Michael Bandoy and May Tobias
Michael Bandoy and his wife are from the Philippines. They chose a route to build a happy and good life for their family by making a carefully calculated sacrifice which they believe would only benefit them in the long run.
In 2014, when Michael decided to pack his bags and leave behind his son and wife back home in the Philippines to accept a job offer in Dubai, he did feel a tinge of sorrow. But a better job and pay was enticing and he and his wife were sure that the extra money he would earn would help give the children a better lifestyle.
“The offer I received in Dubai
was twice the money I was making in
the Philippines. So, I decided to accept
the offer immediately. The decision to
be in a long-distance relationship was purely on the grounds of financial stability for my family. It was hard but I had to do it,” he says.
The initial days staying apart were difficult for the family. Michael had to come to terms with his biggest opponent – homesickness. “I used to cry every night, especially the first six months of me moving away. I had to keep reminding myself why I was here.”
The couple, however, had promised each other that they would keep in touch regularly and they do. “We would start the day by greetings in the morning. We shared a lot of pictures, including those of the meals we prepared. We wanted to make sure that we were completely involved in each other’s activities at all times. In a situation as ours, constant communication, I feel, is key,” Michael explains.
At the time Michael moved, his son, Xian, was all of four years of age. As it would be for any toddler, it was not easy for the little boy to realise his father wasn’t around more often. “Whenever I called home, he would ask me if he could come live with me,” said Michael.
His job with a telecommunication company was going well and he was pretty settled in life when he received an offer from another company based in Singapore in 2017.
Michael makes it clear that one of the biggest reasons he decided to accept the job there was because ‘this meant being a lot closer to home... just three hours away from Singapore.’’
He accepted the opportunity and today is based in Singapore. ‘‘Before the pandemic, I would go home every other month,” Michael says, explaining how the Covid-related lockdown made it difficult for him to travel for two years.
However, the trips resumed with restrictions easing and travel getting back to pre-Covid frequencies. “Fortunately, when the Covid-19 situation stabilised and restrictions had been lifted, I was able to go home for two months at a stretch. It also helped very much that we got approvals to work from home.”
For two months, the family bonded like they never had before, going on road trips and enjoying one of the most memorable vacations they had in years.
As he looks back on his time staying away, Michael recollects that to make the best of a situation, he chose one thing that remained a constant during their time apart. He would always schedule his annual leaves in May, the birthday month of both wife and son. These were celebrations he very much looked forward to.
Does he nurse any regrets?
Yes, says Michel. ‘Missing my son’s many milestones growing up.’’
Bearing this in mind and reaching a comfortable position to consider such a move, the couple have decided to reunite. Xian is now 12 and is looking forward to spending more time with his father, and mother both because the couple have got some big plans in the works.
“We are making arrangement for my family to live with me next year. He is excited to be with me in Singapore. My son will continue his secondary education here.” The move will be an expensive one, but Michael believes it will be worth it as the family will finally get to spend time together and live together as they should.
In retrospect, if he were to do things differently, Michael feels he would have thought about a reunion sooner than later. “Long distance relationships are hard. It’s not for everyone, a lot of relationships have been ruined by the absence of their partner alongside them. I’m lucky my wife was as relentless as I was and always made the extra effort to communicate and remain in touch daily.
“If there is anything good from this experience, I would say it has helped our bond become stronger and has built trust. It has made us independent.”
Sandra and Abraham
High school sweethearts Sandra and Abraham Muthalaly teaches us perseverance and patience cemented with love of no known measure.
They met and fell in love at the tender age of 16, back in 1998 as classmates in Bahrain. Both belonging to the same religion and region, their union was not as dramatic as much as their life as it unfolded with so many more years of living in two separate countries than they did under the same roof!
Their story of a long distance relationship began right after they finished high school and went two different ways to pursue two different fields of study – engineering and medicine – in two different nations. The distance only made their hearts grow fonder when eight years on, and several long letters (emails) and long international calls done after scouring for coins from deep inside their student pockets, they decided to tie the knot in 2008.
“Those eight years were the start to our long distance relationship!” Sandra said, her voice still laden with as much excitement as has her life been over the past two decades. getting married at the tender age of 25 meant that the couple were still at the starting point of their careers, their prime! -Graduating as a doctor meant that Sandra had a few years ahead of her to specialise in her field – a natural transition of those in the field of medicine. It was however at the heart of her postgraduation studies that she gave birth to their first born, Matthieu 12 years ago.
“Those years were the toughest! I was doing my post graduation in Bangalore and Abraham was working in Mumbai. We only made it because we had a lot of support from our family,” Sandra explains.
Right after she graduated from her Masters however, the ball fell into Abraham’s court and the couple decided it was time for him to pursue his MBA. This meant separating the couple farther apart, with Sandra and their son in India, and Abraham further afield in Australia for six months, and then Singapore. “But then again, like angels we had a lot of support from both our families. At this point, although living in different places, we had reached a position in our careers where we both are happy!”
