Amber of A Momma Abroad was born and raised in California and was living a married life for 5 years in Seattle before moving to Manila in 2009.
She began blogging to share their adventures in Manila and The Philippines.
Bloggers to Shine Series: Amber, A Momma Abroad
Why The Philippines?
Our lives in Seattle had been pretty good but we both loved adventures and traveling so we jumped at the chance to move internationally. Jake lived in Argentina previously, I grew up traveling and we both attended university in Hawaii. We love the sunshine so the tropics of The Philippines would suit us well.
What is your first impression of the country?
Our first day was at Fort Bonifacio. I remember our first day here so clearly. We woke up crazy early because of jet lag, I can still remember the smell. When I wake up early now my memories collide. Naively, we didn’t know that practically everything doesn’t open until ten or noon in Manila. One restaurant, Sentro, was open and I ordered bacon. It was delicious but also had a few hairs sticking out of it. Welcome to Manila! Ha.
How are you managing work and travel at the same time?
My husbands company outsources CAD design/architecture work in multiple sites in Manila and Cebu. He manages the employees as a middle-man between the BPO company and his employer. I have been fortunate enough to do long term leaves as a substitute teacher at International School in Manila. If you are a teacher and love traveling or want to get out, international schools are the way to go.
What do you like most about living in the Philippines?
I absolutely love being an expat in Manila. Manila feels more like home for our family. I have been pregnant with all three of my sons here and two of them were born here. For the most part, this is all my kids know. This is the place where I figured out how to be a mom, where we all are figuring out how to be a family. I am so glad it is. The Filipino culture puts so much value on families. As an American it is eye opening to me. They are so giving of time and resources for their families. I really value that.
Our family puts a strong value on religion. I grew up in a devoutly religious family, which didn’t always feel normal in comparison to my classmates in California. This is a very Catholic country while I am not Catholic I do appreciate the open dialogue about religion. I also love when my son recites a prayer from school. It is super funny but also endearing. It’s also funny when he comes home from school and tells me they wanted him to wipe his butt with his hand and soap. While we have embraced many Filipino cultural aspects, that is not one of them. Did I really just write about poop and religion in the same paragraph?
Any advice for fellow expats?
A word to the wise for an expat: try to embrace the culture as fully as you can! If there are hurdles, adapt them to your personal culture. I was strongly against the tabo, a funny bucket with a long handle to clean you with. I thought it was horribly unsanitary. I was in a bind at a public pool with my toddler and it saved me! I have fully embraced that nasty bucket.
Push yourself! Talk to the people you might not normally, go to the part of the city expats don’t go (as long as its safe), eat foods you might not normally try, attend events that you might not normally. It took me three years to gusto all that courage and I am better because of it.
What are the pros and cons of living in Manila?
I feel so grateful to be living in Manila. As an expat in SE Asia, you cannot ask for a better city to be in. English is spoken almost everywhere. I literally live closer to a GAP here than ever in my life. That’s not important but my point is, it is familiar. At the same time, I can go up north to Quezon City and rummage through Dapitan market to find a basket exported by Pottery Barn. Manila is full of treasures, may you seek and may you find them.
While I love a good market find I love more are the Filipino people. The women here are determined. They have an idea and they make it a reality. The men love children and babies! Truly, my children have kuya’s (big brother) all around our village. I have been welcomed and embraced fully into new communities instantly. I am better because of their kindness.
It would be easy to look at the negatives to anywhere you live. Traffic can be bad, cops are pretty corrupt and parts of Manila are filled with garbage and poverty. In spite of that, I get a wave of Filipino pride. In spite of all this, there is a power that remains in The Filipino people, a smile that can literally ignite a fire. A country that can rebound back from a typhoon after typhoon with strength in numbers and happiness on their face. There is an undercurrent of strength, I can feel it. I understand the feeling of Pinoy Ako! I believe it, Pinoy Ako! Mahal ko ang Pilipinas.