An OFW’s amusing global journey with her family
Marie Claire Lim Moore is a Filipino-Canadian American banker, speaker, and author of the Amazon.com bestseller “Don’t Forget the Soap.”
She will launch her second book, “Don’t Forget the Parsley” tomorrow, Monday, at Fully Booked in Bonifacio Global City at 7 p.m.
She studied in the United Nations International School then went to Yale University’s for its Executive MBA program.
She was made vice president at Citibank at age 23. Three years later she was elected by Citi CEOs for Citibank’s high net worth client offering in 40 countries across Europe. Latin America and Asia.
She was one of the 100 Most Influential Women awardees.
Below are her thoughts on her second book:
One thing I learned shortly after writing my first book is that inevitably people will be asking about your next one. I didn’t necessarily plan on doing a follow-up but I was certainly encouraged by all the support.
“Don’t Forget the Soap” is a collection of anecdotes from my family’s global journey starting with my parents’ migration from the Philippines to my current experiences living abroad with my husband and our then two children.
I would be lying if I said my heart didn’t burst the first time I saw the book featured in People Asia on the same “Papertrail” page as Malala Yousafzai’s “I Am Malala.” Or that my relatives didn’t take about a gazillion selfies with our family memoir sitting on the same “new and hot nonfiction” shelf as Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices.” Or that we weren’t glued to our smartphones refreshing Amazon until we saw the book climb to No. 1 hot new release in “it-didn’t-matter-what” category.
While the book tours, talk shows, and photo shoots have been fabulously unexpected, equally fun has been meeting people from all different walks of life who have come to admire my parents (almost) as much as I do.
I always figured that Filipinos and Filipino-Americans would relate to the Spam, and corned beef references, but I’ve been delightfully surprised to learn how much the book has resonated with so many different people. Whether their courage to leave a comfortable life (from Manila to Mobile, Alabama, to Vancouver, Canada, to New York City), their parenting techniques (you’re too smart to be bored), or their practical approach to life (wow … appetizers!), people seemed to connect to my parents (and my family) more than I ever imagined. The following is a list of my beloved readership so far.
Filipinos and Filipinos abroad (OK, no surprise here).
Anyone with Filipino friends or in-laws: Those who have somehow found themselves amid the Filipino experience, wondering why they are being egged on (no pun intended) to eat a fertilized duck embryo, kissing more titas than they know what to do with, and going to church more often than they thought physically possible.
Asian-Americans and other immigrants: It turns out all these ethnic groups have relatives who stay with them for months at a time.
Europeans, Latin Americans, Africans and basically anyone who feels close to their family: It didn’t seem like it while I was younger, but a lot of people enjoy spending time with their parents and siblings.
Women trying to balance it all: I didn’t realize I was speaking to this audience as I was writing the book but they have turned out to be some of my greatest supporters.
“Don’t Forget the Soap” has been coined everything from a “happy family handbook” to a “great big hug in a book” but I wasn’t purposely going for that. There are a number of books like “The Happiness Project” or “Stumbling on Happiness” that methodically try to measure and dissect happiness. I just wanted to share stories about my family while recounting lessons from my mother. I guess I could have anticipated the result. For as long as I can remember, someone was always commenting on our happy disposition.
One day in college, I was logging into e-mail on my friend Nic’s computer. Electronic mail was in its infancy stage and Yale was using an old system called Minerva, which had a series of codes you needed to enter into the DOS screen before your password. Back then, the DOS system cursor could not always keep up with how fast a person typed. My rhythm must have been off because somehow my password displayed up on the screen in what was supposed to be an innocuous field.
“Aww … is that really your password?” Nic asked, chuckling. He was referring to the letters I had just typed on the screen: S-M-I-L-E.
“Yes, but why are you laughing?”
“It’s just that I’ve always wondered if you’re as happy as you seem, or if it’s just an act, and now I know the answer,” he explained nonchalantly as he put in the new Notorious B.I.G CD. I didn’t know whether to be offended that he doubted my sincerity or whether to appreciate his.
