Posts in English, Tagalog and Italian About Interracial Marriage and About the Philippines and its Culture BLOG IN INGLESE, ITALIANO E TAGALOG SU MATRIMONIO MULTIETNICO E SULLE FILIPPINE E LA SUA CULTURA
A “Joe Nobody” in his country becomes “Joe Somebody” in the Philippines
I remember walking down the streets of my wife’s barangay alone and everyone would greet me with the expression “hey Joe”.
Filipinos automatically assume that if you are a Westerner your name is “Joe” and that you are wealthy and “Amerikano”.
I also remember all Filipinos and their bags being thoroughly screened at the entrance of each shopping mall I went to.
However the officers would just greet me and smile, as you can see in the picture above (that was at the SM in Rosales, Pangasinan), and say to me “welcome Sir”. And there is nothing like hearing a Filipino call you “Sir” wherever you go, especially when you come from a country where your neighbor treats you like nothing.
Indeed, the Philippines is the place where a Joe Nobody becomes Joe Somebody!
When “Joe the Amerikano” is not Amerikano
I come from Southern Italy and I am neither American nor that wealthy but that is how Filipinos view me whenever I visit the country.
The funny thing is that a friend of mine who left Serbia back in the “90’s, during the war in the ex-Jugoslavia and moved to Italy to seek asylum, later married a Filipina and when he visited the Philippines he too was addressed as “Joe” the “Amerikano” and treated as a wealthy American even though he comes from a country that is perhaps even poorer than the Philippines!
In the Philippines a white man is automatically Amerikano even if he comes from Kazakhstan, Moldova…he can be Greek, Romanian, Albanian or even a gypsy. He is still an “Amerikano”!
Even the unggoy in the gubat (jungle) is impressed by Joe
Yes, Joe Nobody, the one who lives in a country where his neighbors and close relatives barely greet him, arouses the admiration of every living creature, including the unggoy sa gubat, whenever he sets foot in the Philippines.
As husband of a Filipina I have been puzzled with this question “what is the standard of beauty in the Philippines?” for a long time because, as you may expect, I am focused on making my relationship thrive and one of the ways I can do that is by meeting my Filipino wife’s standards among which there is the Filipino standard of beauty.
A husband has to be beautiful from the standpoint of his wife and viceversa and if one is purely focused on inner beauty and is careless about outward appearance while the other values outward beauty (in the broad sense of the word, meaning also dressing, etiquette and manners) a lot there is going to be a mismatch.
So what is the standard of beauty in the Philippines?
Because I have been in a relationship with a Filipina for 20 years now, I have come up with my own analysis and my own conclusions about the Filipino mentality and one of the things that I have repeatedly mentioned in my blog is that Filipinos tend to be more drawn to situations that create a state of masaya (temporary happiness induced by external stimulation) than by things that create a more permanent state of maligaya.
In the Philippines success is primarily measured by external metrics, most Filipinos devote more energy to conquering the world outside than they do to mastering the world within.
Filipinos value things like a fancy car, a nice house in an exclusive condo, the latest electronic gadgets and so on and the Filipino society is structured and organized to cater to the masaya over maligaya mindset.
As I’ve said before, the Philippines is full of giant karatula or billboards that push people to buy and consume, there are huge shopping malls everywhere, TV programs tend to mostly spread gossip about celebrities, beauty pageants are very popular in the Philippines and Filipinos who use social media do so primarily to post selfies to show to the world how cute and sexy they are.
This pretty much answers the question “what is the standard of beauty in the Philippines?”.
The standard of beauty in the Philippines is gwapo (having beautiful looks), sexy, cute and so on.
In much the same way as in the Philippines food has to be masarap (tasty) rather than masustansya or healthy (or let’s say that even when they talk about masustansya or “having substance” they mean food that fills you up or makes you busog not necessarily food that is full of healthy nutrients), a man must be gwapo ratherthan “beautiful inside”, a lady must be sexy and a child (or even a pet) must be cute.
Another gauge to measure the standard of beauty in the Philippines and in the Filipino culture is the extent to which the media have been talking about Catriona Gray or other Filipinas who have won Miss Universe or some other beauty contests. If you are active on social media and have Pinoy fb friends, you might have noticed that up until few months ago Catriona Gray was one of the main hot topics.
I personally believe that if one stakes his or her life too much on external beauty or success in general he or she has greater chances to fall into the darkness of depression when beauty fades away and other external things are taken away or lost.
So I am personally much more oriented toward developing the panloob na pagkatao or the “man within”.
I think in Europe and in the West in general there are more people who value introspection and developing inner qualities, through reading and meditating, than there are among Pinoy people (at very least the ones I have been interacting with for two decades).
Yet, as husband of a Filipina I must acknowledge that she comes from a culture where outward appearance does matter and, therefore, I have had to make some adjustments and pay more attention to the way I dress, my manners and other things that enhance my outward appearance.
