Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Filipina Elsewhere: Eula Gonzales

Read the series introduction.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Bea Pantoja.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Bianca Consunji.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Crystal Koo.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Petra Magno.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Rhea Alba.

I first met Eula nearly a decade ago in a copywriting job that I didn't enjoy very much. But I enjoyed her company, and she was one of the few friends I made there that I still communicate with to this day. I love her taste in books, and she's also a fine writer. Hopefully she'll write more about her great Australian adventure. Here she talks about battling homesickness, walking the streets of Adelaide, and making room--both physically and metaphorically.

Let's hear it for Eula.
I added emphases (boldface type, italics), links, and photos throughout the text. All photos in this post were provided by Eula Gonzales.

Name: Eula Gonzales
Current Location: Adelaide, Australia
Age: 29

What was your job back in the Philippines?
I was a Communications Executive for a global logistics company. I handled marketing and corporate communications which meant working with everyone in Country Office and also with Region and Global, from time to time. It was an interesting and challenging job at the same time because I got to do different kinds of things from marketing and corporate communications, events management, CSR, copy writing, collateral development to video production.

What are you doing now?
I'm taking an Advanced Diploma in Marketing and Communication at TAFE SA (Technical and Further Education, South Australia). 

Why did you decide to study/work abroad?
I wanted to try living away from home because I've thought about how a change of scenery can bring a change of perspective, not just in terms of getting better qualifications or pursuing studies but also having those experiences that push you out of your comfort zone and learn new things about yourself (both good and bad, of course, but they're still things that tell you who you really are)

Every time I go to a new place, whether abroad or in other parts of the Philippines, I would always wonder how it would feel like to live there (maybe for just a year or two?). I'd always try to imagine how a normal day would be like (walking around the neighborhood, taking public transportation, having daily encounters with the locals etc) and I think that curiosity has always driven me to try new experiences. But I do have to be honest in saying that this big change I decided to take on has not been easy at all. 

The fact of having gone thousands of miles away from home only sunk in after a few months of being in Adelaide. I remember that slow but steady realization of being halfway here and halfway in the Philippines. It's as if home is starting to feel like it's not just in one place. I remember what they would say about home being a place where you hang your hat. I think I might have two places now for my hat.

What was your biggest challenge when you went abroad?
That I had only a few days to pack all my things, that I had to pick only 5 books (I brought 7, haha) I can bring with me, that I had to start from scratch, figure out the essentials like getting from point A to point B.. those were fun

I guess my biggest challenge was staying focused on what I had set out to do because when you move away from everything that's familiar, you can get distracted/dragged down by that feeling of uncertainty about, well, everything (the routines, the security of having a job, having family and friends around, sleeping in your own bed, seeing all your books on your own shelves, knowing exactly which items to order from a menu, not having to worry about looking like a tourist etc.) The first time I felt homesick, I was crying and laughing to myself at the same time and it almost feels like I was going crazy. When I said goodbye to my mom at the airport in Manila, I didn't even become teary-eyed (I was thinking about getting on the plane as quickly as I can and hopefully, getting some sleep) but as soon as I landed in Adelaide and my sister called our mom and handed her phone to me so I can talk to her, I started crying. 

And what was the best thing that happened to you?
Surprising myself was the best thing that happened to me when I moved abroad. It almost feels like an extended retreat where it's just you and no one else is there to tell you how to take things as they come. I've never had so much free reign over what I can do in an entire day (well, of course, there's still some studying and I also have a part time job). But the feeling of only thinking about what it is that you'd like to do and not think too much about other people is quite refreshing. Growing up around such a tight knit family that's typical among Filipinos, I've never lived alone before even when I was already working so I consider this a milestone. It's something I didn't think I'd be enjoying this much.