My husband, Alex, had a similar first impression. We met in Sao Paulo, Brazil, while we were both working there as management associates with Citi. There was an instant chemistry between us from the start but for the first three months he thought I was being disingenuous half the time. “Who is that bubbly 24 hours a day?” I remember him skeptically saying. It wasn’t until my family came to visit over Christmas when he had the realization, “Well, I guess they are …” And the rest is history.
In general, Filipinos are a happy bunch. Survey after survey and year after year, the Philippines comes up on top of every happiness index from The Economist to Instagram. This is one of the reasons why the country’s recent tourism tagline, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” couldn’t be more perfect. Launched in 2012 to attract visitors to the country, this campaign has been incredibly successful in creating positive buzz.
In fact, marketing intelligence service Warc released its annual Warc 100 list of the world’s top marketing campaigns and ranked the campaign as third, behind only Vodafone’s Fakka (Egypt) and American Express’ Small Business Saturday (US). Using Filipinos themselves as the inspiration for the campaign and the slogan was pure genius.
Beyond the seemingly inherent Filipino trait, however, I attribute our happiness to my parents from whom I’ve learned nearly everything.
My mother has taught me how to stock a pantry so you’re always ready for visitors, how to perfectly wrap a gift and how to properly greet my elders.
My father has taught me how to drive a stick shift on the hills of Sao Paulo, how to talk to anyone about anything, and how to efficiently pack a balikbayan box.
Both of them have taught me how to be kind, thankful and patient. But the most important lesson I’ve learned from them is this: the happiest people don’t have the best of everything—they make the best of everything.
It wasn’t long ago that my parents immigrated to North America with everything they owned in two suitcases. They lived in a one-bedroom basement suite, my mother worked as a Reitmans department store clerk while my father took a side job at Pizza Patio.
They held birthday parties for my brother and me in the playland at a nearby McDonald’s. Now they jet set around the world, have a comfortable home base in the heart of three global cities, and leisurely spend their days surrounded by family and friends.
I’m not saying life is perfect. “This isn’t heaven,” my mother always reminds me when I’m frustrated that something didn’t work out the way I wanted. Like everyone else, my parents have their share of challenges and bumps in the road, but somehow they always find a constructive way to deal with them. They manage to turn around any tough situation by finding the positive in it. They do this for everything, big and small.
“A few months ago, as my parents were preparing to leave for the airport there was an overall rush and nervous energy in our Singapore apartment. My father was trying to figure out how to print their boarding passes on our antiquated printer, my mother was walking me through how she had reorganized the kids’ drawers, and Alex was loading the car with their suitcases. Trying to be helpful, my 4-year-old son Carlos turned off the air-conditioner in his bedroom while we were getting ready to leave the apartment. He must have missed the shelf as he was putting down the remote control because it fell with a loud bang. I ran over to see what had happened.
“‘Oh no!’ I exclaimed. Not only was there a crack in the screen but also the digital display was broken. It wasn’t the end of the world but it was the last air-conditioner remote in the apartment that worked (air-conditioning is crucial in Singapore).
“Of course, I wasn’t angry with Carlos but I was noticeably annoyed. ‘This is going to be a pain. I have no idea where to get another one of these things and the landlord will probably charge us a boatload. How are we going to tell the temperature in the meantime?’ I was muttering under my breath.
“‘It’s OK,’ my mother reminded me. ‘It can be replaced. Better the controller have a bad fall than one of the kids. Be thankful that this was the bump for the day.’ And just like that, the broken air-conditioner remote became the best thing in the world.
“‘Making the best of everything’ encapsulates what I love most about my parents. It also summarizes their immigrant experience as well as our family existence. It has been so engrained in me that I subconsciously apply it to my own personal and professional life.
“When I realized that I could probably write another book solely on how my parents lived out this mantra, I decided to go for it. This book attempts to answer the recurring question, ‘How are you guys always this happy?’ It comes down to living your best life, enjoying every moment, and remembering the little things.
“Many people thought my parents were crazy when they decided to pick up and relocate to New York City in their early 40s. As first-generation immigrants to Vancouver, Canada, they were just finally getting comfortable when they decided to make the big move. My father was building a strong reputation as a financial advisor at Eaton Bay Financial Services, my mother had started a successful preschool at Our Lady of Lourdes, a Catholic school two blocks from our home. They were both highly regarded in the local community. No one could understand why on Earth they would want to disrupt their stable lives.