Filipinos use adjectives like gwapo, sexy and cute quite a lot and, therefore if you marry a Filipina you will likely have to work on pleasing her under this aspect and try to be as gwapo as you can.
That is not to say that Filipinas only marry people who have outstanding looks, actually they often even marry much older people who are not necessarily super-gwapo but, regardless of the extent to which one is gwapo, someone married to a Filipina must pay attention to outward appearance in the broader sense of the word.
In the Filipino culture there is this strong sense of hiya or shame and much of what Filipinos do or avoid doing is the result of their being overly sensitive to what other people think.
So, if you marry a Filipina, you cannot remain oblivious to social cues pointing to the fact that the way you are projecting yourself outward is causing hiya to your spouse and to the whole kin-group.
As for me, one of my missions through this blog and in my daily interactions with Filipinos is to share my ideas that maligaya is more precious than masaya and that the panloob na pagkatao is what remains when the kagwapohan (hope this is correct) fades away…..
“Bilang banyagang asawa ng isang Pilipina, isa sa mga bagay na napansin ko sa mga Pilipino ay na marami ang mahilig sa kung ano ang nagdudulot ng pansamantalang kaluguran.
Ang Pilipinas ay punong-puno ng mga fast-food na restaurant, mga malaking karatula na nag-aadvertise ng lahat ng uri ng gadget o ibang bagay na nagdudulot ng pagiging masaya.
Maraming mga Pinoy na kilala ko, ay mahilig manood ng maraming TV, mag-Facebook, kumain ng junk food at iba pa.
Ang lahat ng mga bagay na ito ay may kinalaman sa kung ano ang tinatawag ko na pansamantalang pagtatamasa ng kaluguran.
Actually, sa aking pakikipag-usap sa mga kaibigan kong Pinoy, mas naririnig ko ang salitang masaya kaysa sa salitang maligaya.
Sa tingin ko ang pagiging masaya ay ang isang pansamantalang kaluguran na pwede lang tamasahin kapag may libangan, masarap na pagkain, sex o ibang uri ng bagay na pumupukaw ng kaluguran.
Ang kaligayahan naman ay isang mas namamalaging kalagayan na hindi nakakadepende sa pagkakaroon ng libangan, pagkain o iba pa.
Ano ba ang punto ko at ano ang kinalaman nito sa pagkakaroon ng isang matagumpay na romantikong relasyon?
Bweno, ang punto ko ay na mas magiging matagumpay ang isang romantikong relasyon kung ang hinahanap natin sa ating kabiyak ay kung ano ang nagdudulot ng namamalaging kaligayahan sa halip na basta lang ang mga bagay na nagdudulot ng pansamantalang kasiyahan.
Ang isa sa mga bagay na, batay sa nakikita ko, ay baka sobrang mahalaga para sa mga Pilipina ay ang panlabas na hitsura at ang pisikal na kagandahan.
Dahil tiyak na darating ang araw na maglalaho ang pisikal na kagandahan, maliwanag na ito ay isa sa mga bagay na pwede lang magdulot ng talagang maikli at pansamantalang yugto ng kasiyahan sa relasyon.
Para makapagtamasa ng permanenteng kaligayahan na magtatagal kahit magkasakit ang ating kabiyak o kahit ano ang mangyayari sa kanya o sa atin, sa tingin ko, mas mabuti mag-invest sa pagtatayo ng panloob na pagkatao para talagang maranasan ang isang matibay na relasyon.
Bweno, ito ang aking opinyon lang bilang isang banyagang asawa ng isang Pilipina at syempre naman ang bawat isa ay may karapatan na piliin kung ano ang kanyang gustong makita sa isang partner.
Ang masasabi ko lang, batay sa aking karanasan, ay na ang sobrang pagbibigay pansin sa hitsura ay nagdudulot ng kabiguan sa bandang huli”.
The Philippines have a hot and humid tropical weather and quite a few people there seem to be a little hot tempered or, as they say in Tagalog, mainit ang ulo.
Emotionalism is one of the hallmark characteristics of Filipinos and….of women in general.
Many relationship experts have come to the consensus that the best way to deal with emotionally charged people and situations is by keeping one’s cool and by keeping on showing kindness so that strong emotions will slowly but surely melt away.
Like many concepts that relationship experts across the planet talk about, even this concept of treating with kindness a person who is treating you lousy is nothing new, in fact it is very old.
A passage from the New Testament reads “do not render evil for evil…but keep on conquering evil with the good”.
A similar concept can also be found in the words of Socrates “then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone“, providing further evidence that human psychology was designed in such a way that loving relationships (not just romantic relationships but all kind of human interactions) are only possible when one of the two partners breaks the pattern of anger by raising above it to the point of showering it with kindness in circumstances in which showing kindness is a very counterintuitive move.
