The joys & heartaches of working abroad
Loven Ramos, marketing and communications manager of Aman Resorts in Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka, moved to the Kingdom of Bhutan with his wife Faith last year. After living for 15 years in Cambodia, Loven is now based in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.
Loven handles the marketing and communications of the five lodges of Amankora in Bhutan, Amanbagh and Aman-i-Khas in India and Amangalla and Amanwella in Sri Lanka. His wife Faith manages reservations and tour planning.
Prior to their move to Bhutan, Loven worked in Cambodia’s cultural capital of Siem Reap, where he was general manager of two hotels while running his own Spoolworks Design Studios.
When asked how he met his wife Faith, Loven’s happy reply was “I met my wife in university. We broke up after we graduated, as we were both focused on jumpstarting our careers. We lost touch for a while, not knowing where the other went. One day we met again serendipitously, on an MRT train platform at the Gil Puyat Station during the peak of rush hour! We didn’t realize that we had moved to Manila almost at the same time, in the same area of Makati, and went to the same Starbucks on the same street in Salcedo Village — but never bumping into each other for several years. We have been inseparable since then.”
Loven and Faith have a son in the Philippines named Freedom, who awaits joining them in Bhutan when travel re-opens in the Himalayan kingdom.
Like some Filipinos, Loven and Faith cannot imagine seeing their last fading light somewhere else. They still see themselves going back to the Philippines. “We’re planning to be based between Iloilo and Bacolod once we feel we’re ready to move back home.”
I asked Loven to share with us the joys and heartaches of living and working abroad.
1. Full sense of belonging. Although we absolutely felt at home and fully integrated while living in Cambodia and Bhutan, at the end of the day, we are still foreigners and an invincible wall exists in between, no matter how deep we dig. Our hearts and minds are in Bhutan now, and we truly love living here, but part of our souls will forever be entrenched in a place where only a squeeze of calamansi and a dash of patis can truly fulfill (a longing).
2. Missing family. Being away from your loved ones is one big fragment of the emptiness that you feel when living far from home. Since our son Freedom moved back to the Philippines for his studies, it has been a struggle being away from him for so long. My mom and my sister’s hearty, home-cooked meals and their comforting presence are truly something that’s irreplaceable as well.
3. Finding out the stereotyping of Filipinos worldwide. Yes, I am 100 percent Filipino but I don’t play basketball, I do not like eating rice and pork, and I will not win in a mugging match because I can’t punch like Manny Pacquiao. It’s quite fascinating and sometimes frustrating how limited and one-sided the world views Filipinos, but we Filipinos are guilty of that as well.
4. Missing the “Flip” side of things. Call it the “Pinoy Oomph” or the “Adobo Effects,” but there is something about the way we get things done, the excessive passion, the pompous flair, even how we give swag and attitude to anything we are thrust into, how the words “po,” “opo”and “sayang” give depth and meaning to any conversational exchange. There is a certain je ne sais quoi and embedded “Filipino-ness” in every Filipino’s factory settings that is endearing and part of our every being.
5. The pain of being torn between homes. Living in a different country feels like living in between divorced parents. We equally love them but it pains us that they are separated and we have to travel thousands of miles to feel complete.
6. Internet speed. This is a no-brainer and hope that this serves as a plea to our internet providers in the Philippines: the rest of the world is a pixel paradise unfolding at lightning speeds (and at cheaper prices!).
7. Rebirth. I believe that we are reborn every time we move to a different country. My wife and I are totally different persons from when we left the Philippines. We were ambitious, aggressive and hardened by life in Manila — we embarked on a journey believing that the world was our oyster. In Cambodia, we were thrown into a world of endless possibilities, creative projects and business ventures left and right, which were quite out of reach back home. Every day was an opportunity for us to impart change to our world, we thought. It was no longer our oyster; we turned it into our oyster sauce! Now that we live in Bhutan, we were slowly taught how to pick our battles, and to only care about things, moments and thoughts that matter, to lead us closer to our own paths of happiness. Alas, the world was no longer an oyster. We found the pearl.
8. Cultural enrichment. Traveling gives us insights to see how our planet is made, like a colorful tapestry woven from different threads of customs, traditions and ways of life. But living in those countries enabled us to discover and understand these threads and see beyond their façade. In Bhutan, we learned how to value our unique identity and how the respect we accord our past is our most valuable trajectory to the future.
9. A different view of the world. Living in a different country will surely give you a better understanding of how our differences work as diverse citizens of the world. But the best takeaway from this is it also teaches us how to appreciate our cultural nuances as Filipinos in a more intrinsic and deeper way, after seeing it through a different perspective.
10. The human connection. Finding yourself in a different environment forces you to come out of your comfort zone and to be more open-minded, tolerant and accepting. Meeting different people with a diverse layer of cultures, dreams, aspirations, identities and passions opens you up to a universe of possibilities. Even fellow Filipinos that we meet abroad are different when they are outside of the fenced selves they inhabit back home. It is in these connections and relationships that we forge along the way that we become better versions of ourselves, enriched by the interactions along the crossroads we find ourselves in. This exchange also allows other cultures to accept our nuances and cultures as Filipinos and provides a window for the world to view the Philippines through us living within their borders.