Paula and Nino Figueras in Portugal.
How to survive living abroad
WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo (The Philippine Star) - November 12, 2019 - 12:00am

Paula “Pau” Mansilla Figueras is the eldest of five siblings. At the young age of 13, they lost their mother, Diana, to cervical cancer. Paula needed to grow all of a sudden to help her father Jesus take care of her younger siblings. She graduated in 2007 with a degree in Tourism Management from the University of the Philippines Diliman. On the side, she was an English language tutor to Japanese students. Standing at 5”9’, it wasn’t long before Paula started her modeling career through Inno Sotto’s Fashion Watch at the Makati Shangri-La. 

 After graduation, Paula moved to Macau as a hotel ambassador where she met her Portuguese husband Nino Pinto. “My husband Nino manages and coaches young F1, F2 and F3 drivers and most of the races are in Europe. He said he would consider leaving his job if I could support him well in the Philippines. Of course, that time I couldn’t afford yet so I moved with him to Portugal,” Paula shares.

“In Portugal I started to look for business opportunities. I tried to export wines and Portuguese deli items to the Philippines but it was super difficult. Attending Manila FAME was my ‘enlightenment.’ While seeing all the fantastic Filipino-made bags and accessories, I decided to build a brand, which will promote our own products abroad.”

Today, Paula is the COO of Gustoko by Paula Figueras, a brand that produces beautiful Philippine-made bags. The brand, which uses local fabric and are handmade in Manila, is present in 17 shops around Portugal and in Spain. They are also available at La Comercial Tienda, a chain of stores in Barcelona, and boutiques at the Arts Hotel and Hotel W.

Paula with stepmom Len. Dad Jess, sister Cara, mother-in-law Filomena, dad-in-law Manuel and Husband Nino.

Paula’s inspiring story shows how hard work and perseverance can bring one success even if one is in another country. Read on as she shares with us her Top 10 pieces of advice for those living or planning to live abroad.

1. Learn the local language. This was my biggest challenge. It took me two years to learn to speak Portuguese. If your time permits, learn the local language of the country where you will migrate to before you go there.

2. Expect the unexpected. Life abroad is full of surprises and you can never be 100-percent ready for everything that will happen. The best thing to do is to maintain a positive attitude and know that you will be able to overcome all the challenges that life may throw your way.

3. Adapt to your new environment. Enjoy what your new country has to offer. Try out its local cuisine, travel around and see the local attractions, buy your groceries from small local retailers (you will get loads of neighborhood insights from them), learn the differences between local and Filipino culture and as much as possible, try to do things their way so you will not feel and look like a tourist all the time.

4. Make new friends (especially with the locals). Most Filipinos I know have the tendency to stick to other Filipinos in the same area when they live abroad. This is okay as long as you try also to befriend the locals and other immigrants. I often encourage Filipinos in Lisbon to join local communities and expat groups because there’s a lot to learn from them. Doing this will also help you to feel more at ease with your new environment.

5. Take care of yourself. Stay healthy. It’s very easy to get sick abroad especially when the season changes. My immune system normally goes down when it gets colder and I rarely sweat. I try to stay healthy by going to the gym at least twice a week, doing yoga at home and walking in the park and along the river during weekends. We all need to find a way to relieve ourselves from the daily stress and it’s good to take a breath of fresh air every once in a while.

6. Talk regularly to your family and friends back home. Today, technology allows us to frequently talk to our loved ones even if they’re far away. Imagine the immigrants and OFWs before who relied on snail mail and once-in-a-while long-distance phone calls to speak to their family back in the Philippines! Social media now also keeps us up-to-date with our family and friends that it feels that you are not even away.

7. Go back to your roots. Recharge. There’s a saying that “Home is where the heart is” and for me, the Philippines is my first and forever home. Portugal is my second home now yet I always go back to my first home to recharge and to appreciate  anew everything that is Filipino. Being a Filipino taught me to smile beneath hardships, to learn amongst challenges and to stand up every time I fall. Manila was my training ground and all the lessons I’ve learned in this city made me strong enough to live and flourish now in Portugal.

8. Network. We all need this. Whether you are an employee or a business person, networking is the best way for you to improve your craft. You’ll meet various individuals whom you can learn from and who can help you out as well if you want to go up the corporate ladder.

9. Save up or invest. Put all those hard-earned money into a savings account or an investment portfolio.

10. Gratitude. Pay it forward. Remember to always be thankful to Him for everything that He has blessed us with. Also, the best way to show our gratitude is to share the blessings that have been given to us and to help other people who are in need. *

(Gustoko by Paula Figueras will be available at the coming Bench X Katutubo Pop Up Market from Nov. 15 to 17, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the 22nd floor, The Curve Tower, 32nd corner 3rd Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. For more information about Katutubo, please visit @katutubopopupmarket on Instagram.)


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