Is Marriage the Solution to Loneliness?

One of my cherished moments of solitude

(I have slightly modified this old post)

When I was single I was not particularly desperate about finding a spouse and I was definitely not in a hurry to marry someone.

And in fact I took my time and I only made this move at age 36 when it had become obvious, beyond any reasonable doubt, that I had passed “the bloom of youth”.

For many years I held back from even looking for a girlfriend and I faced a lot of peer pressure from friends and family members who were trying to encourage me to find one and who seemed to view my reluctance to settle down and build a family as foolishness.

But I was actually cherishing my solitude and all the freedom and the opportunities that it was offering me.

Well, I have been married for 17 years now and during the past years I have had the confirmation of what I always suspected, namely that those who get married are, more often than not, no less lonely than those who remain single.

And this is the case for a variety of reasons

Husband and wife have conflicting interests

Husband and wife are not twins so there are things and interests you will never be able to fully share with your spouse and that your spouse might never relate to.

For example I have a passion for reading, for musing, contemplating and meditating, for being out in nature and this is a vast universe that constitutes a huge portion of who I am as a person that is completely foreign to my wife and definitely off her radars. She is the typical Filipina who prefers pakikisama or togetherness, partying and connecting with people to the above mentioned things.

So within me there is a vast landscape of passions, interests and deep reflections that I am not able to share at all with my wife, and I mean at all.

Our deepest emotions cannot be shared

Also, during my most difficult times,  or even during my happiest highs, there are feelings, emotions and fears that are simply beyond the realm of communication, not just with my wife but with any other human being and, in fact, during my teen-age years I would spend long days shut away in my room unable to share my deepest emotions with others, not even with my parents, and things haven’t changed that much: to this very day I continue to face the deepest joys and fears in life, the ones that cannot be put into words and shared, all by myself.

Husband and wife are mostly immersed in their own thoughts

Another reason is because I have become aware that most of the time I spend in close proximity with my spouse my wife and I are, for the most part, immersed in our thoughts and even when together we are de-facto separated.

It is not easy to be fully present and give our partner undivided attention and electronic gadgets certainly don’t help.

If you are married you have to work more and have less time to socialize

Those who are married have little time, if any at all, for their old friends.
When I was single I had plenty of social interactions because I had a lot less responsibilities and I had to work a lot less.
Now I hardly have any time for my old friends, and I used to have many all over the world, because my priority is (obviously and rightly so) my family.
I don’t work that many hours but, because I am the head of the family, I might have to, should the need arise,  and, as a result, have very limited time to interact with my only friends that I have the chance to associate with on a regular basis, namely my family.

I know plenty of married people who work so hard that they barely spend few minutes a day with their spouse before they fall asleep, and my father was one of those for a part of his life.

The situation is obviously much worse for married people who do shift work and perhaps are in a situation where even their spouse has a similar job.

Married people who live in a developing country might be forced to work overseas away from their families

The situation is even worse for those who work overseas (as many Filipinos do) away from their families, and that is really the height of the loneliness that a married person can experience.
I know Filipinos who have been working abroad for more than five years and haven’t had the chance to get their families to live with them, they only see them through Skype.

We are fundamentally alone in this universe

I am not in any of the above mentioned extreme situations and I have enough time to be with my wife but, as hard as I try to give my wife full attention and presence and as hard as I try to be interested in the things she values, what I have discovered is that, at the deepest existential level, life is a first-person responsibility and not a family project.

A relationship with the Creator, if you believe in one, or, at least, an investigation into the nature of existence, why we are here and so on, these are personal endeavors.

You can certainly worship God and pray to him with your spouse or, if you don’t believe in God, you can read about, talk about and speculate about the meaning of life with your spouse but, ultimately, the buck has to stop with you and you have to face these deep existential aspects of life all by yourself.

And….yes, death is something that you’ll have to face alone, even if your wife and the entire extended family (and Filipinos have a very large family and social group) is next to you: they can encourage you and comfort you but they are not going to follow you.

You are alone as far as your health and your emotions are concerned

Taking care or your health is a personal endeavor, and in fact there are people who work out and eat healthy food while their spouse doesn’t.

The emotions you feel are the result of how you use your body and what you focus on and not the result of how your spouse makes you feel.

Solitude is critical to enjoying a healthy relationship

Solitude is necessary to be productive, to write in a journal, to plan, to schedule, to read, to contemplate and to grow, speaking of which I must also say that living as a couple without carving out moments of solitude and reflection could actually endanger the relationship itself.