Note: An encounter with the kangaroo and the koala :) 

If I were to go fly to where you are, what would you say is:
    the best place to eat? 
It's hard to just pick one place because since I lived in Adelaide, I'd always hear someone say "Oh this place has the best coffee, that one's got the best burrito, and this one's where you can find great sushi etc." It's an adventure that you find yourself in and because there's always something happening around the city (oftentimes, there'll be festivals to go to), you'd eventually figure out which food trucks to go back to. My best bet would always be to go where the locals are. Choose the small places where the barista spends a few minutes asking about your day, they would often have the best food because they almost always own the place or are friends with the owner. 

My own recos, so far (I'm not sure if this list appeals to tourists planning to visit Adelaide because most of the places on it are based on those I've tried/enjoyed considering I'm on a "student budget" hihi)

- Try the German beers and sausages at Hahndorf Inn (it's in Hahndorf, a little German town, which you can reach by bus from the city)
- Coffee from Ciao in Adelaide Arcade or Argo near Victoria Square
- Sushi at Ginza Miyako (I enjoyed the Sushi Train experience, too. There are a lot of branches in the city, but if you want a good, cheap sushi place - there's one across the Visitor Information Centre along James Place in Rundle Mall, it's called Miyabi)
- Oysters at Cardone's Seafood and Grill along Jetty Road in Glenelg (or some fish and chips from Sotos in Semaphore)
- Cheese from Central Market
- Jamface Central at Central Market (it's owned by Poh Ling Yeow) 
- For pancakes cravings, go to the Original Pancake Kitchen (they're open 24/7)
- Meatballs at Ikea (surprisingly good and cheap, too)
- Churros and hot chocolate at San Churro
- Waffles at St Louis House of Fine Ice Cream & Dessert
- Burritos from Salsas

Cheese at Central Market
Hahndorf Inn
IKEA meatballs

    the best place to visit? 
I've always liked walking along any of the main roads - North Terrace is known as the Cultural district because you can find the museum, art gallery, state library and the biggest universities along this strip. If you're ever there for an afternoon stroll, try walking from the north end (start at the National Wine Centre where they've got self-guided tours; don't forget that Adelaide is known for wines so it's a must that you drink at least a glass or two) and work your way down so you can catch a nice view of the sunset. If you're into old buildings and just marveling at architecture, try walking along King William Road and walk past the Town Hall and the General Post Office (you can also take the free tram that runs along this street) and finish off with a stroll at Victoria Square or a have a bite to eat at Central Market. You can also walk or go on a bike (you can rent a bike for free) along the River Torrens and go on the Popeye ferry or a paddle boat. Or sit on a bench, have coffee and just watch ducks and swans and a few pelicans, too.

North Terrace

General Post Office

    the best thing to do? 
Explore. When I was still in the Philippines, I was already doing a little bit of research of the things to do in Adelaide and honestly, I found quite a few that I thought I'd enjoy. I was actually consciously keeping myself from going to different places all at once just so I can have that steady supply of new things to try/places to go to. And I've already been here for a year now but I still have quite a lot on my list. There's always something to do; you only need to know where to look and who to ask :)

Adelaide Festival Center

Adelaide Writers Week

Elder Conservatorium

Art Gallery
Alpine Village Festival

Will you return to the Philippines? Or will you stay abroad? Why? 
I think I'll always want to come back to the Philippines, whether to live there again or to visit family and friends. Or just to look at how much has changed or how much has stayed the same. In the meantime, I'd like to try living abroad first and get settled and work full-time after graduation. 

Your #1 tip to those thinking of studying/working outside the Philippines:
Make room. Not just physical room for all the new things that you're going to get after you decide to move out. Make room for those experiences that may or may not really change you, but just let them happen to you. Transformation comes when you're not in charge so don't just leave behind your old stuff when you pack your bags. Be prepared to grow both inwardly and outwardly. If there's only one reason why I'd keep on traveling for as long as I can, it's this - how it can embolden you to surrender completely and take chances.

Make the most out of every opportunity that comes your way - make friends, ask them where the best places are and what their days are like, and choose to abandon your assumptions about everything you know or have always known to be true. You can start small. Maybe, make up a little ritual for yourself - it can be talking to at least one stranger you meet every other day on your morning commute, trying out one coffee place after the other on your breaks, volunteering (this really helped me find my feet in an unfamiliar place and you get to meet a lot of interesting people, too) or if you're feeling homesick, try going to places you know you'd go to if you were back home (these were the book shops and city libraries for me) or to places you know you'd never go to if you were back home.

