Journey Across The Pacific: Transitioning from the Philippines to the USA

Embarking on a new journey and leaving the life you know behind can be both exciting and daunting. My own narrative consists of a remarkable transition from the tropical paradise of the Philippines to the land of the free - The Unites of America!

Now that I've decided to dust off my digital presence and slowly hop back onto the social media train. So, where do I even begin? Hmmmm... Well, maybe let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start (I think).

A family of three, armed with oversized suitcases and overwhelming excitement, and not to mention this Filipina Momma's first time venturing into the vast unknown foreign land. What could go wrong, right?

It was May of last year (2022), where we set off on our grand adventure, leaving behind the sunny beaches and warm hospitality of my homeland for greener pastures. Little did I know that "green" also came with sub-zero temperatures and unfamiliar slangs! (Lol) Fortunately, my husband, who is a born and raised American has already overcome any cultural difficulties he may have experienced when we left my country.

In the midst of the chaos, the excitement, and occasionally missing the comfort of our old couch, I decided to document our adventure through writing and some photos. Little did I know, it would take me more than a year to actually start sharing online. So, buckle up and grab your snacksbecause I'm about to take you on a journey across the Pacific!

Our first stop: Cebu, Philippines airport.

First, the check-in was quick, with no queue and no problem and my oh-so-wise husband (fiance at that time) decided to treat himself to a fancy schmancy business ticket for our flight, as if he was gonna be sippin' champagne and sealing deals in the sky (although he wished he could fly first class again!). I mean, we won't be flying back to the Philippines for a good ol' couple of years but who am I to judge his high-flying aspirations? Maybe he'll come back strutting down the airport runway wearing tailored suits and shades demanding a red carpet reception (which I doubt he will, knowing he's only wore a suit at his brother's wedding and never again! Lol). Watch out, world, business class hubby coming through!

I was a bit nervous a few days before our flight that we wouldn't receive our son's Philippine passport in time. Since he is a Filipino-American citizen, we could use both passports and not pay the Filipino travel tax. By the way, it's important to note that if you have children who hold dual citizenship and you are planning to travel outside the Philippines, it is highly recommended to have both their passports ready especially the Philippine passport. This is to prevent any potential complications with immigration and to avoid being charged for overstaying. Due to the pandemic, we were hesitant to obtain our son's Philippine passport. Unlike the Philippines, the process in the USA was notably simpler and quicker. We didn't need to appear in person as the application could be completed online with only a few essential documents needing to be sent by mail. This convenience was truly impressive. Also, these things were unfamiliar to us, and if it hadn't been for our close couple friend sharing their experience at immigration, where they had to pay a significant sum for their non-resident daughter's status in the Philippines we would have found ourselves in a similar situation, as our kids were born within a one-month time frame.

After our check-in with the airline, our passports were expertly examined by these immigration gatekeepers, who suddenly morph into eagle-eyed detectives. Then they scanned the pages with a level of scrutiny that even Sherlock Holmes would be proud of! So, my partner and I anxiously hold our breath, hoping that no stamps or visa issues arise to thwart our travel plans. And then, cue the rapid-fire questions on me! "Where are you going?", "Is the boy with you your son?", "Why does he not have your family name on his passport?"( for some reason, the Philippines have a different way of writing a name if the son is named after his father), "Do you have your vaccination ID?" It felt like a spontaneous test on our travel plans, and it definitely increases my heart rate as I try to remember every little detail. Longgg Sigh! Times like these, a photographic memory would be nice, don’t you think?

Once we passed the oral examination, we entered the most nerve-wracking part of the whole experience: waiting for that glorious stamp of approval. It's like waiting for the final verdict in a courtroom drama (really!)- will we be allowed to board the plane or face expulsion? And finally, after what felt like an eternity (but was probably just a few seconds, lol), the officer cracks a faint smile, stamps our passports, and with a nonchalant wave of her hand, we are free to continue our journey. Cue the celebratory dance moves and the sound of our sighs of relief! Lol!

But wait! It won't be the last time we have to go through an immigration officer. So, keep reading!

Boarding the plane and lay-over in Dubai.

