A Conversation on the LGBT Trailing Spouse Life in NYC with Shakira Sison

Shakira Sison and her wife after their triumphant marriage in NYC

Welcome to April 2015’s #TrailingSpouseStories!  This month, we played with April Fools and asked each other “What got you “fooled” into being a trailing spouse?  What myths did you start out with and what did you discover in the process?”  Here is my take on the matter.

I’ve been reading Palanca award winner Shakira Sison‘s weekly column on Rappler for quite some time now. She is a brilliant writer, often (if not always), nailing on the head insights about experiences on the plight of Filipinos abroad, life in the US and, of course, issues on LGBT. We are very proud to have her with us this month as she is our very 1st LGBT trailing spouse to join us in the #TrailingSpouseStories blog crawl.

Shakira, like most of us fools for love, actually left her life the Philippines to trail her then partner, now wife, to NYC. She and I had a great conversation about her decision to leave the home country and life in the US, hence, this will be a long read. But I do promise you that it is worth every second of your time :-)

This is her story on love, life, legends and lores as a LGBT Filipino trailing spouse in the Big Apple.

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#TrailingSpouseStories: Falling Fool’s Gold?

The glamourous expat life (Photo by Choo Yut Shing)

Welcome to April 2015’s #TrailingSpouseStories!  This month, we played with April Fools and asked each other “What got you “fooled” into being a trailing spouse?  What myths did you start out with and what did you discover in the process?”  Here is my take on the matter.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

- J.R.R Toklien, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”

This quote from a book of biblical proportions properly captures the trailing spouse-expat life.

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Obi vs. the Starbucks muffin

I am sure you’ve read about how Obi devoured our treasured, gently handled lechon baon en route from New Jersey to Texas.

Last night, we arrived in our hotel room from a short, two hour absence to scout for some good deals at the nearby outlet mall (I scored an awesome waterproof, 2-in-1 Columbia winter coat for less than $100. Hurrah!) and a Shakey’s Pizza fried chicken and potato mojos dinner (Walang Shakey’s in Texas!), to discover a quiet Obi. I greeted him as usual: pet his head, kneel down so he can place his head on my thighs and snuggle with his hooman momma.

“Good boy Obi!” I gushed, kissing the top of his head.

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OFW, immigrant or expat?

Traveler (Art by Joan M. Mas)

Sometimes I ponder on my official label as a Filipino living abroad, the existential question of: “Ano nga ba talaga ako DITO?

With emphasis on the word “dito” (i.e. Filipino, /dee-to/, meaning “here”) because since I’ve left the country, my global citizenship, a Filipino of the world, is highly subject to my current place of residence.

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That doggone lechon!

Longing for lechon

Whenever to travel to the bigger cities like New York City or Los Angeles, we hunt down authentic Filipino eats that we’ve been deprived of for months or even years. Those dishes that are always cooked in bulk and are too labor intensive to replicate at home in a household of two. One of those dishes is the lechon, a whole pig, stuffed with lemongrass and other aromatics, skewered with a bamboo pole and roasted over hot coals, usually served as the piece de resistance in big celebrations like a fiesta, a birthday or a wedding.

So when we came across a great tasting boneless lechon in New Jersey, we just had to take some home.

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#TrailingSpouseStories: The definition of being a modern Filipino woman

Traditional vs modern (Photo by Eole Wind)

Since we are celebrating women’s month this March, us, trailing spouses will share our take on what it means to be a woman given our unique experiences. Has being a trailing spouse raised questions about womanhood? Has it made us better, stronger women? How has it shaped our perspectives about being a woman, citizen of the world? Or, for the boys, how has their trailing journey affected their women partners?

I’ve never seriously thought about my womanhood until I left the Philippines

In the Philippines, I enjoyed a pretty smooth sailing life as a modern woman. I shared the same privileges and opportunities men did. I was educated, finished with a Masters degree. I had a career in a women dominated industry with more than decent salary and employee benefits. I was mostly financially independent. I could earn my keep, be who I wanted to be with hard work and more as a woman.

Of course, there still were the traditional expectations of getting married, being able to manage a home – know how to cook and clean – and bring forth life to this earth. I got married, so that was tick off the list. The managing the home was easy too. I could just have somebody else do it for me; its just part of the perks of living in the Philippines. Bring forth life to this earth? Well, that is debatable, not the be all and end all of being a woman.

To me, this was the definition of being THE modern Filipino woman: having to take advantage of opportunities available and juggling multiple roles because I am expected to fulfill traditional roles as a wife and possibly a mother as an educated professional. I thought I had to be and have it all, and I think I almost got all the bases I wanted covered.

Then Dubai happened.

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The buildings of New York City: A photo diary

“The concrete jungle where dreams are made of”

Last weekend, The Husband, Obi and I were in New York City. The sun was out and it was a good day to be out meeting and catching up with friends.

But unfortunately, with all that snow that accumulated on the ground and the sun shining all day meant puddles of melted snow mixed with the city dirt and garbage. It was not a pretty sight nor a fuzzy feeling when your shoed and socked feet dive into one. So with the onslaught of rushing New Yorkers, confused tourists and an excited probinsyano (i.e. country bumpkin) dog, it was a challenge to keep up the pace and conversation and revel in the sights around.

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The Flatiron building in NYC

Majestic building

Obi and I are pretty much stuck within the confines of the hotel room due to the limitations brought about by the winter storm looming over the northeast now and the fact that Obi is not human. America is not as pet friendly as I imagined and expected, but understandably so and more on that later.

Almost the same time last year, The Husband and I were here. The weather was indeed better (albeit still cold) and we did not have Obi yet. I was free to explore NYC as The Husband worked hard in NJ.

One of the NYC icons I stumbled upon (it was close to a friend’s office) was the Flatiron building.

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Notes from the frozen northeast

Snow, snow, snow

“I’ve never see so much snow in my entire life…” I gushed to The Husband, whose two hands were gripping the steering wheel, back hunched over, eyes squinting through the frosted windshield to vigilantly watch the slushy highway. It was supposed to be a 4-hour drive from Washington DC to South New Jersey, but I knew we were defintely in it for an hour or two longer.

The skies were a depressing grey. The fields and hills were covered in snow that seemed to go on and on into oblivion. The streams, creeks, rivers and my feet were iced.

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Owning a pet in America

Hi there! Love, Obi Juan the corgi

Owning a pet was easy in the Philippines. You get a pet: buy it from a reputable pet store / breeder, adopt one from family, friends or a neighbor or pick one off the streets (which we did a lot). Feed it: your choice of table scraps or pet food off the animal feed store. Play and walk with it whenever you have the time. Let the househelp deal with the dirty jobs like giving it a bath, scooping the poop and cleaning the kennel. Occasionally bring it to the vet, mostly during emergency situations.

I was that kind of pet owner. Too busy to really care. Maybe even irresponsible (sadly), highly dependent on other people.

But in America, I learned that owning a pet is so much more than giving love. Duh. It costs money (like most dreams do). Let me tell you what you need to budget for when you decide to get a dog in the US.

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