Oh, to be young and independent. You work against the norms of your home country, where kids live with their parents well into adulthood, and move out of your childhood home.
You fall in love, build your career, and experience the ups and downs of living alone. You grow up. Then, all of a sudden, you are forced to again live with family who barely know the person you’ve become.
This is what the pandemic did for many Filipinos who have since moved back in with their families. Some lost jobs or thought they’d only be back for a few weeks, while others debated returning to the nest for a while. Now, young professionals previously with their own offices find that they can’t work from home because their room is used for storage, while proudly domesticated grown-ups who were cooking dinners for their friends are doted on and reminded to take their Vitamin C.
We checked in on them to see how they’re doing, what they’ve learned, and what family means to them now.
Andrea Trinidad, 25, Content Strategist and Copywriter
Returned to the Philippines from Spain after eight years.
VICE: What made you decide to come back to Manila?
Andrea: I didn’t really decide to go home. During the state of alarm announced in Spain, I was with my siblings and my parents kind of freaked out and said, “OK, it’s time to go home. Just pack up everything that you need, leave the rest, and hop on a flight tomorrow.” So, literally, my life changed overnight. I was on my way to Manila in 24 hours. There wasn’t really a decision to go, and that’s why the aftershock of everything was so strong, because everything just changed so fast.
How was coming home to your family like at the start?
It was a mix of things, and that’s what made it a bit confusing sometimes. On one hand, we were all so happy to finally be together for a long time, after eight years of just visiting home. But at the same time, I think we all forgot that in those eight years, we had grown so much in many different ways. Obviously, you gain a sense of independence when you move abroad or anywhere, so to go back, of course there’s some friction. That’s what happens in families. It wasn’t a bad thing, but it was just a very confusing period. I think now, it’s a pretty stable place because we have already learned about what our new identities are.
“I think we all forgot that in those eight years, we had grown so much in many different ways.”
What have you enjoyed about being home?
I hadn’t been home in eight years, so I haven’t had time to really marinate in the feeling of being home with my family. You know when you’re [visiting] back home, you don’t really get to certain layers? It’s always pretty superficial because you’re trying to fit everything into a week, and there are always events that are happening. But this time, it’s really been such an intimate experience and I’ve really seen different layers of my family members. I have not experienced this in such a long time, or maybe ever, so I’m really grateful for the time that I’ve had, even if it wasn’t at all what I had planned. Also, I think there’s something that needs to be said about being back with your family when you’re an adult, because you see them in a different way. You’re more understanding of them. You see your parents as people, not just parents.
Kervin Umali, 22, Campaign Analyst
Returned to Cavite from Manila after four years.
Was going back home a difficult decision for you?
Kervin: Absolutely not. I was willing to go back to Cavite that time because I thought that I would feel “safer” if in the province. Also, I was a clown thinking that the virus will be gone in two to four weeks and we will go back to normal again by April. Clown things.
“I was willing to go back to Cavite that time because I thought that I would feel ‘safer’ if in the province.”
What’s different for you now that you’re home again?
I have to make sure that our cat is well-fed first before I can actually have my own meal.
Do you feel like a kid again?
Yes, but not all the time! When my mom gets annoyed because I washed my face after using the computer for so long [some believe this is bad for you], I feel like a kid again.
Prince Tanguilig, 31, Business Manager
Returned to the Philippines from Singapore, Hong Kong, and China after 13 years.
When did you move out and why?
Prince: I moved out because I had the chance to get out of my comfort zone. A company invited me for a project, so I went to Singapore. After a month, I finished the project. I did not originally have plans of staying, but I applied for a job and fortunately, I got it. I imagined I would not have enough clothes or money, but I took the risk. When you are young, you just want to be independent and explore.
Why did you come home?
I have been away for a while and thought it was the best time to be with family, especially because my father is getting old. I wanted to take good care of him. I have always wanted to live overseas. I am very fortunate to have a father that encourages me to chase my dreams. My father has a 24-year-old business that he runs up until now. He is already getting old so I wanted to take over. Eventually, he can retire and enjoy his life. Most importantly, I wanted to be with my family.
How has being back home changed your career?
My focus used to be to work regionally, to meet decision makers, and experience different cultures. Now, it’s to give back to my father and continue his legacy. My priorities before were mostly for myself, selfish in a way, but now it has greater reason and understanding. I think of myself less now.
