Someone asked me in my blog what I regret the most coming back to Manila.
To be honest, I’m pretty lucky.
I got to spend one year with my father before he passed away from liver cancer, met a reformed troublemaker who was tall and cute enough for me to marry him, have an adorable kid, given a small-sized business to manage, and blessed enough to hire a handful of loyal, dedicated and competent staff.
But most aren’t so lucky.
1) Many of my friends who returned did not find their Prince/Princess Charming back home.
A lot of people came back to Manila around the same time as I did in the hopes of meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right, settle down and start a family.
They weren’t able to meet the Right One when they were overseas. Maybe it was because we were having too much fun. Or because we didn’t meet anyone who matched us culturally, mentally or emotionally. Or maybe because we were just unlucky.
So, they came back hoping that someone, somewhere will kai siao (introduce) them to Mr./Mrs. Right. If they couldn’t find it abroad, they surely can find them here.
THEY WERE WRONG.
For one, most of us who returned were already in our 30s. And to be honest, women here marry earlier… a lot earlier.
On average, women in the Philippines marry at the age of 26. Once you hit you’re 30s, you’re no longer as marriageable given your old eggs, or the fact that maybe there’s something wrong with you, which is why you’re still single.
As my father-in-law said when he met me and learned how old I was, “Woah, you’re no spring chicken any more!”
Back in Taiwan and Hong Kong, most of my friends lived life to the fullest and celebrated their singlehood until the age of 30. It was only after reaching 30 that most of them started sobering up and getting married.
I have no regrets staying single in my 20s.
Because I was single, I was able to travel my heart out. I was lucky enough to go to most of Asia and Europe because I had no baggage.
Because I was single, I was able to dance till 2am, go to KTV up until 6am, and then have breakfast early in the morning before crashing at 11am.
Because I was single, I was able to overnight at the beach, look at the stars and listen to the waves crashing, talking to my friends until it was sunrise.
Because I was single, I was able to focus on my career, culminating to me being transferred to Hong Kong at the height of the financial crisis.
Because I was single, my 20s were my best decade yet. And I cannot count the number of super fun days and nights.
I was too busy having fun to be in a stable, committed relationship.
And once I was able to snag a relatively decent man at the age of 28, I was quite the bitch to him because he was putting a damper to the fun I should be having.
Ironically, he did hit me back after he icily dumped me when he found his Ms. Right at his sister’s wedding, leaving me single at an old, “unmarriageable” age of 31. So yes, what goes around comes around.
But I digress…
So when I came back home to Manila, I was single and in my 30s, a recipe for disaster for most Chinese mothers who are itching for grandchildren.
Sure, I had a whole plethora of achievements: an MBA degree from a decent institution, a great resume which could get me hired to most places, and a luggage full of worldly experiences that would make me an envy of many of my local friends.
But I was still single. With no good candidate in sight. So there.
I was lucky I found my husband.
I really am.
But it wasn’t an easy effort.
I said yes to every single social event, didn’t shy away from any introduction, and tried out internet dating, where I ultimately met my husband.
It was easy because I was an extrovert. I LOVED meeting people, and I embraced new experiences. I didn’t mind meeting eligible bachelors whether they were short, fat and ugly. I loved meeting friends, even though they didn’t turn out to be Mr. Right.
My other late 30s friend who came back from Taiwan also shared the same mantra: She had more than 10 blind dates in the span of a year after coming back to Manila. She dated all the losers and had a belt-ful of laughable and disastrous blind dates that would last her a lifetime. But she did meet her Mr. Right on the second year of continuous and disastrous dating, and they happily married late last year — while she was at the ripe age of 38.
Many of our other single friends did not share the same fate. Most of them are still single up until now.
They were too picky. Closed to many new experiences. And were still pakipot despite their ticking biological clocks. Consequently, they’re still wishing and hoping for Mr. Right years after they came back home.
I wrote about this before: You need to be open and ready to find your Mr. or Mrs. Right. If you are open to new experiences, and didn’t mind to get embarrassed once in a while, you WILL find your Mr. Right.
