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by: Ms. Lieencie Rioja

It’s been 38 months since I left Romblon and started my journey here in Europe as an au pair. For everyone’s information, an au pair is a young foreign person, typically a woman, between the age of 18-30 years old who helps with housework or childcare in exchange for food, a room, and some pocket money. Some would assume that we are nannies but we are not since we don’t have a salary as big as they receive but instead, we just have our monthly allowance.

It’s my first time living away from my family and traveling outside of the country, a tough decision, I guess? Since I was young, I never really had dreamed of living outside the island. I’m happy and contented with everything I have in Calatrava. Life is simple, Mondays to Fridays at school, Saturdays with friends, and Sundays at church with the family. I grew up knowing everyone in town, “Ah imaw? Birthday ni ano, katong anak ni ante ag angkol kwan! Tong taga Gui-ob!” kinda of living. I can still remember that every summer vacation, I would always go to the “baybay” and wait for the some “pahilas” from those who pull the “sayap” to the some so I can have something to bring home for the next day’s meal. Sometimes, me and my friends would go to the old national high school in town and collect some Talisay fruits. We would use a rock to beat the fruit until it reveals its white nut and eat it. After that tiring yet fun Talisay cracking, we would go for a swim and catch “payo” especially when it’s low tide, and rush to go home before the church bells ring. That was my life before entering college.

During my college days, I started renting a room/bed with few other students for 4 years in Odiongan. I become more independent and started exploring as a teen. Since my parents can only provide enough allowance for me, I need to budget my allowance for my meals and other expenses. My go-to meal is the famous “Kumo”. Sisig na sakto rice with one lumpia is my favorite combo, especially during Mondays because I still have my full budget for the week. Sometimes, I just buy 3 pcs of BBQ and 3 pcs of lumpia at Cabudol’s or buy 3 pcs of fried chicken at the Odiongan Meat store. I survived my college life with all those foods to nourish me.

Now that I am here in Norway, I really miss everything in our beautiful province. The food, the beaches, the peacefulness, the community, just everything about it. I am really grateful that I have the chance now to be here in Europe to learn and experience their way of living and traditions and I will forever treasure this opportunity.

Someone asked me if what’s my plan after ending my 2-year contract here in Norway if I will transfer to another European country or apply for a student visa here in Norway. I would answer them straight that, I’ll go home to Romblon. Most of them would be disappointed or would convince me to extend my stay here, but I always refuse. I know, there’s really a lot of opportunities here in Europe to have a good life but I guess we just all have a different way of how we’ll enjoy living, and mine is being in Romblon. Especially during this pandemic, all I want is to be with my family. The monetary side of working abroad won’t pay time and get back the chances to be with our loved ones. My family is the most important part of my life and also is my peace of mind. I’d rather work hard in Romblon, do all the side hustles and enjoy dinner with my family than eating my meals alone here. I know it’ll not be that easy but it’s worth it.

14 more months and I’ll be home soon. I can’t wait to eat langka and pinangat every day! I’ve been promoting our island to everyone I meet here in Europe and they are all just waiting for me to be home so I can tour them to our wonderful island, Romblon.

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This website also showcases the pain, struggles, failures and criticisms one has to face in order to find his/her own place in this world.

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