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The Real Life Story of an American Family in Metro Manila

By Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor January 17th, 2016 Posted in Travel Blog 9 Comments
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.

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My Beautiful Family

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.

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Inside a Mall at The Fort
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City of Pines

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.

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At Banawe Rice Terraces

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.

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Filipino Friends

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.

Follow Amber’s journey on her blog A Momma Abroad and in Instagram @amommabroad

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The Real Life Story of an American Family in Metro Manila

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9 thoughts on “The Real Life Story of an American Family in Metro Manila

  1. Hi Amber,

    I have never been this proud and positive about my country. Thanks for seeing and appreciating the good things in this country. In spite of the difficulties, Filipinos are very resilient and full of hope. May God bless this country and I pray that the time will come for our nation to flourish.

  2. I think this is a beautiful article about how Amber has made a wonderful life for her and her family in Manila. As an expat as well (from the States) there are so many aspects about Filipino culture that I have learned to embrace. All over Manila I have met kind, helpful, and loving people whether its the cashier in the grocery store or the associate in SM calling me “ma’m can I help you find something?” It’s really nice to see such positivity on the Philippines.

    1. Hi I just purchased a ticket from Honolulu, Hi for$520 roundtrip from air Asia on One Travel. I am routinely buying tickets in the states for cheap by playing one airline site Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, etc. against the other. This is my First trip out of country so I think I did well. I like this site. Thanks and Mahalo for listening. Michele

    2. Richard: I got $620 U.S. ROUND TRIP from Chicago. You must look around, AND buy at least 60 days out. There are many discount brokerage companies that offer cheap flights. I got a quote from one, and then decided to check the airlines themselves. ANA (Japan Airlines) was the best price, direct online. I was required to layover in Tokyo for 12 hours on the way, but…I had a blast. Can’t wait for my 2nd trip! Phil

  3. Dear Amber

    Love all the good and funny points you’ve mentioned about our home country! There’s power behind the pinoy smile, rising above every calamities, bayanihan or helping each other when crisis arise, excelling in life beyond challenges of finances, traffic, applying jobs, over supply of people in a small country, talented and extremely hard working people, people who has to ability to adapt wherever they are in the world, a good sense of humour even if their world is falling a part, ridiculously POSITIVE in the midst of problems in life, will love and support family and friends, love for family is PRIORITY regardless where we are …. the indescribable pinoy culture of caring and keeping our values is not even half of the million good traits of the pinoys ……..and yet so many ppl are living it tough! Unfortunately, not all of us can enjoy the life of an expat in our own country, so for most of us we need to leave everything behind to a better life. Ironically after living in Australia 20 yrs and coming home, nothing much changed in terms of challenges in life… sure the environment changed, a lot of new buildings, more businesses boom because of tourism and yet ppl are still on the same boat then and today. I am very sad that graduates are not able to find a job related to what they studied and would opt for a better pay, better conditions of working in a call centre etc. I’d probably do the same thing for survival of family! Coming home from AU and basically be on the same shoes like you, we tend to enjoy our life on holidays and going around the PH from cebu, Puerto Princesa and Coron, Makati etc staying mostly in 4 to 5 star accommodations….. this is the only time we felt we were really home! Enjoying the fruits of our hard work overseas with our families ….. being able to live and work 20 yrs which will probably be equal to working in the Ph for 50 yrs or more! I wish all pinoys can live this way… or never have to leave our country but the reality is it’s a choice that ea of us will have to decide between giving a better life for our own family vs patriotism! Regardless, pinoys are well respected, excel and well rewarded in other countries! Mabuhay ang pilipino!

  4. Thank you for loving my “our” country wholeheartedly.I am humbled for all the thing you’ve said.An eye opener for every filipino who doesn’t look the good things about Philippines and being a Filipino.

  5. Hi ! I’d like to ask in you’ve experienced the metro living already. I love the way you described things, hope that you can spare some thought on here too.

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