Friday, April 27, 2012


I can vividly remember the first day I arrived in Brunei. With loads of excitement and a bit of apprehension, my expression was, "ghost town ba ito?" Compared with a jampacked and busy NAIA Terminal 1 airport, walang wala ang Brunei Airport sa dami ng tao. Walang katao-tao. And instead of hearing honks and screaming (na bonggang nagmamadali) people, chirping birds and the gushing wind welcomed me.

I was alone when I came in Brunei. I didn't have any friends. I was clueless with what Brunei can offer. All I knew then, I needed to heal or recover from the devastation caused by the sudden death of my mom.

God heard what my heart and mind was pondering on. Before a job offer in Brunei came in my life, I was praying hard to God that I wanted to once again find my happy and strong self. With my Mom's passing, the days became gloomy and my dreams turned sour. I was not driven to move on with life. And so I sought for a change of environment. So when God offered me Brunei, I accepted it. I carried whatever hope that's left with me. I took baby steps in piecing my dreams.

My life totally changed when I embraced a life overseas. Hindi rin pala talaga biro ang malayo sa pamilya. But with real friends around, you can be sure that you can lead a fruitful life.

In 2008, I didn't know anyone in Brunei. I didn't have friends. I didn't have any relatives. I didn't even bother to research where Brunei is. What's clear in my mind, I am stepping forward to rebuild my life. However, as years passed by, happiness blossomed after I met the different people na I now consider my FRIEMILY. From combining the words "Friend" and "Family," I came up with such concept.

A Friemily (pronounced as FRE-MI-LY) is a dear friend whom I consider as my family. A friemily is someone who's not only there in times of joy, but someone who's gonna be there in times of trouble. Someone who's not selfish with sharing words of wisdom and showing good deeds to impart positive actions. What's more valuable, a friemily is someone who guides and inspires.

Over the past years, I've had a lot of friemilies. In my first year in Brunei, my super buddy (na talaga namang laging andyan for me) Cecil was my first ever friemily. Since we were officemates and workmates, we usually hanged out and shared stories after lunch, after work, and on weekends. We also has this "chikahan time" where we walked in some nearby street in our place and talked anything under the "moon" as it happened mostly at night.

With Best buddy Cecil!
Cecil was my real source of strength when I was carving a life in Brunei. She's always there to listen and to give me the sharpest and wisest advice. Sadly, soon, Cecil left Brunei in 2011. Aaminin ko, nalungkot ako. But then God gave me new set of friends na talaga namang nagpasaya sa aking buhay bilang isang single OFW. Pak! It even started back in the third quarter of 2008, a time when Cecil and I were already friends.

When I joined a choir in Brunei in 2008, Faith came into my life. How can I forget her? She's the first ever person who welcomed me in the choir with a big smile and a warm hello. She was also the first person who offered me a ride (dahil di pa ako marunong magdrive non at wala pang sasakyan na na-di-drive) whenever there's choir practice or we had to sing in a mass. Nevertheless, Faith was my mentor, a friend and a fremily. She's also always there to treat me not only with libre food but also with sweet and inspiring words.
With Faith in 2010!

When Faith was about to leave Brunei, she introduced me to Lisa, Elna and Kuya Rhenee. Little did I know, they will add to my list of fremilies. Lisa was very vocal and smart on giving advices. Kuya Rhenee was a model of a responsible and God-fearing man. And Elna? uhm? Okay Elna! Yeah Elna. She's crazy and expressive in her thoughts. With their different personalities together, I enjoyed every meet-up.
Lisa, Faith, Me and Elna!

Lisa, Elna and Kuya Rhenee have been my fremilies for more than two years now. And they have been playing a significant role in my life. How can I forget on one evening when Lisa and Kuya Rhenee offered me a ride dahil nasiraan yung taxi na nasakyan ko. Meanwhile, Elna has become my lunch and chika buddy for the past months during the preggy period of Lisa. With their presence, I feel at home on bright and rainy days.

I call my group with Lisa, Elna and Kuya Rhenee as Supah Friends. Eventually, Jovert came in the group. Jovert has been their friend. They've all met in the church where they are active members of SFC (before) and now CFC. Jovert's addition to the group has led to more fun and exciting gatherings. Not only Jovert offered his "mansion" in some meet-ups, his words have contributed in my understanding of an adult world - ranging from relationships to handling personal matters. Pero ang pinakagusto ko talaga eh pag nag-a-advice siya kay Elna. Super classic lang.

(L-R) Me, Elna, Jovert, Kuya Rhenee, and Lisa!

Faith, Elna, Lisa, Kuya Rhenee, and Jovert have become a role model for me to not only seize life's opportunities. But they've showed me to be patient and put God as a center of my life.

Brunei is small country. Walang wala ito sa sukat ng Luzon. As I see it, Brunei can exist as one of the provinces in some island in the Philippines. With this, you can meet a lot of people who are also friends of your friends. Magugulat ka na lang, kilala na pala ng kaibigan mo ang bago mong nakilala. I wasn't surprised at all na when I learned that everyone knows almost everyone.

