FACTalk 4: “Turning a Place into Home” – On Settling Abroad with LA and Leo Celino

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Whether you’re a fresh graduate, a seasoned employee or a newly-wed couple, where to settle for good is always a serious decision you have to make for your life. More often than not, the choice is drawn by the lure of better career opportunities and higher standard of living for yourself and your family.

While many choose to settle in the urban city like Manila, many young professionals are enticed to settle abroad for the same reasons. However we look at it, building a career and starting a family in a place away from your loved ones and friends is always a challenging yet a thrilling experience.10441193_10152361681973110_8483552445588909693_n

Loraine Anne Rabago and Leo Celino take something fresh out from the closet as they share their journey towards taking chances and finding their place in a foreign land; alongside with the challenges of starting a family and rearing a young human being, their son Les Paul, who is turning two years old this year.

In our interview (via Skype), they delved into how circumstances led them to work in Singapore and eventually settling there after wedding. Most interestingly, they shared how they are able to find a sense of home in the heart of a bustling cosmopolitan city.

On Decision to Work Abroad

Unlike many young professionals who actively seek for job opportunities abroad, Leo and LA decided to move to Singapore by chance. Prior to this, Leo was working as a Software Engineer (IT) with a BPO company in the Philippines while LA was connected with an insurance company.

They both were faring well with their work until the opportunity came to Leo when he was offered to apply in Singapore for one of the vacancies in the company where a Filipino friend was working. With uncertainties of what kind of life awaits him, he went there at his own expense and fortunately got the job.

It was almost the same story for LA: “I felt like I was having a quarter-life crisis. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I came here just to try it out.”

Like many Filipinos who take chance and try their luck abroad, LA went to Singapore first as tourist: “I came here in 2009, few months after Leo came. I toured around and then successfully applied for a work pass with the Ministry of Manpower.”

They revealed that a lot of Filipinos still do the same only that it’s much stricter now compared to how it was before.

Opportunities in Singapore

Despite being one of the smallest countries in the world, Singapore commands an enormous economic presence and a flourishing hotspot for employment. No wonder that many young professionals like Leo and LA prosper in this city together with a number of immigrants from diverse countries that make up Singapore’s multi-cultural and cosmopolitan nature of population.

Besides its organized public transportation system, one of the notable trends in Singapore is the lower taxing system among its labour force. On their personal notes, they said that “one of the things we like about Singapore is the low tax system they have compared to the Philippines. You get the whole of your salary. There are taxes but very minimal and reasonable.”

To date, Leo is working in the IT field for five years now while LA works in a conference (events) industry, which has become their bread-and-butter to survive the life in an expensive city.403652_10150517834028110_734393755_n

In 2011, they had their civil wedding in Singapore and later a church wedding in the Philippines. In 2012, they had their beautiful exchange of vows by the beautiful sunset of Boracay, which I was blessed to have personally witnessed.

All these were made possible by the opportunities they have in Singapore. Yet at a closer look, there’s more than just achieving their dream wedding that made Leo and LA decide to settle there for good.

Starting a Family Abroad

“Our married life now is 99% about Lek. We decided to bring him in because we wanted to personally take care of him. We wanted to see him grow. You know, days are long but the years are short,” speaking about the challenges of having a baby abroad and the importance of doing the parenting themselves.

Admittedly though, the coming of their son affected their lives and lifestyle compared to when they were still single. But they noted that the opportunity they have in Singapore affords them a better living compared to the Philippines: “It’s more competitive here. It’s very safe and very convenient. The problem is because it’s too convenient, it’s difficult to let go. If you go home to the Philippines, you don’t know if you’re going to earn the same thing. Or if you move to another country, you would have to start anew.”

Although it’s more likely for them to stay there in the next three to five years, they said that they don’t have any concrete plans beyond that just yet: “We don’t know. Of course, you will consider the type of environment where Lek will grow. That will be a major consideration.”

As for spending time with their son: “Weekend is always for Lek. We share responsibility in taking care of him. During work days, there is someone looking after him.”

