Ok, so evidently my plan of referring you all to a newspaper article didn’t work, which I guess is because it’s not specific enough. So, here we go, please refer to this FAQ for general questions and contact me with specifics :).
When are you coming back? Are you coming back?
I’m planning on staying here for another 1-2 years. (Ahhh shocker!)
Basically, it comes down to work. The decision to stay was really hard for me, for several reasons:
1) I really desperately miss you guys
2) I really desperately miss New York
3) HUGE paycut (huge doesn’t even begin to describe)
4) I never intended to stay this long, and my mind was very much set on going back
But, in the end, after thinking long and hard, I decided my employment prospects are much better here than they would be in the US (the opposite of what is true for all other Filipinos, I know). I’ve been offered a research position at the Institute for Popular Democracy here, and they’re really being flexible as far as working with me and what I want to research and my financial and legal situations here. So I decided to stay based on the following reasons:
A) I definitely want to go back to grad school in the next couple years. If I’m going to study democratization and third world development in grad school anyway, it makes a lot more sense to actually work on those projects here instead of US policy right now.
B) The fact that my work is directly related to the field I want to study, plus the fact that this is a unique experience (which enhances the chances that I will bring diversity to the class) will probably better my chances of getting into a good grad school.
C) Instead of just following someone else’s program or doing all the research or just number crunching and then someone else synthesizing the research, analyzing it, and their name going on the report (with mine maybe in the thank yous), here I will really get a chance to pick something specific to work on, to conduct my own original research and analysis and have my own name put on it.
D) They have also expressed the desire for me to be directly and publicly involved in policy campaigns, so I’ll have a chance to gain some notoreity as well.
E) Additionally, I have already gotten some notoriety here. I’m doing well, as you can see from previous blog entries, I’ve gotten a good amount of media coverage. I’ve also appeared on tv (clips of news spots on ABS-CBN and GMA, as well as a 30-minute interview on ANC, ABS-CBN’s cable news channel). So, I’ve got some contacts in media.
F) In addition to contacts in media, I’ve also got some contacts in government. Due to my media coverage, I’ve also been offered a position with a senator (I mean, he actually sat down and met with me, we made some chika for almost 2 hours, and then he asked me if I was interested in joining his office), and have contacts with a provincial governor.
G) There is so much need here. The obvious is the need for political and economic reform, and I would say the need for reform is much more dire here than in the states. It’s a little harder for me to get excited about political reform in the states now that I’ve seen conditions here; especially given what I’ve seen and am continuing to see regarding the elections (I think the death toll is nearing 200). But the need is also really great now because there is a real chance for reform now. People are waking up and there are a number of exciting movements now.
H) The perhaps less obvious need is the need for talent. I’ve become really sensitive to the whole Philippines brain drain issue. In fact, the sentator I was talking to expressed his observation that a reverse brain drain might be starting, and he hopes it continues. Competition for jobs at think tanks and political reform machines is so stiff in the US. I mean, people ask for masters degrees as a requirement for lower-level research associates, I’ve basically done the work of a research associate in the states and you DONT need a masters for the vast majority of it. Furthermore, you’re looking at a salary in the range of 35-38k, for someone with an advanced degree! You have a masters and you get paid the same as a secretary! Here in the Philippines there is a huge waste of talent. The brightest students, who in the US would be encouraged to become CEO’s or nuclear physicists, here are encouraged to take up nursing and go abroad. Furthermore, there is a huge need for talent in political reform, and there’s a need for a new generation in the left as the old generation has had so many personal splits they can hardly work together. I almost feel it would be irresponsible of me to leave.
I) I would get to travel with this job :). Staff often goes to localities all over the country, and one of the projects I’m working with actually neworks with Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia, so I would possible have a chance to go there as well.
Are you sure it’s not becasue of your boyfriemd?
Actually, I can honestly say it’s NOT because of him. We had talked about it pretty often and if I left he would have just come with me. As I was deciding, I really was adamant about not letting him come into the equation. Additionally, being with him in the states would probably be even more convenient because my uncles wouldn’t be around checking our every move. At least now that I’m staying there’s no rush to get married or anything. (I’m sure this answer is gonna spark a lot more questions haha. sigh)
So are you fully adjusted to life there? Do you like it better there?
Well, I miss New York SOOOOO much, I can’t even explain. I get so sad and nostalgic everytime I think about it…which makes me think how much worse it must be for our parents in the diaspora to be over there. I mean, I don’t hate life here, It’s fine, but I haven’t been as happy as I was in New York. I think a lot of that, though, of course has to do with all you guys, but also has to do with me not having my own place here. I haven’t really been able to feel at home because by staying at relatives’ houses, instead of my own, I’ve felt transient. The fact that I go back and forth between their places and have to think of their opinion of everything I do makes the feeling worse, like I’m not settled.
But it looks like that’s all going to change now since yesterday I put a deposit on an apartment. It’s awesome, a 10 minute walk from my office. And I love this area, it really is like the Village…small shops and places to eat and drink. Artsy and intellectual types. I really get reminiscent of lower Manhattan around here. So I think I’ll be much more adjusted once I’m settled into my spot and have my regular hangouts.