One completing his course he moved to Dubai when he landed himself a job here, and Sandra landed herself a tenure with a hospital in Bahrain. Their daughter Elizabeth was born in 2016, the family was still split in two with Abraham and their son living in Dubai and visiting often.
“Now that we have 2 children, the biggest challenge is to be one unit. There have been times when the either of us have missed the kids birthdays, anniversaries, so on and so forth. Not being able to physically be there when they are upset or have something to talk about is what we feel is the biggest challenge.
Ironically, in all this time, the only time that the family of four have lived together for a long period of time under the same roof was during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. “From mid-2020 till early 2022, I took a break from my career because the news was over overwhelming and I just wanted to be with Abe and the kids. And it was the best! The four of us were together finally and we made the best of COVID times!”
Sandra picked up the reigns to her career once again early this year as the family took the decision for her to return to work – back to Bahrain. The children meanwhile stay with their father, who is supremely hands on.
“He makes up for me too!! We are lucky that in this era we have video calls so we talk to each other atleast 5 to 6 times a day. The kids aren’t too happy about this arrangement, but contrary to popular belief, children adapt very well. My kids know that I am away for a reason and they see us make the effort of meeting and being in touch constantly. I feel it makes them a little more sensitive and respectful of a situation where it needs be,” explains Sandra.
Sandra admits that staying apart especially when you have children and a happy marriage can be extremely tough. But she also believes that everything happens for a reason, and there is no other way to look at it. “I’ve been told that I am a strong woman but I do have my moments when I think I missed their birthdays, school functions, their sports days and so on. Abraham and I have raised a beautiful family so when I feel regret all the good memories come in later!”
The family is currently focussing on a workable plan to reunite by next year. As for now, Sandra travels to Dubai every two to three weeks to be with her family.
“The excitement when I land just to see them and vice versa is priceless! People keep telling me that our marriage is this strong perhaps because of all the distance in it! I would beg to differ! Our marriage works because we give each other the space and freedom! It’s very difficult if you don’t share a common trust with each other. Everyone who knows me definitely knows that I’m the louder, talkative and the more bossy one between us – and Abe lets me be! This is who he chose to marry and God help him for the rest of his beautiful life!” Sandra exclaims.
Keeping alight her cheerful nature, she is quick to add that the couple have known each other too long, and feels faith and respect have been key in keeping their bond strong and alive. “Since we both started out as friends our relationship is still just as it was when we first began our relationship, in grade 11! He still annoys me to no end and I am always getting annoyed, but that’s the beauty of it. He is my friend first, and will always be that annoying, and all-mine friend!”
Rohini and Jibitesh
They met in Mumbai in India, while working in the same organisation. There she was, this beautiful fair lady, and there he was the bright-eyed charmer. The transition from colleagues to lovers took a short while between Rohini Saberwal and Jibitesh Dash before the couple confessed their feelings to each other and which set pace for deep, meaningful love story.
Jibby, as he is fondly called, moved to Dubai in for work. Shortly afterwards, the couple got married and Rohini joined him in the city. Life went on as the newly wed soon settled into a new life in a new city, building memories, friendships and soon a family with the birth of their son Aryan.
As time progressed though, the couple began exploring better opportunities afield, and together took the decision to emigrate to Canada late 2019. As per their plans, Jibby would move to Canada first, find a place to live, identify a school for their son and settle down before his family joined him in four months.
Things however changed course when COVID-19 hit in 2020, bringing movement, travel and life to a screeching halt. What was to be done in four months, took a little while longer extending to nine months instead. Just as they had all their bags packed, and ready to leave, the pandemic thrusted their plans off track.
“There were no flights and the lockdown restrictions made it difficult for us to budge from where we were,” Rohini said.
However, what would have been a time to panic or be overwhelmed by the frustrations of having these long and well thought out plans foiled, the couple were able to channel it in an optimistic and resourceful manner.
Being locked indoors and home bound all the time gave the family ample time to talk and connect over video and calls every day. “Our son was younger then and we wanted to make sure that he does not feel he is missing out bonding with his parents. We were constantly in communication with each other, giving the tangible feel to being present in each other’s company.”
While both Rohini and their son provided updates on their life back home in Dubai, Jibby used to explain about his new experiences in Canada and described to his son all the fun things he had in store to explore when he joined his father. She explains that in order to ensure that this familial bond remained strong, the couple would get on a call daily even if either were dealing with long, tiresome days.
It was important for the couple to make sure that either felt being an integral part of all decisions being made, especially at a time when they were going through an important transition in their lives, moving countries and relocating.
“Our biggest challenge at the time was to try and work around the time differences. For instance, if we needed some urgent matter to be resolved or attended to, we were forced to wait until one or the other of us woke up the next day!” Rohini explains.
She explains how it is easy to be sidetracked from the common goal of being in touch when you have such stark time differences, as well as school, work and social commitments, and so it was essential that there be open, and a perpetual flow of communication.
“We have no regrets about the decision we took, and about the time we spent apart. It taught us a few things, in being independent and managing fine,” explains Rohini, who is now in Canada with her family and settling into the new life they have built together.