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Strong, Ambitious, and Far, Far Away
Ina Yulo
Published on

You put down your cup of coffee and turn on your laptop. You’re wearing your nicest heels and the new blazer you bought last week. You pull up the PowerPoint presentation you spent weeks working on and take a deep breath. You look into the eyes of your senior management team and get ready to present your report. Just another day at the office—only your office happens to be almost 7,000 miles away from home.

The Philippine Statistics Authority revealed that there are close to 400,000 Filipina millennials working abroad. We are working at tech start-ups, banks, advertising agencies, fashion companies, magazines, and more. We bring with us academic experience from some of the top universities in the Philippines, and potentially stints in other countries as well. Most of us started out in big cities in the Philippines, only to realize we wanted to take on a new challenge or experience a more international environment.

The professional world has changed so much in the last five years, that we are the first of our kind to live through many of the situations that we experience today. These may include: having a cart with beer and wine roll around the office on a Friday afternoon, being on a team with people from six different nationalities, or simply bringing your suitcase to work because you’re flying off to your holiday in Spain in the evening. Many of the stories you’ll tell will be received with an, “Oh wow, things are really different over there, aren’t they?”, from family and friends back home.

Most Filipinas who worked abroad in the years prior, were older ladies who had to leave behind both their children and jobs that weren’t paying them enough. The brain drain of the 80s and 90s saw teachers and doctors turning to the foreign seas to become domestic helpers and technicians. These women paved the way for us and are responsible for the respect that foreigners have for us and our work ethic. When we meet these women on the cobblestone streets of Italy or the malls of Hong Kong, we smile at each other knowing we share a similar story.

Your foreign colleagues may not be familiar with this new category of Filipina­—the millennial. They’ll be surprised that you speak English so well, and even more shocked when you tell them it's your mother tongue. They’ll wonder why you can laugh at the same pop culture references, only to find out that American TV has been spamming the airwaves since you were a kid. You'll find it weird calling your superiors by their first names instead of ma'am and sir, but slowly enjoy the more horizontal hierarchy. They'll be amazed at how quickly you can fulfil a task or put together a report, not realizing that Philippine schooling has made you well-trained in the art of late nights, working with difficult group mates, and embodying quite a few OCD-esque qualities. You will be everyone's go-to person.

Technology has also given us a luxury that did not exist for those who made the leap decades ago. Social Media has allowed us to keep up with what’s happening back home, while still living our own lives in a city far, far away. You'll FaceTime your mother every morning as you take the bus to work and call your friends over your lunch break, because those are the only hours when your time zones allow it. You'll be up-to-date on the latest Kris Aquino meme, but will also feel comfortable talking about the newest update from parliament on the Brexit situation and what it means for your future.

The Filipina of now who makes the decision to leave the comforts of home to work usually thinks she'll only be gone for a bit. Most of us assume we just want to dip our toes into different rivers to get a better perspective that we can bring back one day. Then there are those of us who start to feel comfortable in the cities that once seemed so different and frightening.

Maybe we find the job that fulfils us and realize we can't give it up. Maybe we finally make a salary that for once we feel reflects the value we bring to the company. Maybe we find love on a night out on the streets of London. Maybe we will return home one day. But for the modern-day Filipina abroad, the world is our playground—we are free to explore, take risks and make mistakes, but at the end of the day, once we're ready, home will always be just around the corner.

Do you have a story to share? Comment below or tag us on Instagram @iamclaireph!