My circle of fremilies eventually expanded when I joined UP Circle Brunei, an organization of UP graduates who are based in Brunei. In one of the gatherings, I met Dr. Joey Santos, a professor of Chemistry at UBD. I eventually met Dr. Joey, na tinatawag ko ng Sir Joey, when I coordinated with him for a paper for my Masters class at UP OU. From a simple talk over the phone and an invitation from him for me to visit his office, we became friends. And soon, yes, I now consider him as my friemily.

Whenever Sir Joey throws a celebration in his house, he invites me. In the past, he invited me to birthday celebrations of his children. I even hosted some of the gatherings. From there, I met Ms. Jing, Sir Joey's wife. And I also met Windol, Shantelle and Marvs.

With Sir Joey and Ms. Jing!
From that day I coordinated with Sir Joey about my paper and interviewed him, I knew that Sir Joey is a very humble person. What's more, he has a very inspiring personal story. Dahil sa pagsisikap niya at higit na pagmamahal sa pamilya, hindi kataka-takang naabot niya ang pangarap niya. I'm even impressed with all the bevy of credentials tucked under his belt. Pero hindi niya iniyayabang yan. Truth is, he's one of the many inspiring persons I've met for me to finally (hopefully) get a PhD.

In one of Sir Joey's party, I was introduced to Dr. Rommel and Ms. Lea Curaming. As far as I can remember, Pasko noon and the Curamings just arrived in Brunei. From my conversation with Sir Rommel and Ms. Lea, Sir Rommel is hired at UBD to be a professor in History. My conversation with Sir Rommel and Ms. Lea was enjoyable. Talagang umpisa pa lang ng paguusap, nakakatuwa na silang kausap. Parents level lang. Meanwhile, Ms. Lea was "game na game" when I asked her to sing.
With the Curamings!
Things get even better when I spotted one of my college professors in the church. I was apprehensive then to approach a girl wearing a floral blouse. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, kamukha siya nung professor ko sa UP noon pero di ko sure kung siya nga or kamukha lang. Imagine, of all places, I was in doubt that my professor in UP will be in Brunei.

Eventually, I approached the girl na pinagsusupetsahan kong professor ko in college. I wasn't wrong. Siya nga, si Ma'am Betsy, my professor in UP Diliman. So from that meet-up, I didn't know that we'll become close and friends. And yes, friemilies.

When Ma'am Betsy joined the choir, we became closer. Apart from eating out after mass, she also invited me to her unit in Pangsa Mar'azmala. And since Dr. Rommel and Ms. Lea also stayed in the same place, we all became bonded. Eventually, Ma'am Betsy's son Ton came in Brunei. So mas lumaki na ang samahan at mas masaya. Feeling ko eh adopted child ako. hahaha! Pak!
With Ton and Ma'am Betsy!
 When it comes to academic and professional matters, si Sir Rommel and Ms. Lea talaga ang adviser ko. Lalo pag application overseas and survival tips in the academe ang topic, Sir Rommel is the authority. When it comes to inspirational stories and living life to the fullest, si Ma'am Betsy yan. Isama mo na rin ang kakikayan, kuwentuhang kuwela at no inhibitions na talakayan, si Ma'am Betsy yan. And when it comes to family life and valuing the essence of a positive attitude, si Sir Joey and Ms. Jing. See? I have all my friemilies here to guide, support and empower me. Kaya naman I couldn't be more grateful without them.

Meanwhile, with my bubbly and noise-loving personality, I've become closer to another group of friends na maituturing ko ring friemily. They are the ever-talented and kuwela teachers of Expression Music School. I tell you, they're all gifted with talent in music. Isama mo na rin ang galing sa spontaneous banats and patawa.

Christmas Get Together in 2010!
All out support during the Who's Got Talent Competition!

Touched ako sa Banners!

Wagi sa ingay at saya!

Bumobox-office sa gulo!

I am very fortunate to lead a life overseas that's filled with good and inspiring people. Despite longing for my family which sometimes lead to homesickness, having my friemilies ease the sadness. With my friends from Expression Music School, I get to feel young and carefree. Having Sir Joey and Ms. Jing, Sir Rommel and Ms. Lea, and Ma'am Betsy, I get to be inspired on leading a humble and productive life. And with Lisa, Elna, Jovert, Kuya Rhenee, and Faith (kahit nasa US na), I'm empowered with God's guidance and compassion.

Next week I'll be home in the Philippines and I'll be once again reunited with my real family. I can't contain the happiness that I'm feeling right now. I am also attending my MA graduation at UP Open University. Thank God, despite the many months of missing my real family, I have a lot of friends who have become a family to me. Life in Brunei would never be the same and bongga without them. To all my friemily, cheers!

 I will resume blogging after my vacation in the Philippines. I'll be blogging again on JUNE 2012, yes, my birthday month!

1 comment:

  1. Hi. This is Joyce Villavicencio a researcher trainee for Maalaala Mo Kaya of ABS-CBN. I'm looking for a story about a Filipino who worked or still working in Brunei and to feature their life, experiences and struggles.
    if you're interested to share your story just send it to my e-mail add: or contact me 09268731446.

    I'll be waiting for your reply.
    Thank you and God bless.