“My priorities before were mostly for myself, selfish in a way, but now it has greater reason and understanding. I think of myself less now.”
Anything you’ve forgotten about yourself that you’ve remembered since being home?
My dad knows how much I love to go out and always associates my mole on the foot with being adventurous and “gala” (someone who likes going out). There is a Filipino superstition about it but my dad is not superstitious. When I got back, he would always tease me and joke about it. It is like my go-to excuse for going out.
Anna Africa, 26, Marketing Manager
Returned to Quezon Province from Manila after four years.
Why did you decide to move back in with your parents?
Anna: I wanted to go back home even before the pandemic, the situation just pushed me to go for it. Also, my priorities shifted to spending more time with my parents and allotting a huge chunk of my expenses to savings.
Do you enjoy being home?
I like it a lot. Reuniting with my highschool friends, doing weekly groceries with my parents, enjoying home-cooked meals. It’s nice to be back home!
“Reuniting with my highschool friends, doing weekly groceries with my parents, enjoying home-cooked meals. It’s nice to be back home!”
What are some things your parents do that make you laugh?
Once my mom sees I’m online, she messages me that my breakfast is ready—“Good morning! Your chicken is in the airfryer.”
Do you think you’ll stay home longer or will you leave when things open up again?
Definitely stay longer.
Emilio Ylanan, 25, Former Hotel Employee
Returned to Laguna from Dubai after three years.
Did you like living on your own abroad?
Emilio: It’s fun and you learn a lot. But being alone and abroad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; it does get tiring and can be lonely sometimes. You kind of look around and realize that even if you have friends, being with family is different.
“Being alone and abroad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; it does get tiring and can be lonely sometimes.”
When did you decide to move back home?
The decision was sort of made for me. Due to the pandemic, the hotel I worked at closed, and it became difficult to find work in the hospitality industry anywhere in the world. Because of how work visas work in the United Arab Emirates, I would have had to go home eventually if I was unable to find employment. Rather than maxing out the grace period allotted on my visa for me to find work, I made the decision to move back home to the Philippines.
What are the downsides of being back home?
The downsides would be not having the same level of privacy, and, for lack of a better term, “freedom” was definitely difficult at first. Previously, I controlled all aspects of my life. Now living under someone else’s roof, I have to abide by the rules of my parents. I used to be able to go out and not need to tell anyone anything, though I suppose that isn’t really a problem since we’re stuck at home for the most part. When I was abroad, I always had roommates, so I’m used to having people around at home, but parents and siblings sometimes don’t always respect that a closed door means privacy is needed.
Do you think you’ll stay for longer or are you itching to get out again?
Honestly, I’m not in any hurry to move back out. Despite having worked abroad for some time, and currently being employed, I don’t see myself as being financially capable of moving out just yet. I do keep an eye on the housing market just to see how things are and to be aware. If something catches my eye and is financially feasible, then maybe the opportunity to move out may come sooner than I think. I tend to plan things and make practical decisions, and as much as I’d love to be on my own, I also know it wouldn’t be right to make a big life decision purely based on not wanting to share a bathroom.
Izzie David, 25, Scientist
Returned to Muntinlupa from Quezon City after five years.
Where were you and what were you doing before you moved back in with your parents?
Izzie: I was based in Quezon City and was a researcher doing fieldwork around the Philippines. After the pandemic [started], I just worked remotely because all I could do was work with the data we had.
Has your relationship with your family changed since moving back?
I couldn't stand them the first few months, but now I ask my brother if he wants to come downstairs with me whenever I get a snack.
How does it feel moving back in with your parents?
I feel kind of pathetic being 25 years old, paying for nothing, and living with my parents. Whatever precedent the previous generation set for what we should be achieving in our mid-20s was already difficult to achieve pre-pandemic. Like, damn, why am I not living on my own in New York and supporting myself with my part-time waitressing gig while I audition everywhere?
“I feel kind of pathetic being 25 years old, paying for nothing, and living with my parents.”
What are you looking forward to?
I’m finally off to grad school in two months. I had to postpone all my plans for an entire year because I couldn’t travel during the pandemic, but now I’m looking forward to getting my career back on track.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
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