I left the Philippines on July 2014 to go to Singapore. My agenda? To look for a better job. Someone already warned that finding a job in Singapore is like looking for a tiny, microscopic needle in a haystack. But I shrugged it off. How the heck will I know if I’ll never try? I don’t want to have any regrets someday for not even trying. Besides, I can always use a magnet to find that elusive needle.
Some people called me a fool or stupid for what I did. I can’t blame them. I have a stable job, driving a Mitsubishi Mirage, living on my own condo unit in Pasig. But I decided to do something crazy by leaving those privileges behind. Even if that means I’ll be jobless, and probably penniless, for months. Or years perhaps.
I'm clueless what will life be ahead of me. It’s like blindfolding myself then figuring my way out in a labyrinth. Or putting my neck on a noose then jump off the cliff. Or slashing my own throat. Whatever, you get the drift.
My two week stay in Singapore was critical because, as what others already warned, it’s hard to find a job because of their policy on hiring foreigners. I can hear my “critics” say, ayan, ang tigas kasi ng ulo mo. Apparently, the magnet is not enough to find that needle in the haystack. Or maybe I need a bigger magnet.
A friend offered me a job in Siem Reap, Cambodia as a Marketing Officer. I accepted the offer because a) marketing job is something new to me. It will be an added entry to my resume b) Singapore is a very expensive country and staying there longer will cut a large chunk in my already dwindling savings c) I need the money. Badly.
I decided that I'll stay in Siem Reap for just a few months, save some money then return to Singapore to continue my job hunt. So I packed my bags, took the bus from Singapore to travel to Malaysia for six hours (cross border), then waited for eight hours in Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 to catch my flight going to Siem Reap. It was my first taste of traveling solo.
My first month in Siem Reap is, somewhat, okay. Okay, in a sense that living there was tolerable enough, even if it’s different from the lifestyle I used to have. I lived in a city almost half of my life, so living in a slow-paced, sleepy, laid-back province like Siem Reap is something new for me to absorb. But since I’m in another country, I exerted some effort to adapt. I tried to eat their food and to live a laid-back, stress-free life just like the Khmers.
Little did I know, stress-free later on will transform to stressful.
Let’s just say that when I was working as a marketing officer, I met a fellow Pinoy who told me: Mag-ingat ka sa mga kapwa mo Pilipino pag nasa ibang bansa ka. Hindi lahat gusto ka talaga tulungan. Ang iba dyan, may hidden agenda".
Turns out he’s right. Because it happened to me. I was so devastated to the point of giving up. But thanks to a friend who told me, “pag bumalik ka, tatawagin kitang loser”. I don’t know if that’s his idea of lifting my tattered spirit, to cheer me up or he’s just simply a pain in the ass. But whatever, it works. What's that song again? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? Well, to be honest I wanted to kill someone instead, telepathically, but yeah since I'm still alive, I might as well continue what I already started and go on with my journey.
Luckily, on October, I have a scheduled trip to Thailand to meet my best friend with her daughter and sisters in Phuket. I can’t wait to get out of Cambodia. So I packed my bags again, rode a bus from Siem Reap going to Bangkok (cross border) for six hours, then waited for nine hours in Don Mueang Airport to catch my flight going Phuket. It was my second time of traveling solo, so piece of cake.
When we were in Phuket, I met my former officemate. While catching up, I told him about my predicament. I guess he was so moved by my story (ala-MMK or Magpakailanman) that he suggested that I look for a job in Thailand instead and volunteered to “adopt” me.
When I returned to Siem Reap, I was plotting the perfect escape plan to leave Cambodia (ala-Shawshank Redemption) asap. Then suddenly I received an email from Singapore inviting me for a job interview. A perfect, valid reason to leave Siem Reap. Finally.
So for the third time, I packed my bags. This time, from Siem Reap, I boarded a plane going to Kuala Lumpur then waited for four hours in KLIA2 to catch my flight going Singapore. A complete opposite of my first solo trip. I called it retracing my steps.
At last, I'm in the city again. I missed the dazzling lights, the train, the bus, the people. I realized Siem Reap is not my second home, it's Singapore. THIS is where I really belong.
I texted my former housemate and informed him I'm in Singapore. We agreed to meet. When he asked where I wanted to eat, I answered without batting an eye: Jollibee.
While eating, I told him about my "misfortunes" in Siem Reap. But he said something that struck me and made me stopped gnawing my crispy, yummy, juicy piece of Chicken Joy drumstick slathered with buttery, luscious gravy.
"Wala kang trabaho pero apat na bansa napuntahan mo sa limang buwan?! Wow."
I counted: Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand. Well, I wanted to correct him. Yeah, I visited those countries within five months. Twice.
Then he told me how busy they've been in their work, they don't even have the time to take a vacation, even if they wanted to.
Funny, isn't it? You will only realize how lucky you are if you were slapped with someone else's misfortunes. At first, I thought I wasted those five months because I wasn't able to secure a job. But I overlooked the fact that I may be penniless (and in debt), but I'm richer, not in material things, but in experiences that I gathered from my travels.
Traveling solo in four countries is no big joke. And waiting in airports for hours while waiting for your flight?! You should give me a Nobel Peace Prize for Patiently Waiting in Airports for Hours until my Eyeballs Want To Pop Out of Its Sockets or something. Thanks to Kane & Abel to keep me company. (FYI, it’s a book)
After staying in Singapore for almost a week, I packed my bags for the fourth time. From Changi Airport in Singapore, I waited for two hours to catch my flight going to Phuket.
As of this writing, I'm in Phuket and staying with my friend. I'm still on a job hunt. I still believe that something wonderful is going to happen. Wait and see.
What matters is, I will still continue my journey towards self-fulfillment. I will just keep on moving on. I left the Philippines unsure of myself. I will return a more confident woman.
I will surely be packing my bags for the fifth time. I'm just not yet sure when or where. Singapore? Back to the Philippines? Or maybe another country? Who knows?
I left the Philippines five months ago to look for a better job. Well, I didn’t find a job (yet). But within those five months, I found more than what I’m looking for: experiences, lessons from those experiences…
"Not all who wander are lost." - JRR Tolkien