Seeing the Divine Worth in Your Foreign Spouse

I have been sharing in my posts, for quite a while now, many of the cultural traits of Filipinos that really put to the test a Westerner’s ability to endure culture shock.

In some of my previous posts I’ve touched on how the only way an interracial relationship like this can not just function but actually thrive is by removing any hint of negativity or judgement towards the most irking aspects of the Filipino culture and replacing them with feelings of appreciation and an attitude of acceptance.

If a Western partner of a Filipina begins to moan, whine and complain about bahala na, ako muna, utang na loob, isang kahig isang tuka etc. it will not be long before the relationship collapses or begins to barely coast along with very little love and passion.

So, shifting from frustration to appreciation is critical in any relationship but much more so in this kind of interracial relationship.

Those who stress the importance of appreciation in an intimate relationship usually say that the way you appreciate your partner is by focusing on his or her good qualities.

I believe that this attitude can be taken to a much higher level thereby creating much higher levels of intimacy if we, instead of just focusing on what’s positive or even great about our spouse, choose to focus on our partner’s potential to display divine traits.

An ancient scripture says that humans have been created in “God’s image” or with the potential to display godlike qualities.

This awareness gets me to consistently look through the idiosyncracies of the Filipino culture and look, not just for what’s merely good in it and in my spouse, but rather for how my wife has the potential to mirror godlike qualities.

If you choose to operate from this frame you will see your Filipina as a potentially extraordinary human beings with whom, by lifting your level of spiritual and emotional mastery, you can build an outstanding relationship, actually a quote-unquote “divine” one.

Let me share with you a brief thought from the Persian poet Hafiz (quoted by Dr. Wayne Dyer in “The Power of Intention” chapter 5):

“When you sit before a Master like me,
Even if you are a drooling mess,
My eyes sing with Excitement
They see your Divine Worth”
— Hafiz

To me the way to turn a relationship with a person, who comes from a culture filled with aspects that, by the Western standards, could be viewed as “messy”, into something really extraordinary is by adopting an extraordinary ability to look through the quote-unquote “mess” and look for the divine worth of your partner.

I believe that divine qualities are hardwired into each and every one of us but they are largely clouded by human imperfection and by the fact that humans have deflected themselves from their Creator thereby creating countries and cultures that are all filled with idiosyncrasies and traits that are light years away from divine perfection (and that also applies to Western countries of course).

In an intimate relationship, and particularly in a multiethnic one, partners can help each other to dredge up those qualities and enjoy an outstanding relationship instead of allowing frustration and resentment toward each other’s culture to spoil a relationship that has a great potential to be a “divine” one.

If my Filipino Wife Lives in my Country Why do I have to be the One to Adjust to her Culture?

A Filipino sari-sari store in Rome

My short answer is: because chances are that your Filipino wife and, most of all, her extended family (if they live with you) might never be the ones to adjust.

It may appear that, because Filipinos are so well-travelled (my wife for example worked in several Asian countries and in the USA before she came to Italy), they should easily and readily be able to broaden their perspective and embrace other cultures.

What I’ve realized is that, although they have moved their BODIES to a different country, their HEARTS and MINDS STILL LIVE IN THE PHILIPPINES.

They spend their free time chatting with their friends and relatives in the Philippines through Skype or Facebook and associating with the Filipino community in the country where they work and rarely do they widen out and make friends with the people of the host country.

Before I married my wife I travelled abroad less than my wife did, but, like most Westerners, I travelled moved by a spirit of adventure and a burning desire to EXPLORE OTHER CULTURES.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that, although my wife is the “immigrant” here in Italy, I, as her Western husband, am in a better position to open up to other cultures because I have a background that is made up of years of travelling for the purpose of expanding my mental and cultural horizons while many Filipinos only move their bodies to another country but, emotionally speaking, they never really leave the Philippines.

But, apart from the cultural diversities that exist in a multiethnic marriage, I think that anyone who enters any intimate relationship, interracial or not, should, as a general criterion, always be the first one to make the move of going the extra mile instead of expecting his or her spouse to make the first move because the cardinal rule for a successful marriage of any sort, not necessarily a mixed one, is giving and yielding.

Talaga bang Bahala-na si Bathala?

Una sa lahat nais kong sabihin na ang blog ko ay hindi upang ipakipag-usap ang tungkol kay Bathala.

Ang totoong pokus ko dito ay kung paano magkaroon ng isang matagumpay na relasyon sa pagitan ng isang Foreigner at isang Pilipina.

