Thursday, June 4, 2009

BEING A BRUNEIYUKI

Back in 2007, I knew I was on the right path. After trashing my blinding years of slavery in some television networks, I restored my freedom. I was back in the enriching arms of UP Diliman passionately taking up my graduate studies in Mass Media. I was confident I will get a teaching post once I finish my masters. I even envisioned I am bound to create rousing impacts on the lives of the youth. Surprisingly, a wind of change blew my well-mounted plan on detour. I was offered to work as a copywriter in an advertising agency in Brunei, the Abode of Peace.

The job offer from Brunei was like a golden ticket which fell from the sky and landed accidentally on my feet. It was unexpected as I never applied on any overseas job. Soon, even I was a bit hesitant, I grabbed the promising gift and the processing of my documents progressed. I found out my employer got my resume through online. Call it luck or fate, I guess, it was a blessing to be thankful for.

Frankly, I never dream of working overseas. Even the whopping reality of earning big time abroad has not piqued my interest at all. And although I know how a Balikbayan box could launch a magical and huge smile on its receivers, perhaps, the simple and priceless joys of being with my family and friends are more powerful in keeping me satisfied and inspired. I am just fortunate to have my parents beside me to support my needs and even my lifestyle whims. With these comforts, I consider foreign territories only as mobile grounds where I can sharpen my academic competencies or like vast fields where I can harvest a clear understanding on diverse cultures and traditions. I was drowned and blinded with my pseudo-bourgeois status which soon was demystified.

Coming out of my comfort zone is the major reason why I shelved my plans of finishing my graduate studies, left the Philippines and embarked on a trailblazing rollercoaster ride outside the Philippines. I wanted to challenge myself. I knew that if I will stay forever under the consoling wings of my family, I will never learn to find my voice and reach my full potential. And so, in March 2008, simultaneous with the ballooning migration, I joined the millions of Filipinos being shipped abroad. I embarked on my Bruneiyuki adventures.

Admit it or not, we have stereotypical imageries of a Bruneiyuki strongly encrypted in our fragile minds. Aligned with being a Japayuki as projected by the media, a Bruneyuki represents the bizarre and depicts on the “annoyingly trying hard” individuals - someone who wears a rainbow-bright colored hair, walks like a model in uber high heels or leather boots, speaks in a distinctive “twang,” and sashays glitzy outfits festooned with shimmering jeweleries and thick make-up in an ordinary day or even under the scorching heat of the sun. Although the totality of a Bruneiyuki’s look may solicit unwanted stares and discrimination, a Bruneiyuki doesn’t care a damn. And Oh! Who could forget how the steamy encounters of a few celebrities with some “Royal” gentleman once became an overnight national sensation? Reality bites, with a long history of negatively extreme iconic representations, Bruneiyukis are boxed as entertainers, and worst, as illegal sex workers.

Truth be told, my shadowy perceptions on a Bruneiyuki was totally changed when I became one and I began immersing myself in their lifestyle.

Being a Bruneyuki has taught me a gazillion of life-changing experiences. Just like any OFW, my independence abroad pave way for the shattering of my fears and the surfacing of a new ball game. All the impossible turn out to be miraculously possible. Overseas, I learn to cook for myself, clean my room, wash and iron my clothes, and even take time to budget and do grocery. As I learn the traumatizing basics of household chores, I am transformed as a sensitively industrious mortal while trying to be thrifty to send money to my family. Thankfully, although the tiring emotional baggage became unbearable in the first few months, I eventually master the art and science of surviving in a foreign jungle.

I never escape the invincible and sharp hands of homesickness. It’s like a ghoulish entity that haunts me in my lonely nights. It’s an unseen persona who makes me fall in tears instantly. It’s a faceless creature which bashes me in my darkest hour. To top it all, it’s a self-inflicted disturbing sickness which is incurable of any kind of medical arsenal. Banking on courage and seizing every opportunity that came along are the keys which keep me moving and ahead in my overseas journey.

To combat homesickness, aside from maintaining constant communication with my family and friends through chatting and with the Internet’s glorious social networking sites, I scavenge an outlet where I can enjoy and express my individuality; I immortalize my experiences as a Bruneiyuki through blogging. Yeah, blogging save my sanity. In fact, my addiction compels me to literally blow-by-blow document my life here in Brunei from day one until day 365. Believe it or not, I never missed a day!

Loud and proud, my blog chronicles my humble beginnings, my sacrifices, my life as a writer, the cultural differences I encounter, my fight with homesickness, my joys of being discovered as an event host, up to sharing tips of warding off and winning overseas woes.

On one hand, even in an Islamic country, I find respite in God’s healing hands and become closer to him. Every Sunday, I consistently attend mass in the one and only Catholic Church here in Brunei where I get to share my talent and true passion – singing! In front of a big crowd, with each melody and rhythms I sang, I know I am able to enkindle a sparkle of inspiration to the people, especially among my kababayans. Seriously, serving the Lord and voicing my hymns are very fulfilling.

Nevertheless, my exposure on a spectrum of races and multiculturalism have also paved way to a better understanding of my identity as a Filipino. Not only I get to realize the depth of Islam, absorb the pizzazz of rich languages, observe Brunei’s engaging national celebrations, admire the Sultan’s well-built leadership in ushering progress and growth to its country, haile the nation’s justice system, savor a spread of authentic Bruneian foods which made me gain some weight, and even dance and sing to snappy beats of some Indian, Chinese and Malay music, but more importantly, the gamut of insightful experiences and the juxtaposition of the surreal and perfect images has made me appreciate more my being Filipino. In whatever I do, I always wear my skin very proud!

Seriously, I never regret coming out of my comfort zone and become a certified Bruneiyuki. As I came across with the complexity and adverse effects of migration on the Filipino family, not only I'm able to debunk my personal misconception of a Bruneiyuki by actually embracing and living their lives, but knowing more my capabilities and limitations plus widening my awareness has helped me become a better and passionate person. It is an eye-opening personal detour which rewards me with buckets of life’s bonuses – positivity, zeal and compassion.

I know it’s a long journey ahead. I may have temporarily kept my dreams of teaching in a University, but just like a sponge, I will absorb as many wisdom as I can which I can utilize and impart on my next destination – ang mahal kong Pilipinas.

Indeed, opportunities knock only once. If I didn’t brave myself two years ago, I may not have known what’s on the other side of the world waiting for me to be discovered and be shared.

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