We Found Our Home in Thailand

By Christine Uy

Our family migrated to Thailand in March 2009, packing with us our excitement about our new life in this Buddhist country. There were qualms and uncertainties at first as we thought of the challenges we would be facing, especially as Catholics. We had to travel more than two hours to attend Mass in English.

Uy Family 2015

But the adjustment period was surprisingly easy. There are many Christian Thais, Catholics and others. And a couple of years after we arrived in Bangkok, while we were looking for a place to open a restaurant, my brother told me one day that he had found the perfect place. We named our restaurant ‘Gallardo’s Bistro’ as our tribute to our beloved dad, Gallardo Sr, who had always dreamed of having his own restaurant before he passed away. My husband Shao and I had been fervently praying that such a place would be near a Catholic church. It’s not easy to commute with a toddler in the center of Bangkok. By the grace of God, a month after we opened our restaurant, we had a customer who happened to be the priest who celebrates the English Mass at Assumption University, a five-minute walk from our restaurant and apartment.  Call it coincidence, but we call it ‘God’s plan in action!’

This priest was dressed in a white shirt and jeans and when he knew that we weren’t Thais - we were speaking English - asked if we were from the Philippines. Surprised, I said, ‘Why do you ask?’ He smiled and said he knew some Filipinos who happened to be conducting a Christian Life Seminar at the church on campus and would be happy to introduce us to the leaders. ‘Thank you, Lord!’, I said to myself, trying to contain my joy while knowing that God had answered our prayers.

Khona Kaen University, Thailand, King Rama IV monument,
King Rama IV Monument, Khon Kaen University [Wikipedia]

Without any hesitation, even if our restaurant was doing very well, we decided to close it on Sundays so that we could attend Mass. We became actively involved in Couples for Christ Foundation for Family & Life (CFC-FFL). Most of the members are Filipinos. We were commissioned to lead a number of married couples. When we began, Thomas was almost two and was able to enjoy Kids for Christ activities.

Work permits and visa requirements were a must for us to stay longer and legally in Thailand, so we had no option but to stop the restaurant business.  I got a teaching job at one of the foremost International Tourism & Hospitality colleges in Bangkok, teaching Tourism courses through English. Then again, God had a better and bigger plan for me and family: I got a better job offer at Khon Kaen University.  We have been living now for more than five years in Khon Kaen, a city of about 115,000 people, about six hours by road from the bustling city of Bangkok.

We never had any difficulty expressing our Catholic faith as Thailand respects all religions. Some Buddhist ideals, such as how the people honor their elders, inspired us. 95 percent of my students are Buddhist. As an educator, I also share with them some of our Catholic customs. The students are open to these things and accept that we are different. I am teaching in the Tourism program so it is somehow relevant that I get to explain to my students about different cultures and traditions.

The advantage of being a ‘Pinay’ teacher in Thailand is that schools and universities are hiring and keeping Filipino teachers because of our good work ethic. I’m proud to say that a great number of Filipino educators here are being recognized by the Thai government and by private companies because we Pinoys are committed to excellence and take pride in our work.

Khona Kaen University, Thailand, Sithan Gate,
Sithan Gate, Khona Kaen University [Wikipedia]

I was surprised that most Thais, especially the young generation, are not as fervent, perhaps, in practicing their religion as we are in the Philippines. There are temples everywhere but you don’t always see Thai people going to them to pray. They do so only on very special occasions.

There are aspects of Buddhist wisdom that we admire such as tolerance and non-dissension. It’s a belief system that many feel can help them be ‘detached’, maintain neutrality, and find peace in a world of injustice and suffering. That somehow has taught us to reflect on our Christian values and ideals.

We definitely had our share of struggles and challenges when we moved to Thailand: trying to find a decent job in a competitive market, taking care of our children without a nanny (it's hard and expensive to find one who can speak even a little English!), living in a one-room apartment instead of in a nice house, and trying to adjust to the Thai way of life.

Morning in Khon Kaen

Nonetheless, our life journey in Thailand, which we consider our second home, has also been a test of faith, especially for my husband Shao. We have encountered some bumps along the way both in our marriage and in our finances. We almost got to the point of giving up and contemplated going back to the Philippines when we were confronted with various challenges. But God works wonders! He simply opened doors of great opportunities for us that led us to where we are right now. I have also witnessed how God worked on Shao’s faith, how He changed him into a prayer warrior and made him feel that there is nothing impossible if we pray and keep our faith together.

God sent us in Thailand for a good reason. Our faith has made us stronger as a couple. There will be struggles, disappointments and places on our journey where we get discouraged. But as a family we believe that if we entrust everything solely to the Lord wherever we are, in the Philippines or here in Thailand, He will always have our back!