Mansy Balangue, a web developer on the Enterprise Applications team, first joined WEX as an intern in March of 2020. His career journey, though, started several years – and thousands of miles – before that. No matter the distance, Mansy has always helped support his family in the Philippines, whether that be monetarily or via balikbayan boxes.
Growing up in the Philippines
Born in the Philippines, Mansy knew at a young age that his education and a resulting career were priorities for him. He was determined to become a web developer and to secure a position that would enable him to help his family financially. He did just that and worked in web developer positions in Manila for eight years, giving back monetarily to his parents so that they could live more comfortably. He hoped that eventually his career would take him outside the Philippines, like Singapore. While moving to and working in the United States was intriguing, Mansy didn’t seriously consider it given the rigorous visa process. And then, as the saying goes, life happened.
Moving to the United States
Mansy met his partner, Joe, in an online traveling group. They first met in person after Joe invited Mansy to visit and explore Maine. Their shared love of traveling was one of the things that drew them together. Knowing that they wanted to build a life together, they decided to do so in the US, and Mansy made the move thousands of miles away from his family.
In their time together in the U.S., Mansy and Joe have traveled the country extensively and have traveled internationally as well. To date, visiting Mount Washington in New Hampshire with its breathtaking views and being in Taiwan on New Year’s Eve – and watching fireworks above the city – are top travel experiences. Another top experience is visiting the Portland, Maine waterfront. It was during that trip that Mansy saw the WEX corporate office and said to himself, “I’m going to work there.”
Going from intern to FTE
Mansy’s trip to the Portland waterfront put into play an actionable goal. His first steps were to learn a bit more about WEX and to look for open roles where he might be a good fit. While he had eight years of web development experience in the Philippines, he found it difficult to find a role where his experience and education equated to that of U.S. applicants. Determined to find a way to join the WEX team, Mansy applied for an internship as a quality assurance (QA) intern who would work on QA automation for the Enterprise team. In his application, he included an essay that expressed his interest in WEX and explained the challenges he was facing related to continuing his career in the US. His perseverance and honesty paid off: Mansy was hired.
The internship concluded after three months, and at that same time, COVID-19 started drastically affecting businesses and their hiring plans. While Mansy was not offered a full-time position to extend his internship, he was offered a contractor position. After 14 months of working as a contractor, Mansy was offered a full-time position as web developer 1 for the Enterprise team. Mansy was recently promoted to web developer 3 for Fleet partner marketing sites, performing maintenance and making enhancements to keep the sites running smoothly.
Making the difference: WEXers
Moving to the United States to start a new career and life with Joe hasn’t been without challenges. However, Mansy has found a support system through the relationships he’s built at WEX. Mansy is very grateful for the, in his words, “awesome friends” he’s made at WEX as they’ve encouraged him to continue growing and learning in his career. He feels supported and appreciated by his coworkers for everything he does, which he says validates the work he’s doing. “The people I work with are what I love the most at WEX,” Mansy shares. “I believe it speaks to the culture here.”
Staying connected to family
Although Mansy came from a less fortunate upbringing than many of his peers both in the Philippines and the U.S., through his hard work and determination, he has created a beautiful life for himself – and he shares as much of that as he can with his family back home. By remembering and appreciating where he came from, Mansy is filled with gratitude for what his parents were able to provide for him and his siblings. He spends much of what he makes monetarily on his family in the Philippines. Mansy doesn’t feel obligated to help his family back home. Rather, his intentions are inspired by the love and appreciation he has for his family and for what his parents sacrificed in order to see him succeed. Balikbayan boxes play a key role in how Mansy expresses his gratitude.
Boxing up gratitude
Mansy is one of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who emigrate to the U.S. to live and work. A common tradition for OFWs to stay connected with their families in the Philippines is to send them a large care package of items and goods that they might not have access to there. These care packages are referred to as balikbayan boxes. A balikbayan is a Filipino visiting or returning to the Philippines after a period of living in another country. According to the 99% Invisible organization, nearly 400,000 thousand balikbayan boxes arrive monthly in the Philippines from all over the world.
The boxes vary in size and can be as large as 24” by 18” by 24” (61 cm by 46 cm by 61 cm). They are often filled to the brim and need to be well secured with several layers of packing tape so that they complete their three-to-four month journey intact.
Hand-picking items for family members
Since Mansy sends his family a balikbayan box each month, he needs to plan about four months ahead given the shipping time of the boxes. He is very purposeful and thoughtful in what he chooses for the boxes. SPAM®, a family favorite, is first on the list. Mansy’s sister is a book and fashion lover, so he always picks out a new book and checks out T.J.Maxx® for a fashion trend for her. His brother is a big fan of Old Navy®, and since it is quite expensive in the Philippines, Mansy enjoys gifting him clothes from there. As for his parents, while they don’t ask for anything, Mansy still wants to give them the things they haven’t always been able to purchase. He loves to treat his mom to nice handbags and his dad to things he hasn’t had or cannot get in the Philippines. While the balikbayan boxes most certainly mean a lot to his family, they mean more to Mansy. “I do it to show my love, and I send them often because it makes me feel connected, especially since I cannot always easily go home,” he shares.
Mansy and Joe currently live in a home they built in Bridgton, Maine. Although Mansy is incredibly thankful for the opportunities he’s been given and for the life he is creating in the US, he misses his family in the Philippines. It’s been nearly two years for his visa paperwork to be approved; he can then apply for US citizenship and eventually visit his family. In the meantime, he will keep sending balikbayan boxes. It is evident that Mansy Balangue is a genuine individual who values his family and believes in sharing his success with those who helped him get to where he is today.
Philippines Government website