One of the reasons why my relationship has improved dramatically is precisely because I isolate myself on a daily basis and reflect on how to improve my marriage, write the challenges I have in my marriage down in a journal and put down in writing my insights about how to meet those challenges.

So, can marriage really fix your loneliness?

The reality is that you are alone, you came into this world alone and you are going to leave alone.

You’ll have to face the deepest existential issues all alone, you’ll have to cultivate an intimate relationship with the Creator (or with life, the universe or whatever you believe in) all alone.

You will be spending most of your couple time immersed in your thoughts and your spouse will do the same most of the time and you might actually be too busy working to even spend much time with your spouse, let alone with your old friends.

And you will need solitude to study the best strategies to improve your relationship.

So loneliness cannot be avoided even if you are in an intimate relationship and you will actually need plenty of quality time by yourself to become a solidly grounded human being who is in the best position to make the relationship grow.



Why Avoid Jumping from one Relationship to Another: a Lesson from the Filipino Movie “All My Life”

(I have modified this old post)

Many immigrants in my country end up broke and mired in debt because of their mindset, similarly people who move to another relationship without changing their mindset don’t solve any of their problems

Relationships don’t fix our emotional issues

When I entered my relationship with a Filipina one of the very first things I did, to become acquainted with her culture, was watching Filipino movies.

One of the first ones I watched is entitled “All My Life”.

The lyrics of the theme song of this famous Filipino movie say something along the lines of “I’ll never forget how you brought the sun to shine in my life…there was an empty space in my heart”.

These are not just the lyrics of a song, this is actually how most people who wish to be in a relationship or wish to be in a better one think.

A lot of people in our society, not just in the Philippines, believe that on a sunny day the ideal partner will show up and “bring the sun to shine” in their hearts, there where there is an “empty space” to fill, as the song goes.

I believe that this is a myth and that entering a relationship or moving from one relationship to another doesn’t quite bring the sun to shine in an empty heart.

It has been said many times and in many ways that one of the hallmark characteristics of a healthy relationship is giving, so if one has an “empty space” to fill the solution is inner work not someone else who will do it for us.

I believe that if our current partner is not causing the “sun to shine” in our heart the solution is not another partner, rather it is fixing our own crap and no one can do it for us unless we do it.

Unless one is in a relationship with a partner who has become abusive, violent, irresponsible, extremely lazy or otherwise unbearable to the point that there is no way to continue the relationship, moving from one relationship to another is not the answer in my modest opinion.

Migrating from a relationship to another without changing ourselves is like moving to another country without first improving ourselves

I think the condition of many Filipino immigrants in my country is an interesting metaphor to illustrate this point.

In much the same way as many people move from one relationship to another, Filipinos who live in Italy have moved from one country to another looking for greener grass.

The problem is that while some have indeed fixed their financial problems most are just as broke as if they would be if they had never left the Philippines. Why?

Because of the bahala-na approach to life (or “casual” approach to life), which is part of the “Pinoy mentality” that often doesn’t change when Filipinos move to another country.

For example, one of the reasons why Filipino people leave their country and move here is because here in Italy health care is free. The problem is that despite having access to free medical care most Filipinos keep drinking way too much alcohol, eating way too often at KFC, Mc Donald’s, most exercise very little if they exercise at all and, as a result of this mindset, they are just as ill as if they lived in a country that has no free health care (my wife is Filipina and I love Filipino people flaws and all, I am just trying to make a point here).

So my point is that wherever we go we bring us with us. Unless we shift our mentality no place, situation or person will ever fix our problems.

A famous motivational speaker said that “it is not the blowing of the wind, rather it’s the setting of the sail” that determines where we wind up in life.

It is true that, just as there are people who cannot help but flee from dangerous and abusive relationships, there are also people who cannot help but flee from countries that are plagued by war, extremely difficult economical situations, persecution and so on.

The problem is when one runs away from a difficult situation that is the result of a messed up mindset and expects to find the solution to his or her problems by moving to another environment without changing anything about his or her mentality

Many Filipinos, as soon as they move to my country have kids before they even find adequate work, many buy a fancy car and the latest electronic gadgets and give very little thought to cultivating smart financial habits and, as a result of this bahala-na approach, many end up having spent years or even decades in this country without having changed anything about their situation.