A Home Away from Home

The presence of Filipino community in Singapore made it easy for Leo and LA to adjust with their new environment: “My office-mates are the same people that I worked with in the Philippines. There’s not much adjustment. It feels like it’s just in the Philippines,” Leo recalls the days when he was just starting out.

They also make sure that they spend time and stay connected with friends and get to go around the city to enjoy themselves on their free times.

995061_10152407896193110_4639766679581835248_nAnother thing that made them feel at home was attending in a Filipino church congregation in Singapore, which serves as their support group. The church always has a special place in their lives especially for them who had been actively involved in the youth and student ministry at a church in the Philippines where they met.

“We also stay connected with family through social media,” stressing out the importance of keeping a regular communication with family in the Philippines made easier by digital technology.

It seems to be an easy journey for LA and Leo, you may say. And while they are fortunate to have found good opportunities in a land far away from home, their story remains a reflection of the exodus of many Filipinos who choose to venture abroad for the hope of better prospects.

They share the same hope with countless of young professionals and couples whose only dream is to attain a better quality of life. It is the same hope that separates many families – a young mother or father – so that they can secure a better future for their children.

Wherever they are, they learn to build homes of their own so that they can stand the anxiety of separation. They find refuge and comfort in the thought that they can uplift the life of their own family so their children don’t have to go through the same fate. And as they do, they bring along with them the hope that maybe someday, just maybe, the Philippines would be a better place so they don’t have to drift away from where the real home is – in the heart of their families and loved ones.

Beyond the economic opportunities, higher standard of living and the conveniences that it can offer, there is one thing that makes Singapore and the rest of the world a home – that is the presence of Filipino spirit everywhere.


#FACTalk 3 – Career Shift: Becoming a Full Time Housewife with Debbie Recede-Nagma

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Many think that career only means having a decent job that requires you to wear a corporate attire, working an eight-hour shift and getting a pretty good pay that could afford you materials needs. Not so many people know that the best profession in the world are actually those whose services are priceless. And what could be more noble than a career that enables you to embrace and nurture someone else’s life?

Debbie Grace Recede-Nagma, or “Ga” to those who knew her well, dishes out the reality behind the new role she just assumed – being a full time housewife – which she paradoxically described as “being less sosyal, but not being less fulfilled.”

In our interview, she boldly shares what it takes to be a home buddy, her unspoken struggles and the sense of fulfillment she gets from performing her roles as a wife to her husband, Christopher, and as a young mother to their one-year old son, Lukas.

Her story, like those of many other women, negates the idea that being a housewife makes someone lesser. For the truth is, being a housewife is something that every woman (and man) should be proud about.

Life Before Marriage

Debbie grew up doing finance works at the church, which had become her personal inclination and ministry. Though she pursued Communication Arts degree in college, she’s always been passionate about financial matters. 29659_1213166389817_6172556_nIn fact, she had tried different jobs – from being an Executive Assistant, Secretary, a Teacher to exploring a full-time ministry as a Pastor – but still ended up doing an accounting job.  She thought that her last position as Accounting/Payroll Specialist with an international hotel was the kind of career she wanted to settle in.

Not until things started to change for her. She realized that what she actually wanted for herself was to become a full-time housewife: “Whenever I reflect every morning, I thought that I didn’t want to be an employee for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to get up every morning just for the sake of going to work. So I told myself that when I marry, I wanted to be a full-time housewife.”

Debbie can’t be more thankful that she got married with Christopher, a chemical engineer, who supported her decision to be a full-time housewife.

Transitioning from a Career Woman to Full Time Housewife

Giving up your career for the sake of becoming a housewife is a serious deal. It means not only sacrificing the good promises that life can offer you as young professional, but also assuming a more serious responsibility over the life of your family and loved ones. Not to mention of the social stereotypes about being jobless.

True enough, Debbie had to go through these challenges.

After resigning from work, she had to find a way to sustain her financial obligations to her parents. Thus, she operated a small t-shirt printing business where she could get an extra income and still give occasionally to her family in the province.