“The fact that they had two young children and limited income did not deter them from moving to New York City because they were incredibly resourceful. Through one of her former colleagues from International School Manila, my mother learned of an opening at the United Nations International School (Unis). She secured this highly sought-after job, which meant that my brother and I could attend the prestigious private school at no cost.
“After getting his real estate license, my father familiarized himself with Manhattan housing and secured us one of the limited spots at Waterside Plaza, which was part of the Mitchell-Lama Housing program that developed affordable housing for middle-income residents. It also happened to be located right next to Unis so it couldn’t be any more convenient for our family.
“Beyond housing and schools, my parents also managed to sprinkle unique experiences throughout each year, which also added color to our lives. We went to Broadway shows because my mother found a way to get $10 tickets for the back row. Sure, we were next to people who were using their seats at “Cats” to eat Chinese take-out but it didn’t matter. My mother and I were able to go on a mother-daughter trip to Italy and stay at an old convent because of my parents’ involvement with the Christian Life Community. My father and brother traveled to France together after my brother got a music scholarship in Provence. Their ingenuity also helped me find an international student scholarship in Yale.
“Now that I have a family of my own, I often find myself reflecting on my own past, my own childhood, and everything I’ve learned from my parents. In some ways, my kids are growing up under completely different circumstances.
“While I had the immigrant experience, my children are having the expat experience. My son just turned 5 and he has already lived in New York City, Singapore and now Hong Kong. My 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter likes San Pellegrino sparkling water and French cheese, and my 9 month old has been globe-trotting since the womb.
“Regardless of how much or how little they have, one of the most important lessons I can teach my children is how to live their best life. During a recent interview, someone asked me what kind of legacy I wanted to leave behind. That would be it.
“Living your best life is not a novel idea. Google the phrase and you’ll see all sorts of headlines, tips and steps on how to live your full potential. Oprah made this phrase famous, and my dear friend and women’s empowerment expert Claudia Chan promotes a similar idea.
“It’s also something my parents have been showing me for as long as I can remember. Like anything learned, however, it’s one thing when you’re memorizing steps and acronyms, but another when it’s simply what you see and know. I’m grateful to my parents for giving me this head start. Living your best life is the best example they could have set for my brother and me.
There are a few more reasons I decided to write another book:
I remembered many more family anecdotes that I want to share with my kids.
I’ve had a lot of requests to share more stories about my dad and my brother (and I aim to please).
I’ve had some insights (or at least stray observations) since writing my first book.
I’m on another maternity leave. When I found out I was pregnant a few months back the first thought that crossed my mind was, How wonderful! Carlos and Isabel have been so great and now we get to have another! And I have to admit that my second thought was, Hmm … I wonder if I’ll have a chance to write another book;
“‘Everybody has one book in them. Almost nobody has two.’ The other night Alex and I were watching “The Affair,” a new Showtime TV drama series. When the father-in-law of the main character, a writer made rich by Hollywood movies, says this as a dig to his son-in-law, it ended up challenging me.
“Here are a few things you may observe since the first book:
1. I still like lists but I have also expanded to litmus tests.
2. I still like footnotes but I use less of them. E-books don’t make footnotes very fun as all the notes are consolidated at the end of each chapter (as opposed to at the bottom of each page) so I’ve tried to incorporate most of my side comments into the overall text.
3. I still tell a lot of stories about my mom but I also tell more stories about my dad. Not surprisingly, there has been just as much interest in my father as my mother. As I have mentioned on several occasions, he has been just as influential on my life though it was mother who explicitly verbalized her reminders.
4. I still make a lot of TV and pop culture references.
5. My family remains as corny as ever.
“Like the first book, this one is not meant to be prescriptive by any means. If, by taking another trip down memory lane and reflecting on what I’ve learned, I’m able to give others another perspective they find helpful, then that’s fabulous. Otherwise, it is part two of my family memoir that I hope my children at the very least will enjoy.”
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