Ngunit interesado ako sa kung papaano nangangatuwiran ang mga Pilipino dahil Pilipina ang asawa ko at nabubuhay ako araw-araw kasama ng Pinoy mentality, kaya gusto ko rin i-share ang aking personal na pananaw tungkol sa kasabihang Bahala-na si Bathala.

Una sa lahat kailangang liwanagin kung sino ang Bathala na tinutukoy sa pananalitang ito dahil, kung, halimbawa, ang Bathalang iyon ay ang Krystianong Bathala ang alam ko ay na maraming ibinibigay na babala ang Bathalang iyon.

Ngayon, kung sa kabila ng mga babala ni Bathala ay binabale-wala ng tao ang babala ni Bathala, nagiging medyo maling akala na bahala si Bathala sa masamang resulta na idinudulot ng pagwawalang-bahala ng tao sa mga babala ni Bathala.

Isang halimbawa lang: ang alam ko ay na si Bathala ay nagbibigay ng babala tungkol sa labis ng pag-iinom ng alak. Syempre naman hindi ko sinasabi na binabale-wala ng mga Pilipino iyon dahil alam ko mabuti na hindi naman marami ang iniinom ng mga Pilipino kundi kaunti-container lang… inuulit ko lang…..

Pero kung sakali ang ilan sa kabila ng babala ni Bathala tungkol sa labis ng konsumo ng alak ay binabale-wala nila ang ganitong babala makatuwiran bang asahan nila na bahala-na si Bathala?

Kaya ang punto ko ay na kung talagang bahala-na si Bathala sa bawat situwasyon wala sanang ibinibigay na babala si Bathala ‘di ba?

Kaunting personal reflection bilang pampatunaw……

Ang isang babala ni Bathala

The Basic Structure of the Tagalog Language-Part 4 (Location/direction Focus-Beneficiary Focus-Instrumental Focus)

In part 2 of my series of posts about the basic structure of the Tagalog language ( I touched on actor focus (mag-,-um-, ma-) and object focus (-in, i-,-an, ma-) verbs.

In this post I am going to cover

Location/direction verbs

Beneficiary focus verbs

Instrumental verbs


In Tagalog the affix -an is used to talk about a location, and this applies not just to verbs but also to nouns.

For example the word aklatan, which is formed by combining aklat (book) with –an means “library” or “the place or location where books can be found”.

The word basurahan, which is formed by adding -an to basura (garbage) is the place where people dispose of garbage.

Similarly verbs that end with –an generally refer to an action where the focus is either the location or the direction of the action.

For example if I am going to Juan’s house I can use the verb puntahan and the house of Juan is my pupuntahan.

If I do something in behalf of someone and this person is the receiver or the direction of my action, I also use an –an verb like bigyan where the verb (“to give”) is used to talk about the person to whom an object is given, like for instance bigyan ko ng bulaklak ang misis ko (“my wife is the one to whom I give the flowers”, so my action, the action of buying flowers is directed toward my wife).

Sometimes –an can also be used for object focus verbs (see part 2) or even beneficiary focus verbs, speaking of which let’s now talk about those


These verbs are used to talk about the beneficiary of an action like for example the verb bilhan (to buy for someone) ex. bilhan mo ang bata ng kendi (“buy the candy for the child”)

In addition to –an another beneficiary focus affix is ipag- like in the following sentence: ipagluto mo ng l ang mga bata ng fried chicken (“(you) cook some fried chicken for the children”), even though, to be honest, I don’t hear ipag- verbs very much in everyday speech (my wife never uses ipag- verbs but she does use –an beneficiary verbs)

An easy way to talk about the beneficiary of an action without having to learn the beneficiary focus is by simply using the expression para sa (“for something”) or para kay (“for someone”) in an actor focus or in a object focus sentence.

For example, instead of saying ipagluto mo ang mga bata ng fried chicken you could simply say magluto ka ng fried chicken para sa mga bata (or para kay Mario if you are using a personal name)


The last type of focus is the instrumental which talks about the tool or instrument one is using to do something.

The affix here is ipang- or ipan-

So I could say something like “I am using the walis tambo to sweep the floor” and, in this case I have to use ipanlinis ko ang walis tambo ng sahig

If I wanted to avoid using the instrumental focus I could simply use an actor or object focus verb + the expression sa pamamagitan (“by means of”) like nagwawalis ako ng sahig sa pamamagitan ng walis tambo and, in reality, I have never heard my wife using ipang- verbs, she always uses either an actor focus affix or an object focus affix followed by the expression sa pamamagitan.

So these are in a nutshell the various verbal focus affixes in Tagalog.

