In this blog I share my journey as a Filipina-Canadian living in the Philippines as a yoga teacher, as an environmentalist and as an activist-scholar. Since I moved to the Philippines in 2011, I have learned and am learning still the complexities of life in the Third World. It is not simply chaos and poverty. It is also not simply beaches and beautiful views. The issues affecting the Philippines are urgent, and also deeply historical, contextual, geographical.
I feel hopeful that many others in the diaspora, are choosing to become involved the Philippines, through exposures with human rights organizations, through fellowship programs like Kaya Collaborative, through fundraising for communities in need, and through the family and community ties that continue to bring us in as tourists and volunteers.
At the same time, I feel there is so much more to do, to really channel this outsider energy for lasting social change. As the director of TIGRA, I was working on this issue of “diaspora and development” through our project in Bantayan Island after Typhoon Haiyan, and through our involvement at the pre-departure orientation seminars for US-bound Filipinos. But within TIGRA there has been a slow downshift in the last two years spurred by funding deficits. I had to shift as well.
I thought about moving back to Canada or the US. I thought about pursuing a PhD. I thought about working for another non-profit, non-government organization. I thought about getting a job that pays good money.
And then I realized that I wanted to stay in the Philippines. And to stay on my own terms.
I got certified to teach yoga, a passion of mine for more than a decade. I got by with my savings and started teaching in May 2015. And then last August I got a Canadian-based research job for the ATE project, in line with my work experience.
I’m still at a crossroads, trying to forge a pathway that makes me happy and supports the work that is mine to do. This work involves a deep commitment to environmental sustainability, to solidarity with those that are historically marginalized, to principles of equity and shared power, and to what brings me joy. So far, I feel glad to have made that decision to stay. And blessed by the community of friends and family that have supported me to go out on a limb!