I was raised in a small town in Northern California in the valley of two mountains. We lived an hour away from a mall and 30 minutes from our dentist. I never imagined that I would raise my boys across the world in Manila, one of the world's most densely populated cities in South East Asia surrounded by skyscrapers and high rises.
I cannot imagine a more opposite experience than the one I had. But that is part of the magic of living abroad.
Besides having an endless summer, the best mangoes in the world and the most fun modes of transportation, the Philippines is where my boys have learned valuable life lessons that I hope will guide them through the rest of their lives. We predominantly have an American culture in our home, but outside we embrace everything that is Filipino.
A Filipino's commitment to family and community is incomparable. My heart soars when I hear my sons refer to any adult as 'Kuya' or 'Ate' — it is so endearing. It has been such a comfort to be enveloped by neighbors, friends, and yayas who treat you as part of their family. Since we live so far from our relatives, this has been instrumental in our happiness and growth in Manila. My kids never want for attention because they have a doting ‘tita’ or ‘tito’ waiting to tickle or 'kurot' their cheeks at any given moment.
I wish my three Pinoy boys will always remember that through our humanity we are all connected.
The slogan "Its more fun in the Philippines" is the truth! We all get excited to hop on a jeepney or squeeze into a trike. These are experiences we would not be having anywhere else but here. Where else does an armed security guard joyfully gives kids high fives as they run wildly past him? These daily tasks are done with a smile and a warm greeting. Life is more fun in the Philippines because people make that choice.
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I wish my three Pinoy boys always choose happiness.
Never would have I ever thought my sons' preferred meals would be galunggong fried to a crisp with a heaping pile of rice, AND eating it with their hands, the Pinoy way! I never imagined that the Kuya of our family could switch his accent like a light switch depending on who he was communicating with (Filipino vs. non-Filipino).
One of my most tender memories is my bunso learning his body parts in Filipino before English. These lessons have taught us all that there is no one "right" way to live.
May my three Pinoy boys always remember that they are world citizens and life is much bigger than one country and one culture.
Since my boys were born and raised in the Philippines (minus one year for my eldest son), I have declared them Fil-Am. We may not have the passport to prove it, but they have the heart of the Filipino, and they are better for it.
Amber Folkman, the blogger behind "A Momma Abroad," is a California native who spent her university years in Hawaii where she met her husband. After a few years in Seattle, her husband's work brought him to Manila where Amber and her eldest son relocated in 2009. They now have three crazy boys ages 6, 4 and 2, whom they refer to as "#3PinoyBoys" because life in the Philippines is all they know.