I came to Penang from Manila via Kuala Lumpur exactly a week ago with 18 other Pinoy doctors to work as a lecturer in a huge medical college here.  Most of them are my batchmates from med school;  including one of our former professors and the others are medical consultants from all over the Philippines whom I met only on the flight.  Eight more physicians will be coming in next week  to join our teaching force with the hope that we can blend well with our foreign counterparts from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Australia, Myanmar and Malaysia.

Thank God my first week in Penang as an OFW has not been dreadful.  I didn’t set any great expectations but to earn and save for Tina and Gabby thus I am not disappointed yet.  It has been so far so good.

Here are some decisions I’ve made and some things I encountered and experienced in my first week here that I’d like to share.

1. Initially, I planned to bring Tina and Gabby here after a month or two because they ‘re eligible to have “calling visas” as my dependents.  I was told that Tina can also work here if she finds an opportunity. However, after a few days of touring the city and going to 3 International Primary Schools in Penang mainland and Penang Island, I found out with the rest of my colleagues who are married with kids, who also plan to do the same,  that the cost of private education here soars to the heavens.

Schooling in Penang is like in the western countries, it’s trisemester; they open September, January and April and ends in July. Facilities, staff and environment-wise, almost everything is at its finest except the fees.  Since Gabby’s age falls on their Year 1 level, I will be required to pay a term fee of RM 3500 (PhP 49,000) and another  term advance fee if he enters  IS here.  Plus, there are admission and registration fees amounting to RM1500 that should be settled upon enrolment. All in all, the cost per term enrollment is RM 8500 (PhP 119,000 or USD 2587), then add another 2 term fees to complete a school year making a grand total of PhP 217, 000 for Year 1 alone and fees escalate per level of course! Is that logical for grade 1? Granting that my minimal salary can afford it, isn’t it still too much for a primary education?

It’s not that I and my wife would like to deprive our preschool son of the best education but we’re just being practical. After all, it is because of my son’s future that I am here abroad.  By thinking so, we decided that Gabby will just continue his schooling as a prep student back home with my wife’s guidance.  I will just find means to bring them here for a week-long vacation whenever our schedules permit ;  perhaps either  before Gabby’s birthday on the first week of October or at the end of the same month during their semestral  break. This will give them a chance to experience life in Penang and probably if God wills it, I may enroll Gabby here on September next year, still depending on how we test the waters.  Another option is for me to go home on Christmas for the holidays.

2.  Penang is a beautiful city. The mainland boasts of colleges, industrial areas, freeways and countryside, while Penang Island cradles George Town, Malaysia’s own UNESCO World Heritage City.

A glimpse of George Town in Penang Island; it's Malaysia's own UNESCO World Heritage City. See you every weekend, George Town and Gurney Drive!

After George Town, we went to Gurney Drive where upscale hotels and hawkers meet before their glorious bay area.

One would take an hour or so to fly to Singapore or Thailand or other Asian countries from Penang.  Travel is more accessible now rather than a luxury because of availability of cheap airfares from low-cost carriers.

Would you believe that an overnight stay on a cruise ship that departs from Penang Island costs only RM100 (PhP 1400) ?  I can’t wait to experience it hopefully soon.

3.  I embrace being in a multicultural community. I’ve travelled a few times but it wasn’t this long that I’ve been breathing same air with other nationalities, colors, cultures and religions.

There are Chinese and other Asians, Indians, Pakistanis, a few Caucassians and others that peacefully thrive in Malaysian soil.

4. Food in Penang came from diverse communities too.  Mild to moderate spicy foods predominate the choices that are very apparent in halal dishes.  I don’t have a choice but to enjoy every bite.  What’s best with it, food is so affordable here that one can buy a Nasi Lemak for only RM 1 (PhP 14). How I wish the same scenario is true in the Philippines.

Chicken Tandoori with Cheese Naan from Kapitan's Nasi Kandar International located at Gurney Drive, Penang Island. SARAP! So affordable at RM8.50 (PhP 119).

5.  Buhay-OFW is totally new to me. Every minute has been nothing but a mixture of homesickness and  wonderful experiences.   I just pause and think the reason for my being here; then when the faces of my child and his mom flash on my mind, everything seems surreal.

To quote my fellow doctor here, “for OFWs, sacrifice is synonymous to remittance.”