Thank you, Eula!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Workshop as Alternate Reality: Notes from the Inaugural Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop []

Standing L-R: Joel M. Toledo, Charlson Ong, Nikki Alfar, Luna Sicat-Cleto, me, Vlad Gonzales, Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio, Will Ortiz, Yan Baltazar, CR Pilares, Rachel Castañares, Arby Medina, John Leir, Isaac Ali Tapar, Vida Cruz, Patricia Onte, Gigi Constantino.

Seated L-R: Joel Donato "Cupcake" Jacob, RM Urquico, Kristoffer Aaron Tiña

Photo from

The real world, in general, does not treasure writers.

Or, rather: the things writers treasure—silence, daydreams, a rich inner life, the music of language, solitude—are the things that the real world may not consider important. People working outside the academe—people like me—feel this acutely. Who would pay me to critique a literary work? Who would pay me for every hour I spend untangling a story’s plot? Who would give me a comfortable room in order to read?

Joining a workshop, in many ways, is like stepping into an alternate reality. It’s like accompanying Einstein’s twin who travels near the speed of light and experiences time slowing down. It’s like carving a space where you and your strange thoughts are welcome.

When I was invited as Panelist for the inaugural Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop (ALBWW), which was also the first national-level workshop focused on speculative fiction or sapantaha, I immediately said yes. How can you say no to history? This was also a chance for me to listen to celebrated author and playwright Prof. Lapeña-Bonifacio, who, together with the late fictionist Francisco Arcellana and the poet Alejandrino G. Hufana, created and established the UP Creative Writing Center, which she headed as Director from 1986 to 1995. As a sophomore I watched her “Ang Paglalakbay ni Sisa: Isang Noh sa Laguna” at the University Theater, and as a junior I won a prize in the Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Literary Awards for “Sugar Pi”. It was like coming full circle. A homecoming of sorts.

Continue reading on

Photos from the 1st Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writing Workshop
Workshop Director Charlson Ong welcoming the Fellows.
Photos from the 1st Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writing Workshop
Prof. Lapeña-Bonifacio at the start of the workshop.
Photos from the 1st Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writing Workshop
Vlad and I watched the English version of Distrito de Molo on the first night of the workshop. We took the Fellows to the Filipino version on Sunday. Happy I was able to watch this twice! 
Photos from the 1st Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writing Workshop
We ate so much during this workshop. Thank you UP-ICW for spoiling us!

Photos from the 1st Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writing Workshop
Told you they spoiled us.
Photos from the 1st Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writing Workshop
Graduation dayyyy
See more photos on Panitikan's Facebook page

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Filipina Elsewhere: Rhea Alba

Read the series introduction.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Bea Pantoja.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Bianca Consunji.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Crystal Koo.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Petra Magno.

I remember interviewing Rhea so many years ago for this broadsheet I used to work for. I met her in person only once or twice after that, but I always found her online posts a source of grace and radiance in an otherwise gloomy Facebook News Feed. Haha! Here she talks about her desire to learn, experiencing "reverse culture shock" while still in the Philippines, ending up in a job in London that seemed to have been created just for her, and finding love (in a not so hopeless place).

I added emphases (boldface type, italics), links, and photos throughout the text.

Name: Rhea Alba
Current Location: London, England
Age: 32 (ata [I think]... haha!)

What was your job back in the Philippines?
Started my career as a newsdesk assistant for a broadcast station but found myself volunteering in Mindanao and Bradford, UK. After that, decided to shift to another field. Been a Human Rights/Development worker for the last 10 years.

What are you doing now?
Currently working in the same field, with a London-based organization that promotes the rights and welfare of seafarers and their families worldwide.

Finding this post was actually a happy accident. I initially had my qualms about moving to London because I might have to start from scratch career-wise. I was also very particular about finding a job that is in the same field and still connects me to my beloved country.

