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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Everything is Half Chance

everything is half chance.

sometimes all it takes is just one decision and it could alter the course of your life.


it's a new year, and what perfect time to look back and be thankful for everything that have led you to this day. what a perfect time to reflect on the things you said yes or no to that led you to where you are right now.

this is a story of  a series of yeses and nos that led me here, right now, in this chair, typing on this computer.  this is a story of owning up to your decisions, good or bad. this is a story of my journey on getting what i have always dreamed of. hopefully, it would inspire some who are in the crossroads of their life and afraid to take that next step.

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while i was still in college my first goal was to apply as an immigrant in New Zealand but i didn't have the money to pay for the processing fee that time. fortunately, an opportunity to work in the U.S. came and the New Zealand goal was put on the back burner.


first, second & third U.S. job opportunity

once upon a time there were these 5 friends who just recently graduated from college. they found out about this scholarship in  Ateneo but they have to pay the exam fee and they also need to pass the entrance exam. If they pass they will also have an opportunity to get hired by a U.S. based company if they find them to be a good candidate. they thought it's worth trying, except for one. one of the 5 friends thinks the fee is too high, and that she'd rather buy a nice blouse with that money. the other 4, however, proceed with their plan. only 3 of them passed.

i was one of the 3.

my first opportunity to work in the U.S. was year 1998, during the Y2K scare. i was fortunate to be offered a job while doing the scholarship training in Ateneo. it's a COBOL programming job based in Manhattan, New York. for someone who is fresh off from college, that was something to be proud of. unfortunately, that didn't materialize but i did get my first U.S. working visa, called H1B.

first US working visa issued on sept 1998....

it was stamped "cancelled without prejudice" the

day i got my 2nd US working visa in 2006


second opportunity came 3 years later but

that didn't materialized either because of the September 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in New York.

i have jumped from one employer to another in the philippines after the failed US job opportunities but in 2005 i was fortunate to be sent  to an offshore project in raleigh, north carolina. yes, U.S.A.!! i stayed there for a few months and was sent back again in 2006, where i, again, stayed for a few months.

with my pinoy co-workers who were, like me, sent to raleigh-north carolina

 for a temporary US work assignment
my raleigh cubicle.

4th US job opportunity - permanent (1st U.S. employer)

i started looking for a job in the U.S. online (dice.com) hoping someone would hire me and process a U.S. working visa for me (H1B), again. my first U.S. working visa  have long expired and even if it didn't, i cannot just switch employers. the succeeding employer should be willing to invest the time and money to transfer the H1B to them first before i could work for them, that is the process. H1B is for 1 employer only. also, H1B is only good for 3 years but can be extended for another 3 years. so it only has 6 years maximum validity in total.

2005 was when i started my US job hunt and eventually my persistence paid off and got, not just one,  but 2 US job offers from 2 different US consulting firms. both companies applied for H1Bs for me and both got approved but i only went for the U.S. embassy interview for just one of them. this was in 2006. then on feb 14, 2007, i left the philippines and moved to the U.S.

2nd US working visa

and the one i used when i moved to US for good


reality sets in

i'm a software engineer by profession. java is my forte. i started out as a COBOL programmer but when my first company (the one who gave me my 1st H1B) offered a formal training in java, i jumped on that opportunity, i didn't have to think twice. i'm glad i did because that paved way to other job opportunities including  the temporary U.S. work assignments i just mentioned and eventually landing a permanent job here in the U.S.


i have always wanted to work and live outside the country. for me that means adventure. independence. a breath of fresh air, being in the U.S. is just icing on the cake. i'm actually OK even if it's close by, like, Singapore (well, sort of). living outside your comfort zone is not always fine and dandy though. i'll be lying if i say i enjoyed every bit of  my independent life as a professional in the U.S. i didn't have friends when i moved to the U.S. and the only Filipinos i know that time are 3 of my male co-workers (whom i only see during lunch time) and a few classmates from Ateneo   (whom i very very seldom see).

i go home to an empty house everyday. literally empty. i didn't have furnitures. i didn't even have a proper bed (i had an air mattress). i'm not a tv person so even though someone donated a tv to me, i really didn't use it.

first solo apartment : this is what my room looks like

that's an air mattress that messed up my back
here's what my living room looks like.empty.

tv is courtesy of a coworker


homesickness is real. 

you learn to survive on your own. you learn to make dishes or make your own filipino bread that you never thought you'll learn to make just because you were craving for it so bad and a filipino resto/store/bakery is a 2-hour drive away.

living outside the country is not for the weak of heart. it can be a very lonely and challenging experience specially if you're just starting and not used to living on your own. i was getting depressed that i almost threw in the towel. i was ready to go back to the Philippines.

but decided not to.

that's because i found out that the one main reason i want to go back to the Philippines is beyond my reach anymore. i admit, i did attempt to get that main reason back but after much thought and deliberation i decided it's best for all parties if i just let go. it was a difficult decision but i can't be selfish.

it still has a happy ending though. things just started falling into place after that. not right away, but eventually it did. it's like the stars have finally aligned for me. indeed, good things come to those who patiently wait.


story of the 2nd U.S. employer

i had to change employer because i didn't feel my US employer was treating me well. i was lucky that the second employer was very willing to transfer my H1B from my 1st employer to them, which means, paper work, legal stuff and money. i guess they like me enough that they are willing to go thru that painful process just to have me on board.

