November 25, 2017

Why Singapore and Manila Are the Places I Call Home


Here at Preen, we’re fully aware that adult life doesn’t always go as smoothly (and look as beautiful) as curated Instagram feeds. We all face challenges amidst all the good things. Meet Mikka Wee, a former food editor-turned-working gal in Singapore, who’s about to share all the ups and downs that come with adulting and living. Welcome to Bless This Mess!

During my teens and my early twenties, I was in constant search for home. I looked for it in distant places, in seas and summits, in flavors that made my soul come alive, in my career, in boyfriends, and in words both written by myself and by others. It was a fleeting definition for me because I found it really tough to put my finger on what “home” truly meant.

In its literal sense, “home” is a noun that refers to the place you live in. Yet, I find so much profoundness in one of home’s synonyms, which is “dwelling.” And “to dwell” hints on “settling,” a place where one grounds her roots and builds a foundation on. So, I could say outright that Manila has been my home for 26 years of my life, if we were to put it literally. But in a figurative sense, I guess, all these little places and people and words and things that I sought “home” pieced together gives me a clearer idea of what it really means.

That isn’t the end of the story, though.

When I moved to Singapore in 2016, I had to let go of my career as a food editor. It was such a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching move because I spent four years building something I thought was going to be my life’s work. I was like, “Wow, how lucky am I to be doing something I love? Something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid?” But then, life happened. Sacrifices had to be made, and decisions had to be done. So I left Manila with two suitcases and a backpack, and I started a new life in Singapore. (I still consider my break-up with my food editor job to be the biggest heartbreak of my life.)

And then came the adjustments. It was one thing to adapt to the lifestyle costs of a first-world country. The exorbitant prices tagged to rent, utilities, clothing, food, transportation, and everyday expenses forced me to wear my grown-up pants and learn on my own. I wasn’t living with mommy and daddy anymore, and before I moved, the idea of living alone painted quite a pretty portrait of myself stepping inside a manicured apartment with organic Waitrose products spilling out of my environmentally-friendly recyclable tote bags; however, the reality was quite the opposite. I feasted on cheese and crackers some nights when overtime work got really bad, or I commuted to Lucky Plaza because I missed Filipino food too much. You have no idea how wonderful it feels like to bite into some Chickenjoy and slurp gravy after a month of living in a different country. I found so much comfort in canned food (mostly Spam and soup) and instant noodles when work got hectic, but of course, I occasionally indulged in some fancier (less- MSG-packed) fare every once in a while.

I also learned how to assemble a swivel chair from IKEA by myself, do the laundry without messing up my whites and colors, and marvel at the magic of baking soda. There was also this one time I came home drunk and accidentally locked in the sink plug. Did you know that a simple suction cup could solve it in a jiffy? Thank you, YouTube. And thank you, Internet, for the infinite nuggets of wisdom nestled within your gazillion bytes.

And while these accomplishments may seem small compared to the bigger scheme of things, it’s these little wins that made me feel more confident as a pint-sized adult in this big, big world. I’m still learning the ropes, but every day’s a school day.

I was also struggling with work (I entered the world of advertising), and thus, I had to adjust and adapt with the working style and pace of the Singaporean culture. I was part of the team that handled one of the company’s biggest accounts, so it was really tough and challenging, but I learned so much from it.

During that period, I felt really certain that whatever happened, Manila was still my home. I was adamant in my belief that I would always associate home to the Philippines, and that was that. However, things took a pretty ironic turn.

I recently came from a month-long break before starting a new career here in Singapore. I traveled and spent a few weeks in Manila resting, hanging out with my friends, spending time with family, and contemplating on life.

There was a particular day when I was just lying down on my mom’s bed, resting with my dog Rocket, and feeling oddly uncomfortably comfortable. I missed not having to worry about laundry and groceries, but weirdly, I also missed these things at the same time. Not the bills, though. But kidding aside, I kind of missed Singapore, too, because I realized that most of what I am now—what I’ve learned as a grown-up (and trust me, the learning curve is darn steep!)—I am because of the roots I’ve built in my other home: Singapore.

Home is the place you live—a place of settlement, a place of dwelling. Home is where the heart is; no place quite like it. And for me, it’s both Manila and Singapore. They’ve become two points of familiarity, two places of settlement. I may have spent 92.85 percent (yes, I computed) of my life living in Manila, but I’m looking forward to spending more years growing in Singapore. Learning the ropes and experiencing new things as I dig deeper and build a stronger foundation is this new place I call home.

Perhaps, I’ve already found what “home” truly means.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.


Art by Lara Intong

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Filed Under:

adulting, Bless This Mess, culture, Growing Up, home, Mikka Wee, philippines, Singapore

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