Debbie also looked back to the days when she started doing her housewife duties: “I had to learn a lot of things. I became diligent by chance. I had to teach myself doing household chores and do it excellently including cooking.”

From doing accounting, she now has mastered her craft in cooking, fixing the kitchen and joyfully attending to every need of her own family – a new job description that is never covered by any form of contract.

The Joys and Struggles of Being a Housewife

Unlike the endless expectations one may have from his or her career, there are only simple things that make Debbie feel happy as a housewife: “It always feels good to be appreciated in simple ways. To be acknowledged for the food you cooked, and to be entrusted to safe-keep your finances.” She also added that while it’s physically tiring, it is always fulfilling and rewarding to carry out these roles.

But being a full time wife is never a bed of roses for her as she also has to deal with some challenges: “I cannot get into his crazy schedules. I often argue about his time,” noting the demands of Christopher’s job.

Another challenge for her was being away from her own family in Zambales since they had to move to Bataan where Christopher is working with an oil depot: “I remember during typhoon Glenda when there were only I and Lukas at home because he was needed for work. And sometimes when I or Lukas gets sick, nobody takes care of us.”

In the heart of hearts, we know that it’s not all there is in the life of a housewife. We know that they are faced with even more serious struggles.

Beyond Being a Housewife

Debbie admits that she still has a lot of things to learn. And despite all her unspoken struggles, she can only dream selflessly for her family: “You have to keep each other strong. It is important to encourage each other to grow and make sure that no one is left behind. As a mother, I also hope that our son would grow to be a good person, and to apply the values he learns from me.”

She concludes that “being a full time housewife is the hardest and challenging job on earth. Not everyone can do the job that you do. Not everyone can choose to stay at home and take care of their family. So I am privileged to be one.”

The truth is, women should have the right to decide for themselves and be afforded the same opportunities as men. And though many women choose to pursue a career and assume many roles in the society, not all have the same privilege to be a full-time housewife.

Debbie’s story is a story of all ordinary housewives and mothers out there, which the society brands as a lowly status. They may not have the highest-paying job. But theirs is the noblest of all noble professions in the world that embraces the wholeness of life and nurtures it with their love and care so that a family can grow into what God wanted it to be.

For behind every successful family, there stands a strong, wise and hard-working woman who selflessly offers and dedicates her life.

#FACTalk 2: “YES, I DO?” Adjusting with Changes after Wedding with Eboy and Franz Refuerzo

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Wedding is not just a litany of sweet I-DO’s. It is but the starting line to many changes that come with the bittersweet realities of married life. Not only you wake up with a stranger basking on your bed, but you also see yourself in a kaleidoscope of adjustments – from the way you manage your time, activities, daily routines and lifestyle – up to the way you make decisions. And wait, there’s more than just that!

1524917_10152072642780890_304906037_nTwo of my friends, Erle Stanley Refuerzo and Frances Mae Marasigan (a musician-and-banker duo), share a brief narrative of how they are putting up in terms of these changes and the serious responsibilities that come along with the commitment they accepted more than a year ago.

Before they became a couple, Eboy and Franz started out as best friends. They met through the youth organization in the church where they were both youth leaders. Having totally different personalities, no one ever knew that they would end up as lifetime partners.

Yet their story tells us that relationship is not about compatibility, but rather how you complement one another in terms of your differences. After all, God unites two different souls together in order to make a wonderful story of love.

When did you know that he/she was the right person and that you were ready to get married?

“I think no one is really ready for marriage. But if you find that person, you would instantly know na ito na ‘yun. This is the person that I cannot live without. Kung di mo na ma-imagine yung buhay mo without her, yun na yun,” Eboy telling an account of his personal feelings about Franz.

As for Franz, the hope of every couple is for their relationship to prosper and grow deeper: “Nung naging kami, tinanong ko sya na kung may feelings talaga tayo s isa’t isa eh di panindigan natin. Kasi kung wala eh di putulin na natin. It’s as simple as are you in or out?”

