A Filipina in Vietnam

Have you ever imagined yourself living in another country for some couple of years? In a place very unusual to where you grew up? Far away from home? Away from everyone you knew before? Away from those you value the most, your family?

“There is no place like home” most people used to say, but lots of people dreamed to migrate overseas. I am honestly one of them. When I was a kid I always dreamed of travelling around the world. I want to migrate in another country. I want to explore new world and learn new things. It is a dream I want to fulfill when I grew up and I never ever imagined an opportunity like that to knocks on my door this early.

I couldn’t imagine myself living in foreign country at a very young age, far from home and my family.Moving in a country with unfamiliar culture, faces, language and tradition is not as simple as a lot of books said. Many emotion creeps into my whole being. Fear, sadness, anxiety and pressure but at the same time there’s excitement, curiosity and happiness. All those emotions combined, drove me strong and willed. I used those as my strength and so I’ll surpass this challenge though I’ve never been alone before.

I like challenges for by overcoming those people become strong. I didn’t expect to meet a challenging opportunity like this but when an opportunity knocks, grab it. This is my short story on how I been able to write this for you.

My life has change after I graduated in high school. I thought I will spend my entire college days at SLSU where I’ll commit myself studying Electrical Engineering. Then one day, an unexpected invitation came. Our high school principal gathered some of the outstanding students who graduated at our alumni school and offered three slots for the students who are willing to study abroad. I attended that meeting and became interested. I made the choice which for me is the most rational. It is a big privilege to be chosen as one of students who’ll study here. It is a big opportunity that won’t come every time. So after complying the prerequisite requirements, here am I.

I was rendered speechless when the plane arrived. It is a very beautiful country and I’m fond at everything my eyes see. It’s a tiring day but then the hospitality and friendliness of the people warmed my heart. They welcomed us with an opened hand and treated us well even though we’re stranger from them. My eyes moisten because of that, Filipinos are also very hospitable too. It reminds me of home and it makes me at ease with the surrounding. The Filipinos and Vietnamese are both hospitable but the food and the way they serve, it was quite different. In the Philippines, we just have one or two set of meal. The first time we ate at the restaurant my mouth is full of water after I seeing a lot of food in the table. The food are mouthwatering. They serve a lot, a dish with many vegetables that I’ve never encountered and tasted before. I remember being so conscious with every bit of food. Plus, I need to use the chopsticks for it is their main eating utensil which happened to be a spoon and fork in the Philippines. In the end I didn’t enjoy the food that much but I was satisfied. The foods are not just delicious but healthy as well, I like to eat and I knew I’m going to love tasting every food here. I’ve notice some tea houses on our way and then heard from an old teacher that Thai Nguyen is famous in tea. Also, it is their tradition to drink and serve tea to their guests. Many countries have different types of drinks to offer their guests, I just didn’t expect a tea. In my country we offered juice or coffee to our guests. Starting from that day I really felt that I was really in another land far from where I am before.

Another thing that makes me realized that I wasn’t in my homeland is the language. I expected it but then I did like the feeling of the language barrier. Gratefully, there’s a universal language, English which is our second language in the Philippines. Thankfully I take my English classes seriously before because if I didn’t, I don’t think I can stand another week here. I’m not that fluent in speaking the English language and I commit mistakes. Through those mistakes I am learning.

My first shopping here was so exciting. I even bought some which I really find cute. There are times that we were invited by our Vietnamese friends and so we hang out. We ate and went to karaoke to relax. They are so polite and thoughtful. I felt like a normal college girl hanging out with some college friends.

I also witnessed wedding ceremonies. The first one is in Bac Giang and the other one is in Thai Nguyen. The ceremony way is different from what the traditional wedding ceremony in the Philippines. The time, day  and way the bows are said is also different. I enjoyed watching such a heart-warming scene like wedding ceremony.

I’ve been able to experience the celebration of the Lunar New Year or the Tet Holiday. It is one of the best feature of the culture here. Tet is an occasion for pilgrims and family reunions. Vietnamese people visit their family, some return to worship at the family altar or visit the graves of their ancestors. They clean the graves of their family member who passed away as a sign of respect. They also visit temples forgetting the troubles of the past year and hoping for a better upcoming year. Tet is a national holiday and each region has its own custom. A lot of our Vietnamese friends invited us to their hometown. We went to Ga Giang and Viet Tri. I learned to make Chung cake, one of the traditional food that they serve during holiday. We went to different houses and greet them a happy new year. One of my friends’ house is a nipa house, they are called as the Minoric ethnic. Many of them live near the country side and they have their own version of the Ao Dai which is the Vietnamese traditional clothes. We visited some temples and with the aid of a tour guide we learned the history of every temple, the Legend of the Hung King and how the Chung cake was invented. I’m learned a lot about their beliefs and it fascinates me.

I have goals and dreams that I need to achieve not only for me but also for my family. The main purpose why I came here in Vietnam is to study.  My major is Environmental Science and Management. Though I’m just seventeen I’m already in my second year of my study. At first I thought that it would be really hard to compete with the other students for we just have a ten years of study. Philippine is just adapting the K-12 curriculum so were lack two years of study but we aren’t missing any basic knowledge. I find the Math subjects as the most challenging, Vietnamese are so amazing on it.

While I am studying here, I’ll be staying in a dormitory with the two other Filipino and one Vietnamese girls. They are caring, kind, humble, hardworking and smart girls. She was the first Vietnamese who invited us to visit her house. She is one of the reason why I didn’t find, it hard adapt with the culture of Vietnam. She told me a lot of legend, culture and history. She introduced and taught me a lot of things about Vietnam just likethe proper greeting and the usage of “chi”, “anh”, “bac” “co”. Without her help I might not easily be able to cope up with the culture shock I am experiencing during the first few day of my stay.

The Philippines and Vietnam are both growing countries. Change is a key but change doesn’t mean rejecting heritages. Those that our ancestors left should be kept and preserved for the next generation. The two countries are different in some aspects but then as long as we have an open-mind and a kind heart all will have happiness.

Rhonalyn Perez Agupo – K44 student

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