In the job description posted by my organization, they were specifically looking for someone who is: (1) Fluent in Filipino; (2) Has a human rights/welfare background; (3) Preferably, has some understanding of the maritime industry and associated problems.

I really felt that JD was written for me because: (1) I’m Pinoy, and Filipino is my native language; (2) I was a campaigner for Southeast Asia, and was working for the largest global human rights organization before moving to London; (3) I am the proud daughter of a Pinoy seafarer (and I have half a dozen relatives who are also seafarers), so I grew up having a decent sense of the industry's challenges.

Because majority of the seafarers working in the world are Filipinos, the org needed an officer who can respond to its large Pinoy clientele. I guess I was just really lucky! I had a month to enjoy being a bum but immediately got my right to work here, in a job that I enjoy!

Where/what did you study?
I love learning, ehem. Lest I look like a total geek (for disclosing all the courses/schools I’ve attended), here are the most formal ones:

-       BA Journalism + MA units in Community Development – UP Diliman, Philippines
-       International Humanitarian Action – University College Dublin, Ireland and Ruhr Universitat Bochum, Germany

Why did you decide to study/work abroad?
Even as a child, I’ve always been curious, and I guess my parents kind of encouraged that. I grew up hearing my mom, a former public school teacher, encourage her students to always challenge their beliefs, explore and broaden their horizons, wherever they may be. My dad, who comes from a family of fisherfolks, told me stories of how he became a seafarer because he wanted to learn what was "out there" and explore the world for free.

Combine those two influences together and voila---the product is an itchy-soled and curious me, haha. However, the whole idea of studying or working abroad wasn't immediately the obvious path to take for me. Back in the days, no frills flights are not yet in vogue, so traveling was, in my mom's words, a "pang can-afford lang" activity [an activity only for those who can afford it]. I did travel a few times domestically, but f I remember correctly, I was already in my 20s when I did my first trip outside the Philippines to Singapura, as a post-grad treat from daddy.

But then I got selected for a youth exchange program where I lived in Mindanao (to do feasibility research with banana, rice and coconut farmers) and Bradford, England (to do interfaith/interracial work and help establish a British-Filipino radio show). Not gonna lie---when I first came home after the intense program, I experienced a bit of reverse culture shock. It was strange, because on one hand, I felt like I was closer to my "true" self (e.g. despite brushes with racism, I never hid and was always very vocal and very proud about being Pinoy). On the other, living abroad made me realize that there is so much that I still need to know/understand/accept/contend with (e.g. I thought I was a fairly patient and decent person, but I once got into a massive verbal spat with a teammate after we got lost while trying to find our way to a Pinoy binyagan [christening] party in the middle of West Yorkshire, England, all for the love of free lechon---how mature!)

In short, this experience changed my life completely. When I came home to the Philippines, I knew I needed to see, do, learn more. I was already bitten and infected by the travel bug, for sure! A "friend" even told me how I seemed "happier", "less manang [old maid]" and more "liberated" (?!) about my worldviews after the program, which he thought was odd, considering that I wasn’t necessarily in the prettiest or most touristy of places.

Let’s just say after I’ve seen a slice of the world, after encountering different people and learning about their hopes and fears, after I’ve discovered that there’s more to the colors white and black, there’s no looking back!

What was your biggest challenge when you went abroad?
At first I thought it would be culture shock, but not really. I remember talking to my mother-in-law one time, about how she survived the big challenges associated with moving from Ireland to Austria. She simply replied: “I’m Irish, just as you are Pinoy.” She was so smug and adorable about it that I couldn't help but laugh---because I knew exactly what she meant. I’d like to think that we Pinoys have a neat, built-in feature in our genes---we just know ‘how to roll’ regardless of where we are ;)

But if I were to really choose something, I think the biggest challenge boils down to being homesick.