this 2nd employer is also the one responsible for taking care of processing my greencard (aka permanent residency), that i got shortly after 2+ years of working for them. i made sure that they will process my greencard and was one of the bargaining deals i had with them before i signed their job offer.


the thing about greencard

greencard processing usually takes 10+ years but i insisted that i want to go the EB-2 route, which is a shorter wait but a more risky and tedious process. but i was confident that i fall in that category so i insisted on it. my other option, which is less risky, and easier process, was the usual route (EB-1). but  that would throw me back for 10+ years because it has a huge backlog (not sure if that changed now).

because i took the EB-2 route, i got my green card May of 2010 (after 2+ years only). i remember my boss, going to my cubicle and telling me: "marlin, don't you dare quit.. you put us in too much pain processing your greencard, that you are forbidden to quit"..in a joking manner of course, but i'm pretty sure  that joke was half meant :P.

new zealand in my mind

i have another plan brewing in my mind, though. after all that greencard hoopla, and whether or not i get my greencard, i still plan to pursue my New Zealand application. i still visit my New Zealand online application from time to time and every time i thought i was ready to hit the "submit" button (and pay the fee), there's always something that's stopping me. i just can't make myself click that button.

me at work in 2010..yes, CRT monitors lol

(you can skip this part and scroll down to "where am i going with this...")

wishes do come true

i met my husband from my 2nd U.S. employer. he's also a software engineer like me. he does C++, i use java. he does PC-based programming while i do web applications (i do back-end stuff so don't ask me about javascript and html, that's front-end).

we didn't click right away but he was very persistent and eventually i realized he's starting to grow on me. we then started going out in 2010 and he proposed one new year's eve (1.1.2011).

was i scared? yes. i wasn't sure if i'll make a good wife, or if i'm ready to be someone's wife. but i was also excited. it's like embarking on a whole new adventure. plus i know R will make a very good husband (and i wasn't wrong, he is a blessing).

we got married a year and a half later after the proposal. it could have been sooner but i just renewed my apartment lease a month before he proposed (i moved and changed apartment when i change jobs so it'll be an easier commute)  and if i cancel my apartment renewal, i still have to pay the whole year of rent. we have to save for our wedding anyway, so waiting another year isn't as bad.

second solo apartment that i have lived for 4  years

prior to getting married

we got married civilly in spring time of 2012.  initial plan was to get married in the philippines but we need to get married civilly first to make the requirements less complicated. it was supposed to be just a simple wedding but one thing led to another and we ended up having an intimate beach wedding. we managed to keep our guest list small & we just invited my husband's relatives (because they can't all go to the philippines) and a handful of my friends.

civil wedding in Cape May

then on jan 2013 was when we got married in the philippines...i was ready to give that up because it was too stressful and expensive but it was the hubby who convinced me to push through with it as a tribute to my parents. specially since they were not able to attend our first (and what we consider official) wedding - the civil wedding.


let's recap:

Nov 2007 - i changed employer (who transferred my H1b and took care of my greencard)
May 2010 - i got my greencard
Jan 2011 - i got engaged and started the church wedding plans right away
May 2012 - i got married (civilly)
Jan 2013 - i got married in church (in the Philipines)

path to U.S. citizenship 

next step for me is citizenship and i have 2 options.

option 1: apply for citizenship via marriage to a U.S. citizen.

        the rule is we have to be married for 3 years before i can use that option. which means i will qualify to use option 1 on May 2015.

option 2:  apply for citizenship via my employer.

        the rule for this is, i have to be a greencard holder for atleast 5 years to use this option. which means i will qualify to use option 2, guess what, also on May 2015. remember, i got my greencard May 2010, plus 5 years is May 2015.

yes, either option will work for me but i chose option 2. why? it's good for my ego (no one can tell me i just married my husband for citizenship :P) also because option 2 has less requirements. here's the list of citizenship requirements  if you're curious (see Step 3 -> document check list). depending on how much backlog your state has, and if you have all your paperwork in order and you didn't miss your citizenship interview, you should be able to get your U.S. citizenship in less than a year.


that's it.

that has been my journey, so far,  and some of you may already know that i am still happily married and that i am now a mom of 2 charming babies - a boy and a girl.


so, where am i going with this, you say...


the what-ifs

what do you think will happen if i didn't apply for that scholarship program in Ateneo?



what do you think will happen if i didn't take that opportunity to learn java?



what do you think will happen if i gave up after 2 failed attempts to work in the U.S.?



what do you think will happen if i  chose to stay in the philippines and not pursue my life long dream of working and living outside the country?



what do you think will happen if i continued my application to migrate in New Zealand?



what do you think will happen if i said no to the wedding proposal?

honestly, i don't know the answers either, but i can guess.

what i do know is, so far, i like the outcomes of my decisions and if i can go back in time, i won't change any of it (except maybe buy a lot of amazon stocks, lol).

so yeah. everything is half chance. be careful what you say yes or no to. if  it turned out to be a bad decision, own up to it, dust the dirt off your butt and try again. i agree, it's scary but don't let the fear of what could happen make NOTHING happen. just like what my favorite quote from Mark Twain said:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines.Sail away from the safe harbor.Catch the trade winds in your sails.Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain



this new year we are presented with a new clean slate. let's fill those pages with wonderful stories again. here's to more yeses and nos! happy 2018!


note: highlighted texts are clickable.