Corporate Overseas” one and I can relate so much. I am currently working in a relatively high-paying job in Sydney but I want to move back to Manila. One of the reasons is similar to yours – I want to spend more time with my parents. Also I do feel like I will always be a “foreigner” here. But my parents actually want me to stay in Sydney! They are very caring but I think they want me to stay for financial reasons because I will only end up earning 1/10th of what I do now.
    You mentioned that your dad would “brag” about his daughter earning a high salary overseas – how did you convince your parents about your moving back?
    Also I studied university here and I feel bad because my dad spent a lot on my education. You mentioned you did your MBA in HK and I’m guessing your dad paid for it. Was there ever a bit of guilt on how you would want your dad to feel like he has a “return on his investment” in spending thousands on your education?
    Thanks so much for writing. I was so happy to read your blog and read of someone with similar thoughts and feelings to me!
    I was also so happy for you when I read you met your husband when you moved back! 🙂
    I know you said it is isn’t guaranteed but I hope that can happen to me too, if God wills.
    Please keep writing! Your blog has suddenly filled me with “hope” and uplifted me for the day 🙂

    • Bonita says:

      I simply insisted that it was God’s will for me to move back. And I wrote them a letter telling them how I saw things and how it won’t be that bad for me to come home. That said, be careful if you miss Manila. You might be missing only the “idea” of Manila but May not be prepared for it’s reality. Personally if you already have a high salary and cushy job, I would recommend for you to stay. Your parents can visit you a lot and hence you can spend a lot of time with them, and guys are on average cuter in Sydney. Love can be found anywhere if you’re just open for it. Hope this helps!

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  15. Hello there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok.
    I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

  16. mae says:

    Thanks for this post. Am going back too next year after more than 10 years in UK. Hope you are doing well now. I believe God holds our future and not the salary that we earn.

  17. Excellent post however I was wanting to know
    if you could write a litte more on this topic?

    I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.

    Many thanks!

  18. peace says:

    i broke up with my ex but i dont no how i will bring he bank 2014

  19. Katrina says:

    Excellent post! I know this is an old article but hoping you still get to read it. Congrats on making the decision to return, and now married! I have been living in the US for 13 years now and went home to Manila in 2012. When I returned from the trip the thought of permanently relocating back home has never left my mind. I am married with 2 small children and I feel like they will have a better quality of life back home than here. I am so conflicted as I have a nice paying, very much stable corporate job and unlike you, my immediate family is all here- leaving would mean my kids will miss out on growing up with their grandparents and cousins. Despite it all, I would love to open my own business back home and get out of the rat race. I want my kids to experience the childhood I had. I constantly second guess myself for even entertaining the thought of moving back, especially since my parents worked so hard to give us the life we have here. For some reason this nagging feeling does not go away- like I would trade my cushy job for a less complicated, simpler life in Manila. I told my husband (who is also Filipino) about my plan and he is on also onboard; just need to figure out how to make it happen. I am sorry for rambling, just glad I’m not alone in feeling completely out of place. I hope to hear from you again, keep writing! All the best.

  20. Bonita says:

    Hi Katrina,

    Having fulfilled your dream years before (e.g., having come back home), I wish I can give you words of support that coming back home would be the best idea for you. But I do believe that your feelings are based on nostalgia than reality. I too had the same feelings you’ve had BEFORE I came back home especially when it comes to managing my own business. Who doesn’t want to be an entrepreneur and build their own small empire? My initial thought at that time was given my smarts and talents, all I had to do was go home, hire people for cheap, then produce a product people can buy, and once my sales grow, my business can grow and I can be a multi-millionaire!

    Sounds great right?

    I was so naive back then. People here are cheap for a reason! Productivity per person is tons lower than overseas and for the life of me, I still don’t understand why it’s so difficult to find good people here who can be serious about work. People here do lie, cheat and steal (yes, I got robbed last January by my own supervisor) on a regular basis, and the justice system is more inept than in the US. Crime here to a certain degree does pay!

    Point being, it’s hard to build a business here. Life can be hard here. There is traffic everywhere you go. Lots of red tape, and finding good people is tough. Most of the time, you will make mistakes. And compared to my super high salary back in HK, my income in the Philippines look puny in comparison. And when I look at the stress I experience here managing my own business, I look at our puny profit and wonder if it’s worth it.

    BUT BUT BUT… Despite the stress and hardship, I am still very lucky. Because I went home, I met my husband. We have a good life here. We have a nice house, a maid who does our laundry and cooks our food. Our support system is here. Our parents are here, and extend assistance when necessary. What’s more, we believe in our business. We do believe that while we are earning pennies now, and sometimes operate nervously in months where expenses trump income, we are on track.

    Coming back home is not for dreamers. It’s for those who are willing to sacrifice a great life abroad for a life of blood, sweat and literally tears, for the hope of an even better future. I don’t think I can be rich overseas, even though I was earning hundreds of thousands of pesos. I spent a lot of money and took it for granted. But I can get rich here, because I am literally making and spending my own money. That means I am more conscious of my expenses and think more long term. Sometimes, you can get rich by spending less. 🙂

    So think carefully before making that leap. Ask your kids if they want to go home. Maybe they would prefer the life in the US than the Philippines. The school system looks more promising there, and cheaper since are subsidized by taxes. Here, a tuition fee of Php100,000 per semester each kid for a decent school is the norm.