I miss my family and friends! I also miss being away from the country I love (made worse by that creeping, powerful feeling of helplessness about reports on what’s happening there now). Honestly, I don't know how to react whenever people say that "oh, you're so lucky you're now living/working abroad". I don't discount that and I truly am thankful for having this opportunity but I feel super sad because deep inside, I can't wait to fly back to the Philippines again---it is and will always be home.

And what was the best thing that happened to you?
My curiosity and the desire to learn were fulfilled (this is still happening everyday). I would also like to think that my exposure to different types of challenges abroad made me more street smart, more humble, braver, because...well, walang choice [I have no choice]---essential skills to survival!

Oh and I found LOVE (in a not so hopeless place, haha!) When I first arrived in Ireland, I was suffering from a rather nasty dose of heartbreak and homesickness that I almost gave up my scholarship, packed my bags to go home. Imagine if I took the easy, comfy way out, then I wouldn't have been able to meet the love of my life in Ingo!

If I were to go fly to where you are, what would you say is:

the best place to eat? One thing I love about London is that it offers tons of choices. Generally, it’s a frighteningly expensive place to live in (transport, rent, etc.), but you’d be surprised about the many food options where you can economize.

People say that fish and chips used to be the "national food" of the UK, but this was allegedly overtaken a few years ago by the Chicken Tikka Masala (given the country’s British-Indian heritage). For a more modern take on this and other Bombay dishes, check out Dishoom at King’s Cross. Cool interiors, yummy and reasonably priced food. I think their black house daal is to die for.

Chicken curry from Dishoom. Photo from here

You can’t come to London (or the UK) without visiting a proper pub, so hitting Churchill Arms, which has a chock-full of Winston Churchill memorabilia and beautiful, floral façade, is a must. At the back portion of the pub, there's even a Thai restaurant (don't ask me why but the food is also good) if you are a bit unsure and would still like to pair your beer/cider/what have you with something filling from Asia.

The Churchill Arms. Photo from here.
Churchill Arms interior. Photo from here.

I still have The Ritz on my list for proper (but unapologetically expensive) English tea, but if you’re on a tight budget, you can’t go wrong with M&S and other Groupon or Wowcher hotel deals!

Afternoon tea at The Ritz. Photo from here.

the best place to visit? Outside of the usual touristy places—Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, etc. (no judgment! they’re not regarded as major landmarks for nothing), of course King’s Cross and the Warner Brothers Studio if you’re a Potterhead like me!

the best thing to do?

-           It depends! Are you a... culture vulture?

o    Definitely see a West End show, if you’re a fan of plays or want to groove to show tunes. Must admit this is where I sink quite a bit of my salary in... this is my guilty pressure. And of course, I’m extra proud when a kababayan is on stage!; OR

o    Visit one of London’s free museums---and this city has A LOT! Residents and visitors are spoiled with so many choices. And since I’m kind of a museum freak (I love em big and small, hehe) sharing some of my favorites: V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum, home to the largest museum of decorative arts and design in the world) and Tate Modern, which is the national gallery of international modern art. If you’d like a more manageable size, I highly recommend Dennis Severs House (not free but superrrr worth it) for the "still-life drama" and amazing sensory experience (like seriously, they even recreate ‘scents’ from a certain period in each room!); Sir Jon Soane’s Museum (beware the lonnggggg queue, took me and Ingo about 3 hours) to check out this neo-classical architect’s insane collection and imaginary ‘monk’ friend.

Victoria & Albert Museum.  Photo from here.
Soane Museum. Photo from here

-       Self-confessed "shoppingera" [shopper]? Liberty London. The building itself is beautiful! Inside, they were even able to preserve "period elements". Do check out their furniture section (if only to admire the nauseatingly expensive but gorgeous pieces), buy a piece of their printed fabric, dig your hands into the quirky piles of haberdashery, but not to be missed (for me), is their scents section. Where else can you get yourself scented candles that imitate the smell of a newly-printed book, laundry room, and even wood shavings! Weird? Impossible? Sniff the place out and you will know what I mean.

Liberty London. Photo from here.