Despite the stress and occasional absurdity of immigration, splurging on a business class ticket can be a game-changer. As we made our way to our seats, we couldn’t help but notice how plush and inviting they were. As I sat down, I felt like sinking into a cozy cloud of luxury. And since traveling with a toddler can be a challenge, to say the least, having a seat that could magically transform into a bed made all the difference in the world! Our son was having a blast, he immediately started exploring every nook and cranny of his new throne (Lol). It’s nice that he had plenty of room to spread out his legs and play. He even enjoyed creating a little mini fort using his blue blanket and extra pillows. It felt like diplomatic stress turned to Emirates bliss!

Even with all the food choices available, his preference for peanut butter and "Skyflakes" crackers (made in the Philippines), was evident!

And even the few hours lay-over in Dubai made our trip even more enjoyable because the private lounge provided a comfortable and luxurious space to relax in between flights. Plus, we were able to indulge in all kinds of international buffets, with a wide variety of delicious dishes from various cuisines around the world. And of course, the free flowing wine and variety of drinks available added an extra touch of luxury to our lay-over experience. I didn't attempt to try any of the alcohol drinks after having a few on our first plane ride, (I think I needed it to calm my nerves). Anyways, the lounge was a true treat to have access to such amazing amenities during our time in Dubai. I will keep this brief and provide further details about this experience in my upcoming blog posts.

Our last stop. The USA!

As we touched down in the Land of the Free, this is my last encounter with an immigration officer and the true decider whether I can enter the country legally! After an exhausting journey, I thought to myself: We made it this far, and it is crucial that I have all the necessary paperwork to avoid being forced to return to my home country on the next available flight. (At that instant, I yearned for the universe to reside within me!)

The immigration officer, stoic and professional, took my passport with a stern expression. Gosh, my heart raced as I watched him scan through the pages (here we go again! Lol), searching for any red flags or inconsistencies! I glanced at my husband and our son in the corner waiting for me after they quickly passed the immigration process.

Silence hung in the air as he scrutinized my visa and scrutinized my face, comparing the photo to the person standing before him! One could never predict the outcome of such encounters, as the decision ultimately rested in the hands of this person who has given that kind of authority. (Sighhh)

With a slight shift in his gaze, the immigration officer finally spoke, his voice laced with authority and control. "Do you have all the necessary documents, ma'am?" he asked sternly. I could feel my heart rate increase and my palms starting to sweat. I couldn't even glance at my family anymore. The pressure of the situation weighed heavily on me, but I knew I had to maintain my composure! Taking a deep breath, I smiled and replied, "Yes, I have all the required documents with me."

He reviewed each document meticulously, carefully scrutinizing every detail. What is the term for the feeling that arises when someone rigorously inspects your documents? Ah, yes, vulnerability, isn't it? My heartbeat escalated, and I found myself holding my breath, hoping that all our efforts and preparations would pay off. Then minutes turned into an eternity, ticking away as I observed the officer's every move, searching for the smallest sign of approval or disapproval. Finally, after what felt like an infinity he looked up at me, his expression softening slightly. (Me: Fingers crossed the whole time!

"Welcome to America!," he announced, granting me access to the Land of the Free. Oh my heart swelled with gratitude and excitement as I realized that my dream of reaching the United States was no longer just a distant possibility but a tangible reality! (It was honestly an emotional moment for me.)

I thank the officer profusely, and I carefully collected my documents, ensuring not to drop anything in my state of elation! (Lol) Walking away from the immigration booth, I walked towards my partner and my son and the weight of our accomplishment finally sank in. Holy cow! We had just completed an incredible journey - a journey that took our emotional, physical and mental strength every step of the way!

My partner's silent but proud face spoke volumes, we gave each other the biggest hug. And it felt like it carried the echoes of all the words that were left unspoken in that exhilarating moment. I cannot tell you enough what we went through while on the process of applying for the fiance visa. My husband, who did most of the research, dedicated so much time and effort to make sure I have all the necessary papers. And I am very proud of him!

As our son joined in our embrace, his beaming face, clueless of what was going on around him aside from his milk bottle and his favorite blue blanket that we carried everywhere, we realized the depth of this beyond-words experience.