    See what sort of income you can make coming back home. I used to earn hundreds of thousands of pesos in HK. I can never get that type of income here. Nobody is willing to pay me that insane amount of money when there are tons of people who can work for less. If you want to do your own business, think what type of business which can sustain you and your family. Making money is not easy especially in light of a tight business environment.

    If after taking the above in consideration and you still think coming back home outweighs the benefits, go ahead! If you have doubts, feel free to share. I’d be more than happy to help. Wishing you all the luck and wisdom while you make this big decision in your life. Hope this helps!

    Bonita

  21. Bonita says:

    Katrina, can I post your question as an entry? I would love to share my answer to other readers too. 🙂

  22. Katrina says:

    Hello! No problem, post away! I’ll be replying to your post separately, as I am still gathering my thoughts. You have made very excellent points. 🙂

  23. Katrina says:

    Thank you for raising great points. This is such a big decision that I’m still second guessing myself as I write this. I completely understand where you are coming from. My nightly viewing of TV Patrol pretty much feeds my fear and I ask myself “do I really want to live there again?”- crimes are everywhere in Manila, people are more brazen despite CCTVs everywhere. And for some reason, they can smell the balikbayans. Ditto on the cheap labor, they are cheap for a reason; Not to mention the government being so completely disorganized and corrupt. I’m rambling again, but I think the point I am trying to make is that at the end of the day, that nagging feeling I was talking about, is still there.

    I guess the one thing I am sure about, is that I don’t want to spend the next 30 plus years working for someone else. My career is at a point where there is no other way but up, and my employer is able to provide me opportunities to advance, but I’m not sure I’m happy. The American dream is lost on me, barely seeing my kids during the weekdays is no way to live, neither is cramming all the chores on the weekends only to repeat the process when Monday comes. Not saying that opening my own business is not going to be hard work, but I know I will be living by my rules, not someone else’s. I understand sacrifices will be made, and working for something I like and believe in makes all those sacrifices worth it. Not to mention being able to take my kids to the beach and province on a moment’s notice, and teaching them the values I grew up on. My life out here has been on autopilot for so long that I crave spontaneous trips.

    I have thought long and hard as to how we will execute this plan IF ever we decide to relocate. We are giving ourselves 6 years (7 max) to prepare financially. Around that time all our major debts are paid off. My kids are only 1 and 3 years old now (they will be 7 and 9 then), we think it’s a good age to move back which is right before they are teens and make lasting friendships in school. My in laws live in the Philippines and have several plots of land so our plan is to use one of those plots to slowly build our home. As far as starting a business, we have friends who have thriving businesses over there and we have been brainstorming with them as to what would be both sustainable and profitable. We figured we can partner up with one of them so we are not coming in blind. The money we are earning here will be used to build the business there. The point being in the next 6 years, we want to get our ducks in a row while we are still here so we have everything settled once we move there. Easier said than done I know.

    There is no way I can make the money over here even with a thriving business over there. But I don’t want to be mega rich anyway, just want enough that the family is comfortable. I guess the driving force to all this is a better quality of life, especially for my kids. The school experience is different over here, despite it being subsidized, overall I feel it is lacking. Let’s be honest, despite everything that’s happening in the Philippines, the people over there are generally more relaxed, happier.

    As always thank you for your advice! You have given me a lot to think about! And I am so happy things are working out for you. Please feel free to criticize my plan, I will need all the help I can get I am so glad I found your blog – everything else I googled was advise for expats retiring, which is obviously not applicable to my situation  Sorry for such a long post!

  24. N says:

    This is a great post. I am now about to make the same decision as you did. I am petrified. Seriously.

  25. J4d says:

    I like this blog! I’ve been going through a lot of stress lately and this article gave me a realief somehow. To start off, I am 28 years old, and currently working on my associates degree online. I am living in the US for 8 years now, and I was petitioned and was approved in 2009. The problem is that I overstayed here, and I just found out recently that I wouldn’t be able to get a green card here when the time comes because of my violation and that I have go back home but the problem is the 10yr ban would be activated. I haven’t saved enough money for myself. All I did here is work at a convenience store like 70hrs a week. Life is okay because I can buy what I want easily. But that’s about it I couldn’t do anything else so now I am planning to go back home so I can feel free again. But I know it aint that easy. All I want is to go home now and start from the beginning although it’s hard.

  26. Bing says:

    Bonita thanks for this blogg..
    I am currently in norway now working as a caregiver and im earning really good here.. But i am not happy here and tired of being alone… I am planning to go back home for good and start a business.. Can you tell me what would be the disappointments i can encounter their? I am from davao…

  27. Camille says:

    Thanks for sharing! I can definitely relate to “3) And lastly, I do want to be a better person.” I too have a fast paced high stress career and it is easy to lose sight of what’s really important in life. All the traits that you described about how people perceive you are very similar to mine. I live in Canada and my husband and I are planning to move back home. How I see it is that a good chunk of our life is spent on working, so it is crucial that we do the things we actually want to do. YOLO (super cliche, I know! haha) We’ve been entertaining the idea of moving back home for about a year now. We’re tied down at the moment with our mortgage and debt but we are determined to making this happen. I’ve lived in Canada most of my life so I have no connections in the Philippines. This whole ordeal is terrifying but at the same time, I cannot wait to have a fresh start 🙂

  28. Pingback: Disappointments in Manila | Nameless in Taipei: The Life of an Expat Balikbayan

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