Shela: My Life Overhaul Back to Philippines

Photo by Lito Flestado
I have always been intrigued by my friend, Shela's experience when she decided to move back to Philippines for good after living in Dubai for many years.  While most of our friends in the sandpit saw their future immigrating to western countries (I'm not saying there's something wrong with that), but Shela imagined herself coming home.

Shela enjoyed a comfortable life with her husband and daughter in Dubai. 

Like most expats in the Middle East, we all knew we had to leave at some point.  She quit her fabulous job in a luxury fashion brand in order to set up the business on her own, while her husband stayed behind in the UAE, as a back up plan.

We were still in Dubai then, when she took the leap.  This chapter of her life was not really a part of our social media conversations. Online chatting wasn't really an ideal medium to share what she went through during her first year in the Philippines.

An idea sparked recently to feature her which was initially driven by my curiosity.To be honest, I wondered if she ever did go through repatriation blues as I did.  Having read her side of the story while putting this blog post altogether, I wished I have read it before embarking on this journey.  So allow me to share with you my brief interview with Shela about her experience moving back home:

What were your reasons for leaving the Philippines and working abroad?

- To gain personal growth, financial stability, own a house and acquire investments.

How did you feel as soon as you stepped out of the plane when you came home to the Philippines for good ?

- I was very happy, enthusiastic, and full of hope.  I am also excited for my daughter to experience life in the Philippines. The feeling of home is so great, lots of greens. I love rain and being able to eat any Filipino food anytime I want to eat.

Having lived abroad for 10 years, how was it like fitting in again in the Philippines?  How did you adapt?

- It was hard to adapt in the beginning.  I missed my routine, my home, even friends in the UAE.

I was so annoyed with traffic enforcers. I have received 3 traffic violations in different areas, until I noticed a pattern.  After that, I started to defend myself by saying fix first all of your traffic signals before you penalize me.  I asked them to explain my violations, then I countered them with my reasoning. 

Being with family and relatives that I only see during holidays is a challenge.  But, I told myself, "This is your life now. For your daughter and the future of your family, better do the best you can."

- I felt the need to know my country again, know the rhythm of the people around me, so I started interviewing people, may it be in the grocery, security guard, drivers and the like.

I joined networking, insurance and real estate companies to know how the life in the Philippines really is, as well as the happiness and struggles of Filipinos today.

- I realized, in order for me to really adapt, I have to stop thinking and comparing my life in Dubai and that the Philippines is not yet as developed as the UAE.

Filipino expats tend to respect more the law wherever they are abroad than Filipinos in their home country.
Touchdown Pinas
-I felt so vulnerable in the beginning. I was too trusting. 

I didn't notice at first, but later figured out that some people who never worked abroad, felt that if you are a "balikbayan" you are rich and have lots of money, so they expect to have a slice of it.

Note to self, be aware, keep distant and never put your full confidence on people that shows intriguing interest in your life.

Thank you so much Shela!
I'm grateful for your courage in sharing your experience and learnings with us.

If you are a former OFW or a foreign family who came to the Philippines to start living here and would like to share your story , please do message me  or email me, I would love to feature you!

Love & light,

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  1. I was in Philippines last year, love you all so much and wish to leave in such beautiful land.

    1. Hello there, glad to hear you had a great time in the Philippines :)