19 thoughts on “THE WEEK THAT WAS

  1. alam mo docgelo, tama ka, being practical doesn’t mean not giving the best for your child. marami din naman magagandang school dito sa Manila. just because the tuition there is higher means that education is better. 🙂

    i hope you find a way to be with your family at sana makasunod sila dyaan. parang ang hirap nyan. but i;m glad you’re embracing the situation. sana tuloy tuloy na yan! 🙂

    ps, alam mo docgelo, i want to try to work abroad. try lang ha, just to know how it feels, at gusto ko short-term lang (mga 6 months lang). kaya lang meron ba nun? he he! isa pa, sure ako na di papayag si wendy. 🙂

    1. i know grace that as a parent, you understand these things so well.
      thanks for the nice words.
      it seems you don’t need to work here or abroad, but for the experience, why not try too.

  2. there is always a struggle being away from home. grabe pala ang tuition fee dyan pero come to think of it halos ganun din ang fee when you go to the respected private schools here. natawa ako dun sa quote ng fellow OFW “for OFWs, sacrifice is synonymous to remittance.” actually tutuo yan. parang expected na ng mga tao na pag mag work ka abroad, since you’re earning big (na akala nila) kailangan kang magpadala ng pera.

    have a great week doc 🙂

  3. for most OFW, sacrifice is always like that however, there are many OFWs i knew that they bring their luxurious lifestyle abroad thus defeating the purpose of being a modern day hero.

    have a good day doc gelo 🙂

    1. i pray, ms. elna that i get to save and send enough for my family back home once i get my monthly salary. i’ll surely savor every ringgit i’ll earn.

  4. Penang is certainly more laid back than other parts of Malaysia, specifically when compared to the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur.

    Speaking as someone who spent the first few years of her life in Malaysia, though, I still think educating Gabby here in the Philippines is a prudent choice, specifically where values education is concerned. But it will help him a great deal to shuttle between Malaysia and the Philippines from time to time as it will broaden his cultural horizons.

  5. Nice, Penang is multicultural!

    Huhmn, how about their language, Doc Gelo? What is I LOVE YOU or HOW ARE YOU in Bahasa?

  6. The educational fees are outrageous. Your whole year’s pay goes to it. No more left for the child’s college 😦

    I do love living in a multicultural environment.

    I think Penang is one of the major cities in Malaysia.

    1. i don’t think it’s practical for me to enroll my kid here unless i get a huge savings and surplus over the required domestic budget.

      …i’m welcoming every new experience!

  7. Wow ANG MAHAL ng school nila! That’s over the top.

    I only got to try Naan here on Breadtalk and I’m not of a fan. Masarap ba yung nasa picture? Btw, your family can drop by Trinoma tomorrow for CBTL’s free yogurt. I have a post about it.

    Hope you’re having a good time there Doc!

  8. I misunderstood! I thought you were going to be there for only a few weeks at most. So how long are you going to stay there? I know exactly how it feels to be away from home, from your family and friends, and all the other creature comforts that you’re used to. Thank goodness for technology, you and your family can Skype all the time! And Malaysia is just a few hours away from Manila. Enjoy Penang!

    So what are you doing this weekend?

    Thanks for visiting Norwich Daily Photo and leaving your comment. Come visit again tomorrow!

    1. i have a contract here in penang together with 30 other MD as medical lecturers in a university here.
      …we’re really enjoying skype every night, joy.
      thanks for swinging here.

  9. grabe ang mahal ng tuition jan, at gradeschool rates palang yan ha… scary!
    di bale pareho naman kayo ni tina na magwwork jan, afford na afford! Ü

    1. as of present, i plan to bring tina ang gabby here only for a short break from a week to a month. mahal kasi education ni gabby dito, kung mura lang sana, tina can work too because she and gabby are eligible for a calling visa. siguro if all forces of nature agree, i’ll bring here in october this year and hopefully in summer next year too. so help me, God. 🙂

  10. It’s better to test the waters first, Doc Gelo. It’s good though that Penang is very near to Philippines. My cousin will be based there starting next month. That’s why we didn’t cover Penang during my most recent trip. We intend to visit there some other time. I have a colleague who’s from there and has high praises for Penang. While in Kuala Lumpur, locals told me that the best food is there.

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