Reaching for our luggage, it feels like the bags felt lighter now, devoid of unnecessary burdens and filled with the incredible experiences we had shared along the way. And again, I couldn't help but reflect on the monumental weight that those few moments held. My last encounter with the immigration officer marked not only the end of a long journey but the beginning of a new chapter in our life.

The end...

Just kidding!

Hold on! I thought I said that was the last encounter we had to go through! Well, this time it isn't the immigration officers, but we had to go through the last check and convince the airport security that we were indeed a normal family, and our excessive amount of giant pasalubong (gifts) of pancit canton (instant noodles), dried mangoes, and chicharon (pork rinds) for family and relatives wasn't intended to start a flea market at the gate. (Lol) Well, the bewildered looks we received from airport securities definitely made us question our packing strategy! (Lol)

As we stepped outside the Boston Logan airport, a sense of gratitude overwhelmed me. I was thankful for the opportunities that awaited, the chance to start afresh, and the promise of freedom that this land held. It was a moment of immense relief, knowing that all our stress moments had paid off. I promise that's the end of our airport storyline… (maybe, lol)

Hand in hand, we walked away from the airport and exhilarated to see my parent In-laws waiting for us. Their first time seeing their grandson for a little over three years brought tears of joy to their eyes!

My husband and I quickened our pace, excitement bubbling within us. While our son unaware of the emotional significance of this moment, holding tight to his dad's shoulders, his innocent shy smile filling the air. Then, his dada yelled, "Look! That's Nana and Grandpa!". As we walked up to them, their faces lit up with these huge smiles that just made our hearts melt.

As we drew closer, my in-laws opened their arms wide, ready to embrace their grandson. The love evident in their eyes was immeasurable, longing for the touch of his small hand in theirs. We had been waiting for ages for this moment to finally happen, so you can imagine our excitement!

Finally, our little man timidly embraced them, leaping into their open arms, even though his eyes filled with a mixture of astonishment, shyness, bewilderment, and happiness. And oh in that embrace, time seemed to stand still! The years apart melted away, leaving only the deep bonds of familial love. It was a moment of pure love and connection, a moment we had all yearned for!

But my story isn't finished just yet. I hope I'm not overwhelming you with my emotions and the events, including an encounter with immigration officers. Similar to what my husband used to remark, "It's a story that seems to have no end, quite possibly the lengthiest one I've ever come across!" (Lol)

Let's talk about the firsts, shall we? Because this journey has been jam-packed with first experiences!

Autum, the season of cozy sweaters and pumpkin spice!

So, a mesmerized Filipina mama and her adorable son, standing in awe as the vibrant autumn colors of Mother Nature unveiled themselves before our very eyes. Talk about a jaw-dropping moment! Seriously, I felt like a kid in a candy store who had just won the lottery, and to top it all off I had my trusty pumpkin spice latte in hand. Oh yeah, baby! It was the ultimate autumn dream come true!

Okay! don't get me wrong, we may come from the tropical paradise of the Philippines, but let me assure you, we've never experienced anything quite like this. We're used to sunny skies, swaying palm trees, and sipping on refreshing coconut juice. I recall sharing pictures of colorful foliage with one of my siblings in the Philippines. He asked why we don't experience such phenomenon in our country. And I responded to him that this is not common in the Philippines due to the country's tropical climate.

So, when my son and I found ourselves surrounded by trees dressed in fiery reds, oranges, and yellows, our minds were blown! I couldn't help but wonder if I had accidentally stepped into an enchanted forest. My son calls it "seasonal" instead of autumn season. (Lol)

The joy of crunching through fallen leaves, our feet making music with every step! Have you tried stepping on dried leaves before? It’s like nature's very own symphony, and we were the lucky audience. (Lol) And later on, we spun around like giddy little creatures soaking up every ounce of this captivating season. And trust me, it was a sight to behold!

As a child, I always believed these leaves were fake, something only seen in movies like brilliant props in the background. I remember when my mother-in-law from the USA decided to send us a package when we were living in the Philippines. She thought it would be a delightful surprise to share a piece of her autumn paradise with us. And what better way to do so than by sending some of these colorful, dried leaves?