In future posts I’ll cover some more grammar rules.

The Real Meaning Behind the Expression “Mahal Kita” or “I Love You”

More or less all the sources of information that talk about how to have a successful romantic relationship say that the secret to having a happy relationship is to be focused on giving rather than receiving. We all, more or less, understand that.

A couple of years ago, while reading a book about relationships, I stumbled upon an important criterion for determining where we are putting our focus in the relationship.

A really important gauge to measure where our focus goes is the personal pronouns we consistently use.

All those who are in a relationship (including myself and I think today I have done it at least ten times) have uttered the famous phrases: “I love you”, “I want you”, “I need you”, ” I can’t live without you”, or, in Tagalog, mahal kita, gusto kita and so on (

Thrivial though this concept may sound, any sentence that starts with “I” inevitably shifts the focus to what it is I love, I want, I need, that without which I cannot live.

These are phrases that we all repeat more or less mechanically believing that we are giving importance to our spouse but, in reality, they give a lot more importance to ourselves.

So, as the famous psychologist Wayne Dyer said, among others, it is better to start any sentence addressed to our spouse with “YOU” and say things like: “it seems to me that you are unwell, what can I do to make you feel better?”

It seems an unimportant aspect but, in reality, starting any sentence with “YOU” when we address our partner, makes a huge difference because “there is more happiness in giving than in receiving” and only by practicing giving (and being focused on the needs of the other) one can expect the other to reciprocate and be moved to love us in return.

It seems like Filipinos are making progress under this aspect because, although many Tagalog songs contain the expression mahal kita, there is a popular song by Yeng Constantino entitled Ikaw (“You”) and that’s a good sign….

Buying your Wife Roses: a Cross-cultural Way to Say “I Love You”!

Uso pa ba ang harana, marahil ikaw ay nagtataka…na binibili kita ng mga rosas”

Buying roses is and, I guess, will always be a cross-cultural, overarching, across-the-board, multiethnic, interracial, universal way to show your wife that you love her.

In my blog I talk about the challenges of being in an interracial intimate relationship but I must admit that buying your foreign wife roses easily and quickly bridges all cultural diversities and is universally appreciated by women from every nation, tribe or tongue and they are an evergreen way to say “I love you”!

Yes, roses are an incredibly cross-cultural way to win your wife’s love and approval no matter where she is from and they constitute the most direct, universal way to say “I love you” for women from every race, tribe, nation and tongue and you can’t go wrong with those….

Italy Off the Beaten Track: the Tip of the Sorrento Peninsula

My wife’s country (the Philippines) and mine have one thing in common: they offer way more than crowded tourist spots. Both countries actually offer countless opportunities to travel off the beaten track.

In this blog I have already touched on how my wife’s birthplace in the Philippines offers amazing off the beaten track places such as the underground river of barangay Bulusukan and, more in general, the Sierra Madre area which is partly almost uncharted and unexplored and definitely off the radar of mass tourism (

Backdrop view of Capri Island from my parents’s house in Termini

My birthplace is definitely not part of an uncharted and unexplored area. On the contrary, it is part of one of the most popular and crowded tourist spots in the world, namely the Sorrento Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast.

Monte di San Costanzo

However, there is a corner of the peninsula (my birthplace), which is right at the end of it, and is located at the edge of mass tourism flows and which, for this very reason, has a particular charm: I’m talking about Termini, part of the municipality of Massalubrense which is located on the extreme tip of the Sorrento peninsula and acts as a “watershed” between the two gulfs of Naples and Salerno.

Even in mid-August, when the Amalfi coast is blocked by traffic and all the beaches accessible by car are more crowded than a shopping mall, Termini offers the possibility of lonely excursions and solitary swims.

Some corners of the fraction of Termini are particularly suitable for solitary hikers: at the tip of the peninsula (known as Punta Campanella) there are very few people who venture into the “pertuso”, a sort of canyon that leads to the deep waters of the tip, and there are even fewer people who, instead of reaching the tip from the main path (via Campanella), choose the much more rugged path that starts from the mountain of San Costanzo.

If you are planning on visiting the Amalfi Coast check my birthplace out, I promise you that you won’t regret it.

Monte di San Costanzo

The trail to Punta Campanella
The trail to Punta Campanella
The “Pertuso”
The deep waters of Punta Campanella

The Misleading Western Veneer of the Philippines

The reason why I am using the expression “misleading” with regard to the Western veneer of the Philippines is because, basically, when I first met my wife I had a vague idea that the Philippines is an ex Spanish and US colony and that Filipinos are usually fluent in English, and so I kind of fell into the trap of assuming that I wouldn’t have to work really hard at building rapport with my wife’s culture precisely because I thought that the Philippines was essentially a Western country or, at least, a country that was heavily influenced by its former Western colonizers.