While many young people today marry at a very young age, both Eboy and Franz claimed to be at their “ideal age” when they got married. Their years of friendship also paved the way for them to know each other deeper, which is the foundation of their relationship beyond just being in-love.

How has marriage changed their lives as an individual?

“I think the biggest deal is the decision-making. Kasi lahat ng gagawin mo kelangan may consensus including simple things as pagbili ng mga bagay-bagay,” Franz said. For Eboy, he is happy that he doesn’t have to look for a companion anymore since Franz has become his constant buddy, which for him is “one of the perks of having a wife who is also your best friend.”

Both of them admitted though that being married has impacts in their social life: “Nababawasan na din yung social life mo. You have to work on weekdays, tapos pag weekend ang daming household chores. Isa ‘yan sa mga ili-let go mo. You cannot keep your social life so much when you’re already married kasi you have to devote your time with your spouse. You’d rather spend your time with each other kasi ‘pag lalabas ka, iisipin mo yung asawa mo sa bahay. So ‘di na pwedeng laging wala sa bahay.”

In spite of this, this young couple sees to it that they spend time with their friends. It also helps that they have common circle of friends where they can be together.

How do they adjust with their differences, and complement each other in terms of their strengths and weaknesses?

Eboy claims to be the more encouraging one in the relationship: “I know that eventually I can encourage her into something that will benefit her. Example dahil active akong tao, I’m trying to push her to become active.” On the other hand, Franz is the one who always anticipates the worst in order to prepare each other for a certain situation.

In terms of sharing of household chores, Eboy takes care of cooking while Franz does the cleaning. This shows how important for couples to share responsibility based on their skills. It doesn’t really matter who keeps the kitchen and does the laundry, it doesn’t make one a lower form of individual anyway.

(This doesn’t seem to apply when it comes to eating though, as women always make their husband consume all the leftovers. Eboy relates this to his personal experience :P)

In dealing with misunderstandings?

Eboy: “Ako sobrang haba ng pasensya. As much as possible, I try to say what I want to say in a very nice way, na di nakakasakit. Kasi ang pinakamahirap is to say no.” Franz is the more emotional one in the relationship: “There’s always a spark of emotion. Pero iisipin mo na lang that you have to go for what will benefit the two of you.”10708446_10152643464313950_2101057688_n

Though Eboy admitted that he is always the first one to give in and initiate reconciliation, both of them try to adjust depending on the situation and reaction of each other: “There is always a rush of emotion. Depende kung kaninong emotion yung mati-trigger.”

As it is with any relationship, pride doesn’t really take couples anywhere. There must be no rule in forgiveness as to who should say “sorry” first. One just needs to find the perfect pitch (and timing) to spill it out and let the storm calm down.

Any rules or considerations in terms of lifestyle and spending?

“We pay our own bills. But it’s a give-and-take. We share resources depending on who has the money. Walang taga hawak. It’s our number one rule: never argue about money.”

“Kung meron eh ‘di meron. Kung wala, wala. We never hide kung anong meron kami, it’s our way of trusting each other. Kapag may extra, we go shopping or out of town.”

Sharing of financial resources is also like sharing of responsibility between couples. Having more financial capacity than your partner doesn’t necessarily translate to having more “say” or influence on decisions especially when it comes to major purchases. As it is with sharing of household chores, managing of financial resources should also be a mutual responsibility of couples.

What have they learned in marriage so far? Their hopes and aspirations as a young couple?

Both of them emphasized the importance of putting God in the center of their relationship, and considering marriage as a reflection and extension of their ministry:

“It takes faith in God to succeed in relationship. Marriage is not about yourself anymore. Your relationship with your spouse is a reflection of your relationship with God. Whatever you do with him, ginagawa mo na din sa Lord. ‘Yun yung lagi mong iisipin kung ano man yung gagawin mo.”

They also want their future children to learn about God from them.

