I remember the first month of my big, life-changing move to the Philippines. Back in 2002 after trying for weeks just to get through to the Australian Embassy to begin the immigration process for my wife, I decided to sell up and move over there. It was a huge decision in many ways, but a no-brainer in others. Besides, I had always wanted to land in a foreign country with just a backpack and a few bucks and see if I could survive.
I confess I landed with a lot more than one backpack and a few bucks, but it was still all new in many ways, despite having been visiting the country at least once a year since my first trip in 1988. This time was different, very different. Although I hadn’t blown up any bridges behind me: I had sold my house, my Land Rover, my sailboat, given my dog and a lot of stuff away and was totally committed to spending the rest of my life in the Philippines. I had the 13B visa and a one-way, business class ticket, paid for by my PAL frequent flyer miles. I was all set!
Despite my many trips to the country, my mastery of its martial art, Arnis and a smattering of Tagalog, I was in for a few surprises. For a start my wife was Cebuana, so the language was different to begin with. Secondly, we were going to live in Bogo, a small town near her home province, not the big city Manila I was intimately familiar with. Perhaps the biggest change for me was time. My time was now, for the first time in my life, my own. I was master of my destiny and schedule. I didn’t work, no need to get up at any time and commute to the office or workshop. I could sleep when I wanted, do what I wanted, I had money in the bank from the sale of the house and I was a fit, healthy forty year old Aussie bloke. It wasn’t easy.
I was still on Sydney time, still thinking I was a sales manager for a liquor brand, still thinking I had to be doing something, anything, but something productive, constructive, whatever! Getting that out of my system was difficult but I know now I will be ready for retirement if and when it ever comes around. I had so much time on my hands I finally began to write. I wrote blogs, articles and finished a novel I’d begun as therapy after my divorce but dropped when it was no longer necessary to keep me sane and moving forward. Time had healed those wounds and now I had nothing but time, and a new bride.
I think this time together, in her familiar surroundings, was vital to the success of our marriage. It gave us time to really get to know each other because up until then the relationship had been a series of finite visitations, each knowing every sunrise was one day closer to our having to be apart again. So that’s my advice for your first month in the Pinas if you have made the big move and migrated there to live with your asawa. Just give the relationship the precious time all relationships need and too few really enjoy. Sure, rip around and shop for all the stuff you need to set up house together; but most of all, give her your time. Time you owe to nobody but yourself and your relationship. Enjoy the time because it really does fly and before you know it you will be wondering where it all went.
Perry Gamsby, D.Lit., MA(Writing), Dip. Bus, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at www.streetwisephilippines.biz