Decisions, Decisions, Decisions. Leave the Philippines, Or Stay? Part 1

My blogging colleague at Living in Paradise, who describes herself as “the Filipina wife of a warm and loving American who has decided to come and live with me in Paradise”, recently posted an interesting post regarding an important upcoming decision in her life and asked for comments.

You know me, I write long, so I decided to borrow her words and expound a bit on my views here, because the question at hand is one a huge number of Filipinos and their foreign spouses face every year here in the Philippines.

Many people have a quick and ready response for this sort of decision … they are ”hard over” on going or staying.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the decision is seldom as cut and dried as many make it out to be.

How to Move to the Philippines Manual

Here are some of my friend’s issues and my thoughts on them.  I’ll but her words in blue to make it a little easier to follow the conversation here.  And the reason I am taking the time to do this is, it’s certainly not just lawyers here in the Philippines who get faced with very similar decisions.

Fork in the Road

July is a significant month for us, it is the time we re-activate our pending spouse visa application with US Immigration. Our petition has been approved a year ago, but we stopped at the point where we need to pay the Choice of Agent fee and the Affidavit of Support Fee – $475.

Right now, I have to say I really am 50-50 with pushing through with the spouse visa application….  I have eight years of practice of law already in this country, and I am turning 40 next year (*blush*)….

Well it’s completely understandable that you are going to be hesitant in this decision, it’s a big one.  As I said above, the people who come up with snap answers, “Go by all means”, or “Stay here, you’d be throwing too much away.” are both wrong, because they are not considering all aspects. 

One thing that comes to mid immediately is, this is not a ‘zero sum” decision that absolutely has to be made before a certain date in July.  If you were to abandon the application, you don’t abandon the right to petition again in the future, so at worst you are out a few hundred dollars already invested.  You still retain the right to start over in the future.

Secondly, if you deride to push through with the application, there is nothing irrevocable involve with that, except what may occur with you present job.  A few things which immediately come to mind are:

What are the provisions within your current agency for a leave of albescence or some sort of sabbatical?  Seems to me if they gave you leave to study law in the US they might be very amenable.

What are your reemployment rights should you resign your post now?  I take it you are a career employee.  Under US civil service rules, once an employee has three years of service, she/he may resign but has lifetime reemployment rights.  Not a guarantee to return to their old job, but rights to put their name on the list for any opening they are qualified for in the future … so would you really be completely giving up a career here, or would it be more like putting things on hold?

… So I wonder if I even want the hassle of starting over again in a place I have never been in…

This boils down in essence to your own personal comfort zone.  Is moving to a place you have never been before a hassle, or an opportunity?  It’s both, of course.  I guess what you really have to ask yourself is, if someone gave you a trip to Disneyland, would you go on the rides, or would you sit on the sidelines watching everyone else having fun?

… Aside from that, I have just started really living my life – with my husband. I wonder if I want to continue that life with so many unknown variables – a different job and a different country. Here in the Philippines I am in my element and my credentials are fairly good enough to land me a comfortable job…

Well, again, we all get the gift of one life … you can only live each day in one way.  Is your “comfort zone” more important than exploring what you might be able to become?  My wife and I have talked frankly on this more than once.  As you know, she went to the US with me and now we are back in the Philippines.  She was a junior management type with a very large firm here in the Philippines and there is no doubt she gave up a lot career-wise.

Much to her surprise, the old firm and many others have been “after her” since we returned … she thought her age and the fact she had left the Philippines was a negative factor, but experience so far seems to prove the opposite.

But her view is that she is still very glad she went to the US and lived and experienced life in the there. 

And from a sexist standpoint, life in the Philippines versus life in the US is way harder for the wife than the husband.  Heck I can see this easily even as a not all that supportive husband. 

Last February when we were in the US, I caught myself standing next to a huge display of party trays and ready-made salads in a supermarket, saying to myself. “I gave up this up”?  I only barely contained myself … I wanted to shout to people walking by with frowns on their faces, “Wake up people, look at what you have here, you’re truly living in a cornucopia of riches!”  And my wife does most of the food shopping, so you can imagine how she feels I’m sure.

As a man, I’m well treated by my whole family … I even have to rebel at times over being “babied”.  As a woman, the difference in being a homemaker here in the Philippines or in the US is night and day.  Life in the Philippines for the wife, even those who don’t work outside the home, is way, way more difficult … even a ”mere man” can see that. 

If my wife didn’t have family back here I doubt we would have even come back to the Philippines … or maybe I’d be here by myself while she went on working in the States 😉

I would have to respectfully submit, madam attorney, that you have no idea what a ”comfortable” job is unless you have experienced both sides of the “pond”.

… Aside from the fear of the effect of a recession to a newly arrived immigrant…

There is no doubt that being an immigrant makes you different.  This can not be ignored.  However, based on the experiences my wife and I shared when I brought her to the US, I don’t think they were overall any really big thing.  I can also relate to this in the reverse sense. 

There is no doubt that I am a”foreigner” here.  It is an issue, but hardly an overwhelming one.  I think also it is fair to point out,the the differences in being an immigrant to the US and an immigrant to the Philippines are huge. 

In the US, aside from voting (a vastly over-rated right considering the caliber of politicians in most elections), you are virtually a full-fledged citizen as soon as you enter with a visa and get a Social Security card that says “Employment Eligible”.  Want to buy a house, take the bar, study at any school, etc., hey, the road is yours.  In the US there are virtually no barriers (aside from some areas of public office and government employment) that are restricted by citizenship.

In the Philippines, no matter how long I were to live here, there are a great many options open to a Filipino that
will never be open to me.  the opportunities for an immigrant in the USA are huge (perhaps that’s one of the reasons so many folks seem to want to go there 😉 )

As far as “The Recession”, which you have mentioned several times before, I don’t think it should loom so large in your thoughts.  There are a lot of unemployed folks in the US.  There are a lot of folks in the US who paid inflated prices for homes and entered into mortgages that had ridiculous escalation clauses that have now come into effect.  So it’s certainly right to say there are folks in difficulty.

But you and your husband already have a source of income, so even though I understand you want more, you certainly will not be destitute.  You also aren’t saddled with “too much house” or overwhelming credit card debts, student loans and huge car payments that are the cause of much of the current US pain.

And to call a spade a spade?  The more foreclosures, lawsuits, motions for appeal, replacement mortgages, deeds of trust, title work, etc., the more work there is in the legal profession.  Not to mentioned the hundreds of thousands of other immigrants trying to get into the US legally who need representation.

Actually in many ways this is a great time to enter the US.  You can negotiate really good housing deals, get great bargains on already depreciated repossessed vehicles and so on.  And during my month in Florida recently?  My thought was, “what recession?”  Had to stand in line in every store, the cash registers were whirring away.  Went into a computer store several times and had to look for a salesman to sell me a computer, they were all always busy with other, buying customers.  Went to McDonalds to try some super-duper new Angus Burger they were featuring and had to take a number and stand in line to order and then to get my burger, at over $8 USD for a single burger.  Recession? What recession?

That’s more words than my patient readers usually sit still for, so I’ll continue next post.  Meanwhile, be of good cheer … you really can’t make a ‘wrong’ decision in this case.


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