Why Am I Here In South Korea?

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South Korea is indeed the land of the morning calm.

I am a teacher and a writer from the Philippines. My full name is Massuline Antonio Dupaya Ligaya. Massuline Antonio are my first names, Dupaya and Ligaya are the family names of my mom and dad, respectively. My friends and colleagues call me with different nicknames… MAD, from my  initials, and Tony, short for Antonio. But, my family and relatives have been calling me Ching since I was young. However you call me, doesn’t matter. What’s in a name anyway?

My Korean adventure started on March 2, 2013. I decided to try ESL teaching here in South Korea not because there are no jobs available in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, I was working as a Principal of a basic education institution and part-time instructor in a college while pursuing my application in a university here. In addition, I was also an academic consultant of another school then. Modesty aside, with my qualifications, experience, (and determination), I can easily get a job in the Philippines.

So, why did I decide to embark on a Korean adventure? Why did I decide to try teaching here?

Firstly, I was having a “job burnout” at that time. I suddenly got tired being a school administrator and a classroom instructor at the same time. I wanted to go back to full-time teaching. I started supervising teachers and school personnel in 1994 in a technical-vocational institution. That ended when I resigned but when I moved to another school, a Catholic tertiary institution, in 2002,  I was also offered a supervisory position – Program Chair for the Education program. From 1994 to early 2013 I was an administrator and teacher at the same time. I had to option no to teach but that’s something I can’t (and wouldn’t) do.

I got tired with supervising people. I felt sick about it. I wanted to go back to just being a teacher. That’s the reason I applied for a teaching job here. Luckily, I was hired. It was that “job burnout” that got me seeking for a job opportunity here in this country. Not that I wanted a greener pasture. I was satisfied with the salary I was receiving then in the Philippines. I was able to buy a small parcel of land and had a house built out of my earnings there. But of course I am happier with my monthly pay here. Who wouldn’t be. It’s roughly 60% higher than what my Pakistani employers paid me in the Philippines. That basic (K to 12) education school where I was Principal before I came here is owned by Pakistanis operating a vast network of schools (The City School) in Pakitstan and some parts of Asia.

At that time I felt that I was at the crossroads of my career. I have to admit that there was some kind of dissatisfaction within me. I had a good position. I was already a school principal. Previously, I held positions like Program Head, Dean of Education, and College Dean. I gave up the deanship in a government-run school for personal reasons and become a principal in a private school. It’s not bad. Actually better because the salary was way higher. But despite those good administrative positions I got, something was really missing. I was unhappy.

So I came here to South Korea, When I started working here I figured out what was missing. Because I was so busy with my administrative functions and was teaching at the same time, I was not able to attend to my other passion…WRITING.

Being a school administrator and teacher at the same in the Philippines would require that you stay in the workplace, officially, for 8 hours a day. But most of the time, I would stay way beyond that, even if I wasn’t required to. It was just something that felt I ought to do. Sometimes I even need to go to my office on Saturdays. With that, I could hardly find time to write poems, essays and stories… much less do research. That is what is different here in South Korea. I have plenty of time to WRITE. It gave me time to create this website. I was even able to submit papers for presentations in international conferences and even had some of those published in international journals. Something that, unfortunately, I couldn’t do in the Philippines. Back then I would be lucky if in a month I would have a poem.

ESL teaching is part of my career-pathing. I really prepared for this. As early as 2009 I was already thinking of coming specifically here in this country to become an English teacher. I am a licensed English teacher in the Philippines. I passed the Licensure Examination for Teachers given by the Professional Regulatory Board of the Philippines way back in 2003. Then in 2010, notwithstanding my busy schedule, I enrolled for a certification class in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). So, I really planned for this.

What I may also consider as another (and the last) reason for deciding to come here was at that time I was journeying to midlife. There were some personal demons that I OUGHT to slay. It’s too personal to share. Suffice it to say that I need a space. I needed that entire space between the Philippines and South Korea to really get my bearings back. Luckily, I was able to squeeze myself out of a personal crisis. I wouldn’t have not done so had I opted to just stay in that Principal’s office.

God is good, indeed. South Korea has been a huge blessing for me and my family. I have a good job with a good salary. I have lots of time to do a lot of writing. The best part of it, I saved myself from myself. That’s not a typo there.

When I triumphed over myself, I saved me, my career, and my family. As an African proverb goes, “If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.”

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