-       Foodie? The different borough markets around London offer reasonably-priced (as long as you don’t do the whole GBP to PHP conversion!) specialty fare. Other hip places include Angel/Shoreditch, Hackney, Brixton, to name a few.

Would you consider returning to the Philippines? Why?
Ohhhhh, D-E-F-O!!!

Hell, even my husband also wants to live there! After several months of searching in the Philippines, we had to throw in our job search towel because we couldn’t find one that matches his experiences and skills. But hopefully, someday, someday... guess you can say it’s still part of our big dream! And why not? It really is more fun in the Philippines!

Your #1 tip to those thinking of studying/working outside the Philippines:
For my advice, I'd have to quote Mandela: "May your choice [whether to work or study abroad] reflect your hopes, not your fears."

Thank you, Rhea!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

New Story Alert: "Blessed Are Those Who Suffer" on

I have a new 8-paragraph horror story up on Click here to read "Blessed Are Those Who Suffer", or play the video below to hear me read it. I hate my voice, but I hope you'll like this story!

My thanks to Karl de Mesa and the rest of the 8List team for this opportunity. I have never recorded anything inside a recording studio before, so that was an interesting experience. There's a first time for everything.

A photo posted by Eliza Victoria (@elizawriteshere) on

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

After Lambana: An Update

Hello readers! We're doing our very best to make sure copies of After Lambana (story and words by Eliza Victoria, art by Mervin Malonzo) will be available at the upcoming Komikon on November 19. We're looking at 192 full-color pages. We're also finalizing the cover.

For now, allow me to re-share a few sample pages that I shared last year.

From pages 10, 14, and 16.

Lambana, the realm of the Diwata, has fallen, the Magic Prohibition Act has been signed into law, and there is something wrong with Conrad’s heart. Only magic can delay his inevitable death, and so he meets with Ignacio, a friend who promises to hook him up with Diwata and magic-derived treatments, illegal though this may be. 
But during the course of the night, Conrad may just discover Lambana’s secrets – and a cure to save his life.

Check out Mervin's Facebook album for more teasers.

Malapit na!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Fellows to the First Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop Announced

Congratulations, Fellows! And see you soon.

LIKHAAN: The UP Institute of Creative of Writing (UP ICW) announces the fellows to the first Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop (ALBWW) to be held on October 14-17, 2016 at Microtel, UP TechnoHub, Diliman Quezon City. Presided over by this year’s Workshop Director Charlson Ong, the UP ICW has selected twelve stories from twelve writers.

The 2016 ALBWW fellows for English are Paul Cyrian Baltazar, Rachel Castañares, John Leir Castro, Vida Cruz, Arby Medina, Arianne Patricia Onte, and Rosemarie Urquico.

The fellows for Filipino are Mary Gigi Constantino, Joel Donato Ching Jacob, Christian Ray Pilares, Isaac Ali Tapar, and Kristoffer Aaron Tiña.

This year’s ALBWW focuses on works of Speculative Fiction and Sapantaha, with award-winning fictionists Nikki Alfar, Vladimeir Gonzales, Will Ortiz, and Eliza Victoria serving as panelists and teaching staff.

Initially dubbed UP Basic Writers Workshop, the workshop was renamed Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop in honor of “The Grand Dame of Southeast Asian Children’s Theatre” and UP Professor Emeritus Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio. The ALBWW is envisioned to complement the annual UP National Writers Workshop, which has grown to accommodate writers in mid-career.


Filipina Elsewhere: Petra Magno

Read the series introduction.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Bea Pantoja.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Bianca Consunji.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Crystal Koo.

I met Petra in person during my short stint in advertising back in 2011. (We were copywriters in the same agency, and shared a mini-breakdown in the parking lot of our office. Oops.) I am a fan of her poetry, and I hope she writes more. Here she talks about ennui, going through a slew of sundry jobs, "suddenly being brown" in New York, and the luxury of looking at a city instead of letting it sweep you away.

Go ahead, Petra.
I added emphases (boldface type, italics), links, and photos throughout the text.