If we work on our mindset we can make our present relationship work

The same principle applies to relationships: if we have an “empty space” in our heart we need to fix it by doing the hard work that is necessary to change our mindset and if we do our homework in this area chances are that “the sun” will start to shine in our heart of its own accord and it is highly likely that by doing so we will not need to rely on someone else and change partner to fill the “empty space in our heart” but rather we will be able to make our present relationship work.

If we do nothing to improve ourselves and expect a new partner to fix us we will keep chasing “the same person only in a different body” as Dr. Wayne Dyer wisely said and the empty space in our heart” will remain empty.

The bottom line is: it is way better in my opinion to work on our mindset and fix our weaknesses, thereby making our present relationship work, than run away from the relationship in search of the elusive goal of finding the perfect match who can make the sun shine in an empty heart.

How to Communicate your Feelings to your Spouse

One of the things that have immensely helped me to improve my communication with my spouse is the ability to communicate my feelings, especially when I am disappointed, angry or upset.

  • Remove blame

What I have learned, by reading various books on communication, is that, even if my wife says or does something that hurts me, I have to remove any form of blame from my language.

Blame, even when justified, causes people to defend or even counterattack.

So, what I have learned is that it is way more effective to say something along the lines of “when you did this I felt…..”, “When you did this I interpreted as….”. This way I communicate how I felt and how I interpreted the situation and therefore I put the blame upon myself instead of blaming her and causing her to become defensive and retaliate.

  • Avoid saying always/never

What I have also learned is that I need to avoid saying things (or conveying that idea) like “you always ….” or “you never…” because, by doing that, I am questioning her as a person and I am implying that she is someone who always….or never…. and, therefore, I try to be specific.

For example, instead of saying “you never hug me when I come home” or “when I come home and you don’t hug me…“, I say “when I came home yesterday and you didn’t hug me I felt….”. This way I avoid accusing her that she always….or that she never….

  • Never question your partner as a person or the relationship itself

I also remind myself who she is as a person and that she is more than her behavior.

Somewhere along the line I decided to be in this relationship because, evidently, I fell in love with who she is as a person.

The problem is that many of us, when we are upset, tend to forget who our spouse is and the reason why we entered the relationship in the first place and question who our spouse is, her motives and the essence of the relationship, and I used to fall into this trap too.

So, what I have learned is to say something along the lines of “I know you love me” and then I go on communicating my needs or feelings in the following way “…I just want to tell you that when I came home yesterday (not you always/never) I felt (not you made me feel)…..” or something along the lines of “…I felt as if you….and I know this is not true because I know who you are“.

  • Use “and” instead of “but”

Another important thing I have learned by reading books on relationships is to replace “but” with “and”.

Why is this important?

If I say for example “I know you love me but when you….I felt…” I am kind of contradicting what I just said, namely “I know you love me”.

It is way more effective to say something like “I know you love me and ….” which kind of conveys the idea that “I know you love me and I would feel even more loved if….”.

Learning how to communicate my feelings and upsets and speak my truth in a way that creates bridges rather than walls has been a huge game changer for my relationship and I believe that if more people studied this kind of information and read books on relationships, and made an earnest effort to apply the suggestions contained in those books, there would be way less broken marriages.

How to Endure Cultural Fatigue in a Multiethnic Marriage

My relationship with a Filipina has taught me that there exists a kind of fatigue that is heavier than physical and mental fatigue put together. It is actually a kind of fatigue that drains your physical, your mental and your emotional energy.

I think the expression cultural fatigue is more appropriate than culture shock as, the word shock kind of conveys the idea of a jolt, like and electric shock, something that lasts a few seconds and then you get over it (if you survive it). The word fatigue kind of conveys the idea of a prolonged strain and that is precisely what keeping score day in and day out between the cultural differences between two entirely different models of the world is: a prolonged strain, a very heavy fatigue that lasts for a very long time and it drains all your energy.