But yes, if you’re hoping to find a mate back in Manila, you’ll be hugely disappointed. It’s not as if there will be a lot of eligible bachelors or bachelorettes lining up your door. You still have to go out and make an effort before even finding the right one for you.
2) Nothing compares to the money I used to make.
I kid you not. The salary I give myself from my small business is less than 10% than what I used to make back in Hong Kong.
To put it simply, my one month salary in Hong Kong is equivalent to almost a year’s salary here in Manila.
If that doesn’t make you bawl like a baby, it should. Because the income disparity is just so huge, it’s not even funny.
When I was in Hong Kong, I could buy anything I want. I could afford a new Chanel a month, travel to as far as Europe if I wanted, and still have spare change to afford my relatively exorbitant flat (since most units in Hong Kong are expensive) and my lifestyle.
I was getting paid a lot of money back then, and didn’t appreciate it. On hindsight, I should have saved more money and invested them in bonds.
Oh well, regrets… regrets…
But my point is, money in the Philippines is not as sweet and delicious as back abroad. It really isn’t. Even if I worked for a premium security house here in Manila, the money I will make here isn’t comparable to the money I used to make back in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“But you have a business?!” Some of you may ask. “Shouldn’t your business make you RICH?”
“Why not find a better paying job back in Manila instead of wasting your time in your small business?”
Don’t be surprised my friends.
Yes, I have a business (yehey!) but in no way am I rich (boo!).
Monetary-wise, the money I make in my business, we reinvest back to the business.
A stable business requires good fiscal discipline, and it will be disastrous if I take the profits from the business and deposit it to my bank account. It’s one sure-fire way to bankrupt your business.
Money is power and you can buy many comforts and conveniences with money. And with less money, well, life is just a little bit harder.
Of course, I have a baby and a business but admittedly, I cannot travel or experience as much as before because I earn less money now.
And whenever I do travel, it’s not for leisure but for business.
So yes, earning less money is a complete b*tch.
And if you can handle earning less money for you to spend more time with family, then you’re welcome. But for most families where you are the breadwinner, you can’t afford that. And if you cannot handle the lackluster earnings you’ll get in Manila, then don’t come back home.
3) People here can be the worst.
Staff simply not showing up to work without any notice (Absence Without Leave = AWOL) is VERY common here. I’ve never had people who simply don’t show up to work in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but here, employees just don’t show up for the most insane reasons.
One sales staff didn’t show up to work because no one will take care of their kids.
One sales staff didn’t show up to work because her dentures fell and she has no teeth.
One sales staff didn’t show up to work because she had tummy problems. But she has nothing to prove.
One sales staff didn’t show up because she didn’t have enough money to go to work.
One sales staff didn’t show up because she was ashamed of being an underperformer.
One sales staff didn’t show up because her husband asked her to.
People here don’t come to work for the most insane reasons.
So you think it’s easy to do business in the Philippines? That it’s so easy being rich here? Well think again.
Think again if the city hall delays your permit because you refuse to grease their palms with money…
Think again when your staff don’t show up when they’re supposed to… or they don’t perform when they’re supposed to… and then blames you for their shortcomings.
Think again when you see just how unprofessional people are here, and they’re poor with good reason. To be honest, there’s so many jobs out there but there’s not a lot of qualified or professional people to do it.
No, it’s NOT easy doing business in the Philippines.
Business is already difficult as it is but it’s the people management that make business even more impossible.
In summary, I think people want to come home because they believe that the grass is greener on the other side. When they come back here, they’re disillusioned because they realized that life overseas was a lot cherrier than coming back here. But after selling off their things, uprooting their lives, and moving back here, all they have are regrets and what could have beens.
Remember, once you move back here, it’s hard to go back overseas again.
Coming back is usually a serious, irreversible decision. You have to quit your job, pack your stuff and move everything back here to live here. Going back overseas would not be as easy.
So pray hard and discuss your options with your loved ones first before making that big leap.
There are many rewards to coming back here, but there are also costs, mostly financially and culturally. Think thoroughly all options before deciding.
And for those who are new to my blog and need counter reasons on why you should move back here, check this out: Why I went back to Manila after 10 years overseas?
Hope this helps and good luck!