Like a curious child, I eagerly awaited the arrival of this package. Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, yet the magical leaf-filled parcel never graced our doorstep. As it turns out, the Bureau of Customs thought they were dealing with some serious contraband when they laid eyes on the suspicious contents of the package. (Lol)

To this day, I wonder what became of those confiscated leaves. Did they concluded that it must be a cleverly disguised attempt to smuggle some highly dangerous plant material into the country? Or did the curious customs officers use them as makeshift bookmarks or decorate their office desks, still puzzled by their apparent value? Who knows?

During this season, not only do I enjoy indulging in my pumpkin spice latte, but I also have a profound love for consuming a significant amount of tea. From the morning to the afternoon, and even at night. They say hug in mug right? Also, it holds a special place in my heart as it reminds me of the tea parties I used to have with my friends from Cebu. Oh, how I long for those cherished moments with them.

And then came the magical first snowfall.

Let me tell you, this Filipina momma had never seen snow in her life, nor had my son!

First things first, let's discuss fashion during this icy season. Is it just me, or does everyone suddenly transform into a walking snowman? Layers upon layers of clothing just to stay warm! The struggle to look cute while staying bundled up is REAL.I mean, those oversized winter jackets can make anyone look like they're auditioning for the Michelin Man look-alike contest!

In the Philippines, a tropical paradise where the sun shines 365 days a year and the only snow you've ever seen is in Disney's Frozen. (Lol)

My husband has seen snow more times than he can count, so, he was absolutely giddy when he realized it would be my first winter in the land of frozen wonders. He couldn't wait to witness my Filipino self transform into a snow-loving snow angel. Well, he did have a front-row seat to the show of a lifetime.

The day finally came. I totally remember this one night after dinner, my husband yells at me and our kid, "Come outside ASAP! Something epic is going down!" So, we rush out, wondering what the big fuss is all about. And guess what? It's snowing for the first time that night, like out of nowhere! Gosh, it was like some magical snow fairy decided to sprinkle her fairy dust on us. We stood there for few minutes, all amazed, like, "Whoa, that is beautiful!" It was a crazy, unexpected sight, but it made that night extra special.

Our son, wide-eyed with wonder and couldn't resist sticking his tongue out to catch a snowflake or two. (Lol!)

So, we head back inside and decided to put on our winter jackets and drove to my parents in-law's house solely to give them the news about the snowfall, as though they were oblivious to the sight of snow outside. Later that night, we we're about to leave their place, we saw the ground was covered in white, untouched layer of snow, like a blank canvas waiting for our footprints. My husband insisted, snowball fights are hilarious and highly recommended! Ha!

I remember one snowy day, I was VERY brave and took my running leap, assuming I'd sink into a fluffy pile of softness reality hit me like a snowball to the face. Instead of sinking gently, I hit the snow with a loud thud, my legs flailing like a newborn deer. It turns out snow is a lot more solid than I ever imagined! My son exclaimed, "Mama, what are you doing?" and he began to giggle uncontrollably. Thought he found my struggles be to quite amusing.

If you thought a Filipina mama doing an unintentional belly flop was funny, wait until you hear about my son's experience. With a mischievous grin plastered on his face, my little bundle of joy decided to give snow angels his best shot.

As he laid down on the ground, ready to create a winter masterpiece he quickly realized that snow angels are easier said than done. That's right! To his utter disbelief, he discovered that snow doesn't simply yield under your weight like a soft pillow. Nope, it puts up resistance and refuses to let you go! If you know what I am talking about. Our son had so much fun though, flapping his arms and legs like a frantic penguin, trying in vain to form a perfect snow angel. But instead of achieving angelic gracefulness, he resembled a tangled up octopus caught in its own ink! (Lol)

I wish I took more photos, but during that time, I was on social media break and even kept away from my phone. But you know what? The memories are even more priceless!

Okay, let's not forget about the art of defrosting our cars. Oh, the joy! Waking up to scrape off ice from every inch of your vehicle is definitely a great start to the day. And of course, just when you think you're almost done, you spot that tiny patch of ice on the windshield that refuses to disappear. It's like a never-ending battle. (Lol)

Now, to be honest, I am not a fan of Jack Frost's icy antics. I'd much rather cozy up with a warm blanket and hot cocoa than brave the chilly temperatures. But I must admit, there's something quite magical about seeing the world transform into a winter wonderland. It's just a shame that sipping hot chocolate by a cozy fireplace can't happen without the cold weather, too!