Name: Petra Magno
Current Location: New York City
Age: 27

What was your job back in the Philippines? 
I was writing for a bunch of local publications, notably Rogue and Preview, and running about three thousand blogs. Professionally, though, I was working in advertising as a copywriter.

What are you doing now?
I'm a copywriter again! I went through a slew of sundry jobs here in NYC -- photocopy queen, bewildered accountant, social media admin, park ranger -- before wrestling my way back into advertising. I missed it, and I also missed having a stable income and zero debt.

Why did you decide to study/work abroad?
I don't truly know. I'm a dual citizen, so the easiest answer is the smug one: "because I could," but that's not the complete answer. I'm in the process of figuring out why I decided to uproot myself -- was it early-onset mid-life crisis? Ennui? The same beautiful faces at the same artsy parties? -- but it was in the hopes that life would be better somehow over here.

What was your biggest challenge when you went abroad?
Suddenly being brown. I mean, I've always been brown, but in a country that's mostly homogeneously brown. Now I'm brown amidst a bunch of people who run the gamut of color, and I'm figuring out what that means. The US is also currently going through an upheaval of racial and identity politics, so I've been trying to locate myself -- my middle-class upbringing in a developing country, that I didn't grow up identifying myself as "Asian-American" or being bullied in high school for bringing adobo to lunch, my aunts who are nannies and my reluctance to be a nanny despite it being the first job offered to me -- within the shifting discourse. American "equality" and its premium on "hard work" also made me take a good hard look at my burgis self.

Also, small talk.

And what was the best thing that happened to you?

I'm learning how to be alone.

If I were to go fly to where you are, what would you say is:
    the best place to eat?
For pizza -- Paulie Gee's in Greenpoint, Roberta's in Bushwick, and specifically the gorgonzola/walnut/pear pizza from Numero 28

Paulie Gee's. Photo from here.

Pizza from Numero 28.
Photo from here.

Mission Chinese, Spicy Village, and a bacon-egg-cheese on a roll with mayonesa from the food cart guy on the corner of 41st and 3rd.

Mission Chinese.
Photo from here.

Being a lush, I'm way better at recommending places to drink, so: Cafe Ghia's kimchi bloody mary, the Witching Hour from Leyenda, and mezcal from Rosarito's Fish Shack. 

Cafe Ghia's Kimchi Bloody Mary.
Photo from here

    the best place to visit?
The museums are all pretty wonderful but my favorite is the Tenement Museum -- which is an old building on the Lower East Side composed of restored apartments from the 1900's, where thousands of working-class immigrants lived. Sobering, fascinating look at who really made New York City into what it is today. Other faves: the Rubin Museum, and the New Museum.

Tenement Museum.
Photo from here

Levine Family Kitchen, Photograph by Battman Studios. Photo from Tenement.Org.

    the best thing to do?
There's a small park I go to whenever I feel like I'm fed up with NYC. It has an amazing view of Manhattan, both by night and day, and a pier where you can walk out onto the water and look at ducks and passing ferries. At night, the bridges on either side of you light up. I think the best thing to do in NYC is to just look at it, rather than letting it keep sweeping you along. It's a goddamn luxury, though. When you come visit, I'll take you to the park.

Would you consider returning to the Philippines? Why? 
After some time, and then maybe not to the capital. I hated the soul-crushing traffic, hated the trains, and I sincerely believe an efficient public transportation system is the first step to trusting your city. I don't trust Metro Manila -- even less so now that Duterte is our president -- but I care about it. Right now I don't know how to serve my country; I'm trying to figure it out while I'm far away.

Your #1 tip to those thinking of studying/working outside the Philippines:
Constantly wonder: this thing I am currently experiencing -- be it third wave coffee or the horizontalism of Occupy movements or a great view from a pedestrian bridge -- why wouldn't it work in the Philippines, and how could the Philippines do it better? How do I inspire this to grow organically out of the current scene, rather than simply ripping it off and marketing it solely to the burgis?

Thank you, Petra!

Photo by Sonny "Chocolate Bear" Thakur (