Wednesday, August 17, 2011


by Melody Gutierrez

Do you still remember your many firsts living abroad? Well, I’m sure you do. Perhaps, your memory needs a little nudge so allow me to share my first experiences that may take you right back; something that is worth remembering.

First Travel to the US

The farthest place I’ve ever been in the Philippines was in Vigan, Ilocos Norte. It was a tiring 8-hour ride. But it was nothing compared to my first trip to the US East Coast  that took almost 26 hours. This has been the most backbreaking trip I’ve ever experienced.

First Taste of Cuban Food

My husband is Cuban American.  One day, I got curious with their Cuban sandwich called "Pan con Bistec" so I asked him to buy me one. 

It was served in a large bread (Cuban bread) with beef steak, onions and tomatoes in it.  One thing that caught me by surprise was that it had picnic fries on top of it.  It was delicious though.

First Holidays

On my first Independence Day (4th of July), we had the chance to go to the beach and saw the fireworks display.  

On my first Thanksgiving Day Celebration,  I was able to taste a sumptuous Turkey for the first time.

First Christmas

When  the BER months came on my first year of residency, my homesickness turned from bad to worse. Especially after reading my friends' status on social networking sites that they had started playing Christmas Carols all over the metro.  That the traditional Caroling has also started which I used to be part of.

In my experience, I cannot consider my first Christmas here as my best.  I came from a country with the longest Christmas in the World (September-December) and I miss it so much.  Truly, there's no place like home.

First New Year

Even though they say that firecrackers and fireworks are very dangerous, that's what makes the New Year in the Philippines so special. I miss the ear-splitting fireworks  on New Year's Eve.  

I remember our yearly Media Noche with all the different round fruits on the table which symbolize good fortune.  I miss wearing new clothes on the Eve and who would forget the traditional jump done three times at 12MN? 

My first New Year in the US wasn't the one I expected. It was too quiet and there weren't any fireworks lighting up the sky. Totally different from what I was used to.

Jobless for the First Time

When I got my green card, I was very excited to get a job. I immediately went to my first job interview.  It went well but after a week; I received a phone call and was told that they hired someone else. On my second interview, I was able to pass the interview but again was told to wait until they find a company that will accept me even if I don’t speak Spanish. Unfortunately, I didn't receive any calls from them. I was jobless for almost a year.

First Job

After being turned down on my first job applications, I opted to apply to Publix or Target and sadly my husband didn’t allow me. He told me to wait until the right opportunity comes. Then one night, I cried and prayed to God to help me find a job. And with His grace, our Pastor in the church I’m attending to approached me and said, “Do you want to work with me part-time?” and I immediately said “yes” without any doubt. Thank God! It was an answered prayer. Because of this, I was able to send money to the Philippines every month.

First Plant

I am 95% vegetarian and I missed eating vegetables. Hungry for veggies, I asked my hubby to bring me to the Oriental market. I spotted a bitter melon or “ampalaya” at the store.  With so much excitement, I immediately grabbed it not knowing how much it cost. I was so surprised seeing the price in the receipt.  It was so expensive!

Then one day, I thought of something brilliant to satisfy my cravings for veggies.  I decided to buy another bitter melon and planted it in our yard right next to our mango tree.  A week after, I saw the sprout came out. I was ecstatic so I immediately asked my father-in-law to create a mini-garden for me. 

My hubby gave me the idea that I can sell those to the market but at the time of harvest; it only goes straight to my pan.  Now, aside from bitter melon, I also have limes (calamansi) and sweet potato leaves (talbos) growing in my garden.

First Driver’s License

I didn’t bother getting a driver’s license in the Philippines simply because I didn't have a car to drive anyway.   When I got here, I knew that it is essential to have one.  I was afraid to get it because I haven’t driven a car for a long time. 

Being supportive and patient, my hubby was the one who taught me to drive.  In just two months, I was able to drive successfully. And only recently that I  got my driver’s license.  

Being new in this country, I will surely have many more firsts.  These moments will definitely be engraved in my memory and will forever be treasured.


Sigrid Dimaano

wow! you have green thumb pala. I wish I could also plant veggies here but it's more difficult for me because of the winter season.

I miss Christmas and New Year in Pinas too!

Ritchie Raymundo

Nothing compares how we celebrate Christmas and New Year in Pinas. THE BEST talaga! Good thing Josh was able to experience it the last time when we were there.

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