Yet, before long (and I mean less than three months into the marriage) I started noticing that my wife was akin to us Westerners only on the surface and I started noticing a bunch of things that set the Filipino community very far apart from the West.

For example, as I have already mentioned in one of my posts, I noticed that both my wife and her friends and relatives would hardly associate with local people and that 99,9% of my social life was only taking place within the context of Filipino social gatherings. My old friends hardly existed for my wife and I had to really insist to get her to spend an evening with my former friends.

This isn’t just my wife’s mentality but rather a very widespread characteristic of the Filipino community here in Rome: they basically form a very closed sort of “enclave” and they almost only socialize with other Filipinos.

The gap between the Western veneer of the Philippines and the actual reality became more evident to me the first time I set foot in the Philippines. When I got out of the N.A.I.A. airport I found myself almost immediately on the Roxas Boulevard (which is very close to the airport) and because it was 11 pm the boulevard was full of neon lights.

A view of the Makati City Skyline from the EDSA Avenue (the “Western veneer” of the Philippines)

I had visited quite a few cities that have some American style skyscrapers and neon lights but nothing like what I saw in Manila in terms of the amount of neon lights and skyscrapers and the size of the shopping malls.


A typical house compound in San Ildefonso Bulacan where relatives live in close proximity (the reality behind the “veneer”)

So my very first impression of Manila by night, with it’s buildings entirely covered with neon lights, those massive fast-food restaurants, malls and skyscrapers (and the contrast between these things and the various Spanish-style Christian churches that I was noticing along the way) plus the huge karatula, most of which written in English, was that I had really landed in a Western country.

But when I arrived in San Ildefonso, Bulacan (my wife’s town) an entirely different reality revealed itself.

For example I noticed that my wife’s house compound was structured in such a way that the entire extended family lived in very close proximity and, as I walked along the M. Valte Road, I observed that, more or less, all compounds were structured in a similar way.

So I became aware that Filipinos have a concept of what constitutes a family that is miles away from the Western idea of family.

When I was in my mid-twenties my parents were eager to get rid of me and wanted me to find work and my own house as soon as possible, while in the Philippines parents expect their married sons and daughters to build their house in the family compound and never leave.

My brother lives 50 km away from me and we only see each other four or five times a year while my wife and her brother call each other every single day.

Although my mother is invalid she prefers paying a katulong to getting a bigger house where my wife and I could live close to her and give her some assistance while my wife’s mother lives with us.

So, yes, the Filipino concept of what constitutes a family is one of those areas in which the contrast between the Western veneer of the Philippines and its actual mentality is quite striking

So, if you are contemplating the idea of marrying a Filipina, don’t assume that you are going to marry a Western woman.

If you assume that you will pretty soon discover the truthfulness of what the “Culture Shock Philippines” book by Alfredo and Grace Roces says: “The Western visitor (or anyone who has long term relationships with Filipinos) may find he is speaking the same language but not communicating at all. With a sinking feeling he realises he is not in America or England or Canada, but in an entirely different world. Feeling betrayed, the Westerner retreats into his own shell”

To avoid finding yourself in the position described by the above mentioned book you need to operate from the premise that the various trappings of the Western world that abound in the Philippines only constitute a veneer and underneath this coating there is a culture that has a radically different concept of what constitutes a family.

But the kin-group culture is just one of the many aspects that set the Filipino society very far apart from the Western model of the world.

In past articles I have touched on other areas in which the Filipino culture is a vast universe, underneath the “Western coating”, that a Western husband of a Filipina needs to explore with huge amounts of radical openmindedness if he wants to avoid finding himself in the position of “speaking the same language while not being able to communicate at all”.







Filipinos and Italian Food (Multi ethnicity in my Kitchen)

Pinoy food
….and more Pinoy food
My wife’s cutting-edge lasagna

This is more or less the way my kitchen looks like on Saturdays or Sundays.

One thing that I have found out in my 20-year long relationship with a Filipina is that Filipinos easily learn how to cook (quite proficiently) the foods that are typical of the country they work in.

My wife is not the only Filipino migrant in Italy who excels at preparing Italian dishes (as Filipinos usually work for rich and demanding employers) but, when it comes to lasagna, she does a pretty amazing job.

From time to time I try to fool around with lumpya and pandesal and I have a crazy idea to come up with my own version of halo-halo.

The best is yet to come….