“It’s always good to know that there is somebody who’s praying and standing in faith with you in your decisions. Somebody who is rejoicing with you in your little triumphs, and grieving with you in your failures.”997011_10152089298405890_2013441769_n (1)

Like many young couples, Franz and Eboy share the same hope to keep on growing. But it doesn’t mean pushing each other to grow in the way you want but to let your partner grow on the way he/she wants for himself/herself. Well, you wouldn’t want to see your partner being left behind while you are almost reaching the finish line.

Marriage is not the end of the trail but the start of fresh beginnings. The real deal starts when you traverse the long and winding road together even if the direction may seem uncertain. The journey may not be as smooth-sailing as you may expect it to be. But having each other as companion and with God as your guide, you will surely enjoy the walk no matter what.

#FACTalk 1: Starting up a Family and Building a Career

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Exactly today, September 15, I and Shai are celebrating our half-year of being married. Yay! Today, I am also launching the FACTalk series or the “Family and Career Talk” dedicated to reaching out to young couples and professionals like us to engage them in important matters that seriously affect their lives.

I promise not to talk so much about the casual-and-virtually-unlimited-love-and-emotional issues (as you may already be fed up with them in social media). Instead, I wanna tackle more on practical matters about your current relationship – either with your special someone or with your career – to help you make it more effective and rewarding through the inspiring stories of individuals and couples that I will feature in our FACTalk.

So for the first part of our series, allow me to share a brief chronicle of our own journey towards marriage and our continuing pursuit of success in our chosen profession. (This is more like a reflection. We will delve into more practical topics in our next FACTalk episodes).

Main Card-front rev03 Preparing for Marriage. I and Shai are grateful that we are able to achieve our dream wedding through the provisions of God. Our preparations started as early as we got engaged in January 2013 (a little more than a year before our target wedding day). We chose March 15, 2014 as the date for our wedding, which coincided with our fourth year anniversary of being together. It’s been six months since that day and I still can clearly remember every detail of our 200-guest, country style-coffee-themed wedding.

But hey! There’s more than just preparing for the wedding. Every couple has to prepare even more for the marriage. While it’s important to make your once-in-a-lifetime wedding experience extra special (whatever kind of wedding you want), it is important to note that both of you must be ready to face the life that awaits beyond the wedding day.

Marriage is a life-long commitment that you make before your husband or wife and before God. Thus it also means embracing the changes in your life and the serious responsibility that comes along with that commitment. “As long as we both shall live”, so does the vow say.

I and Shai are trying to live out that commitment.

Establishing a Career. In Filipino culture, having a permanent work especially for men is a requisite to getting married. But it should not always be the case. The wife can also be the provider for the family. Or both the man and woman can decide to work and share with the responsibility (depending on their agreed set up).

For our case where both of us are working, we’ve come to realize that pursuing a career is essential not only for our material and economical needs but also for our individual personal growth.IMG_0503 (1)

I am blessed to have been promoted at work shortly after we got married. From Senior Supervisor post, I was elevated to an Operations Manager position in my company. Shai is also turning five years with an oil company where she works as a Data/Financial Analyst and gets a pretty decent salary.

In the face of starting a family, we also have to establish our own career and find our place in the rat-race society in order to survive. And this means working not only for ourselves. Both Shai and I are one of those who decided to move out from the province to Manila in order to look for better job opportunities and support our families. We are among those we call “yuppies” who brush elbows with thousands and millions of other young professionals in the workforce.

Our story is a story of all other young people who dream of having a better quality of life. Ours is a story of hope and aspiration of many young Filipinos who dream to be productive citizens of the country, contribute in the economy through our skills and have a good future for our own family.

As a young couple and young professionals, I and Shai are excited to see our fate unfold itself before us. We honestly know that we have so much to learn from this journey but with the help of God and with our openness to explore possibilities, we hope to be faithful in our commitment to grow older together both as partners and as individuals.

We’re forever grateful to all those people who have been and will be part of our journey.

#FACTalk Series: Now Loading…

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Watch out for our FACTalk series that will feature young individuals and couples who will share their stories on their journey towards building a family and establishing a career.

Launching soon!