It has been said that success comes from counterintuitive moves, we succeed in every aspect of life including intimate relationships by going against the grain, by going against what our psyche naturally wants to do.
What our psyche naturally wants to do when someone lashes out is to vent back but that kind of behavior only calls forth further anger.
The Philippines is one of those cultures where, generally speaking, people quickly overreact when provoked and there are drivers who carry a tubo or a knife in case someone cuts them off.
So a Filipina comes from that kind of environment where the degree of emotionality is a little higher than in other countries. Yet there are cross-cultural gems of wisdom, that can also be found in modern psychology and relationship coaching, that can make a world of difference.
Indeed success in anything in life comes from counterintuitive moves and one of the most effective counterintuitive moves is conquering evil (well, an angry spouse is not “evil” but the pattern of lashing out creates pretty lousy situations) by raising above it and becoming masters at showing kindness in an emotionally charged situation.
Indeed the One who created human psychology knew better and I can say from personal experience that this principle does indeed produce amazing things.
The first time I visited the Philippines I met C. (I am not going to reveal her name for privacy reasons), a young lady who used to be some kind of au pair in my mother in law’s house.
She was studying agricultural engineering at the Bulacan Agricultural State College.
C. is now a successful engineer and she also travels abroad for work, she was in Japan recently.
What struck me is that I saw C. ‘s house that is situated in a nearby barangay close to the Sierra Madre Mountains and I noticed that her parents’ house is the simplest of homes which evidently means that she is from a very poor family. Her parents’ house is one of those “patchwork” homes made out of different materials including hollow blocks that are not coated with plaster and that have a metal sheet as roof.
C. is not the only Filipina I met in the Philippines who never thought of moving abroad and if a very poor lady like C. can do it this means that many more could do it.
It is true that life is tough in the Philippines but while people like C. are masipag (industrious) a lot of Filipinos ay nakatambay lang, they just hang out aimlessly. Sometimes you can spot them sipping hard drinks while being engaged in kwentuan or maBOTEng usapan.
So by being masipag and staying away from bisyo some Filipinos could actually make it in the Philippines, not necessarily becoming as successful as C. but at least managing to create a situation where they have a decent life and, more importantly, don’t have to leave their family members in the Philippines to go to work as seamen or somewhere in places like Hong Kong, Saudi or even in wealthy Europe, U.S. or Australia.
As I have already mentioned in this blog, I know Pinoy families here in Italy that had a very hard time reuniting and, actually, even when they managed to obtain the entry visas for their spouse and kids, they kept living apart from them because they were working live-in while their family was living in another apartment.
As husband of a Filipina, and observer of the Pinoy culture and mentality, what strikes me is that Filipinos are very religious and their religion is theoretically all about “family first”, I mean that the Bible talks about being physically present to raise and train one’s kids and it also says that it is better to eat vegetables in a house where there is love (and by the way veggies are good for you, I’ve lost 30kg by going green….) than a fattened bull (or maybe baboy, I have never heard about Filipinos eating bull) in a house where there is no love (perhaps a 10 square meter basement in the mansion of your employer in a rich country where you only communicate with your spouse and kids through internet).
I actually know a Pinoy family that left Italy for good and moved back to the Philippines and they are doing pretty well (and when they left they had neither a mansion in the Philippines nor big savings). He is a guy who has no bisyo whatsoever and is very masipag and has a “family first no matter what” mindset.
Becoming an OFW is definitely not the only option and even if you do become an OFW I am here to tell you that there is a very big chance that the cost and the pain involved could turn out to be far greater than the gains.
A few days ago I bumped into an American documentary series called “90-day fiance'” that is about couples that have applied for a fiance’ visa to get to know each other, and I watched the story of a 58-year old American man who got a 19-year old Filipina to spend 90 days in the USA to find out if they could get married.
Here in the European Union there is no such thing as a “fiance’ visa”, therefore the only way you can marry a Filipina whom you have got to know through Facebook or through some other kind of long distance courtship, is either by going to the Philippines yourself or by getting her to come to Europe as a tourist.
The second option is quite difficult because, in order to be given a tourist visa into a EU country she has to prove that she has plenty of money in the bank (which most Filipinas don’t have) otherwise you have to guarantee for her with your money (but someone who works in the Italian Embassy in Manila told me that this is only possible in theory, as they are extremely strict when it comes to tourist visas).
This having been said, what I have to say about getting a Filipina to visit your country to explore within 90 days if you should marry her or not is that it can hardly work that way.
As I have already mentioned in the past, my wife was already living and working in my country when I started courting her and we got to know each other for 4 years before we got married, and to this day, after 15 years of life together as a married couple, culture shock is still a challenge and we still have to work hard to maintain a thriving relationship.
How can it work if you only have 90 days to decide?