But hey, it's not all doom and gloom in the cold weather department. We do have the joy of snowman-building attempts (which ended up looking more like lumpy mound creatures!) and having epic snowball fights. (Lol)

Although they claimed that last year's winter was not as snowy as previous years, my son and I beg to differ since it was our first winter, lol! Remember, though, whether you're a lover or a hater of cold weather, stay warm and keep smiling! And don't worry, spring is just around the corner, ready to melt away our winter blues.

Me trying to contemplate wether I should step outside on a snow day. To venture or not to venture, that is the slushy question!" Lol

I’ve mentioned above that this blog is full of jam-packed first time experiences, but I feel like this will be a very long read. So, I promise to make another separate blog for this topic.

But of course, no transcontinental journey is complete without some mishaps, right?

Now, let me tell you about the countless misadventures I've encountered along the way. From ordering "medium" fries at a fast food joint and getting enough fries to feed an army, to wardrobe malfunctions that left me either freezing or sweating profusely, it seems like I have become a magnet for unexpected weather-related challenges!

For instance, there was this one time when we attended my parent in-laws outdoor barbecue. I think it was during the late summer or early fall. I assumed it would be a warm sunny day as usual, so I wore a light sundress and sandals. However, the temperature drastically changed after around seven in the evening (which you couldn't tell with the sky still so bright!), leaving me shivering.

Another instance was when I packed nothing but warm sweaters and a coat to visit my sister in Kentucky, only to be greeted by an unseasonably warm spell that had me sweating at the ariport and regretting my choice of attire! (Lol

As someone from the Philippines, where it is mostly hot and humid, I have faced uncertainty in dressing appropriately for the weather in the United States. Through these experiences, I have learned the significance of being adaptable (which I am still working on), monitoring the weather forecast (though I often forget to do so), and always having a backup plan (which I am still honing). Trying to adapt to the constantly changing climate in the USA has been quite a wild ride! (Longggg sigh!) Navigating the American way of life turned out to be trickier than I anticipated.

Through all the misadventures, cultural confusion, and etcetera, this journey was not only about the destination, but also the memorable moments and laughter shared as a family.

But wait, there's more! In my upcoming blogs, I'm not just gonna throw random weather-induced stories at you. Nope, next time, get a bigger bowl of peanuts because I have so many stories to share, from our epic camping trips, mind-blowing museum visits, and other USA road trips. And the most exciting part is we're going to delve into homeownership! That's right, we bought our very first house (online!) here in the good ol' US of A. I mean, who knew adulting could be this exciting? Furniture shopping, DIY projects, and discovering the joys of gardening– it's been an adventure in itself!

Also, parenthood is an amazing ride and I can't help but feel both amazed and a little sad as our 4-year-old son (nearly five!) is growing up so fast before our eyes. Sometimes I feel like I can't keep up with how quickly he's developing and changing. While it's bittersweet to see him becoming more independent, I also know that it's an important part of his growth. In my future blogs, I would absolutely love to share about the ups and downs of raising a little one and how it feels like time is slipping through my fingers. From the hilarious moments to the tear-jerking ones, I hope to capture the sweet and chaotic journey of parenting and let others know that they're not alone in this rollercoaster ride.

So, my lovely readers, see you on my next blog post, with tales of exploration, laughter, and everything in between. Let's navigate this wild ride, one witty blog post at a time.

Till next time!

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About the Author

Hey there, lovely people! I'm Gilaine, aka Purepinay on the Hive blockchain, and your resident Filipina momma on a quest for the next big adventure. I've got a gorgeous little munchkin, a doting husband, and a thirst for all things delicious, snap-worthy, and wanderlust-inducing.

My ultimate goal for this blog is to inspire others through my stories. If my ridiculous adventures and misadventures can put a smile on your face or ignite that travel bug within you, then my mission is accomplished.

So join me, as I navigate this crazy world one snap of the shutter at a time. Let's eat, laugh, and get lost together. Because life's too short to not embrace every moment and leave a trail of smiles and unforgettable memories behind. Cheers to new adventures and unforgettable stories!

Visit Purepinay's blog page for additional content to read.