I like how the “Culture Shock Philippines” book by Alfredo and Grace Roces describes this fatigue on pages 4 and 5: “cultural fatigue is the physical and emotional exhaustion (so there are two components to it: physical and, most importantly, emotional and the book, instead of using the term tiredness uses the really fitting term “exhaustion”) required for long-term survival (long-term survival entails that you don’t just experience an initial shock or jolt) in an alien culture. Living and working overseas (or being married to a Filipina, even in your own country) generally requires that one must suspend his automatic evaluations (for example we in the Western world automatically assume that once you get married you live your parents for good and form your own family unit, we also assume quite automatically that you first pay the rent and the bills and if you have money left then you buy a car and the list of “automatic evaluations” that a Westerner must suspend could go on forever)…and he must supply new interpretations to seemingly familiar behaviour (like getting married and forming a family of your own which seems familiar but the Westerners interpret it in a way and Filipinos in a radically different way) and that he must demand of himself constant alterations in the style and content of his activity (notice the expression constant alterations: this is an ongoing and a very prolonged effort, not just a “jolt”)”. The book goes on to say that “this process consumes an enormous amount of energy”.

I like the expression that a Westerner must suspend his automatic evaluations or, in other words, in order to thrive in this kind of relationship and to be able to withstand a very prolonged fatigue, a Westerner cannot be stuck in his automatic perceptions that are the result of his upbringing and exposure to the Western culture.

An interesting point that the “Culture Shock Philippines book” makes on page 7 is that the solution of the cultural conflict lies, in fact, in the arena of “perception” rather than in a locked battle between irreconcilable values. What this means, as the book says on page 6, is that Filipinos value pretty much the same things as the Westerners (family, honesty, sincerity and so on), it is not as if Westerners have a certain set of values while Filipinos have totally different values, as if Filipinos and Westerners belonged to a different species. This is certainly not how it is, we share the same humanity and the same core values. The values are the same, it is just that such values as family, sincerity etc are viewed and perceived from different viewpoints and this, of course, calls for an outstanding ability to suspend, as the book says, one’s automatic evaluations and be ready to experience constant alterations in the style and content of one’s activity.

My granpa was a farmer and in his life he experienced a great deal of physical fatigue but very little mental fatigue, I studied hard my whole life and experienced a lot of intellectual fatigue and (at least when a was a teenager) very little physical fatigue. Since I married a Filipina I’ve experienced cultural fatigue, a combination of both physical and intellectual (and, most of all, emotional) fatigue, something a lot heavier and trickier than any other form of fatigue, this is, in fact, the ultimate fatigue.

What you Gain and What you Lose if you Marry a Filipina

I have been raised with the idea that, to be any kind of successful human being, one must be a person who adds value to people’s life. To be a person who adds value means that whatever I touch and whatever I impact must get better.

In a marriage creating value, to me, means that if I enter a relationship I must contribute to make the other person a better one. Similarly I expect that, by being in a relationship with someone else, that relationship will make me a better man.

Does marrying a Filipina create added value?

It may seem that in certain areas of your life, by being in a relationship with a Filipina, you lose.

From a surface point of view it may appear that, by and large, Filipinos are not people who touch something and it gets better.

The city of Baguio, situated on the Cordillera Mountains, is a case in point and an interesting metaphor:

Baguio City was designed by an American named Daniel Burnham and, according to the original design, was supposed to become a “garden-city”. Under many aspects it is a “garden-city”, as there are several parks like Wright Park, Mines View, the John Hay Camp and the central Burnham Park. Yet, if you only walk a couple of blocks away from Burnham Park you find yourself in neighborhoods that are not any different from the Quiapo area in Manila

Filipinos were given a garden-city and they turned it into a congested mess, at least a large portion of it.

If you marry a Filipina, certain areas of your life may end up just like Baguio city.

Perhaps right now you have saving and investing plans to grow your money and be well equipped before age 65 rolls around. Because many Filipinos seem to lack financial education and become spenders rather than lenders and want to support way too many relatives in the Philippines, by entering a relationship with a Filipina, you will hardly grow your wealth and your financial goals might go down the drain.

The bahala-na or casual approach to life of most Filipinos to money budgeting and other domains of life may give a Western husband of a Filipina the impression that he is losing out.

On the other hand this relationship has created great value in other areas of my life: the Bayanihan spirit has taught me to become more unselfish, the gregarious Pakikisama spirit has helped me to become more outgoing. Living with my wife’s extended family has helped me to reconsider my relationship with my own family of origin and value them much more.

Because Filipinos, including my wife, are highly emotional, learning to deal with emotional people has given me the motivation to be a much better listener and learn empathy.

I consider myself a better man so I can positively say that my marriage has definitely added value to my life and even though I’ve lost something in terms of my economics, career life and goal setting, my overall level of consciousness and humanity has made a giant leap.

In a marriage with a Filipina you may lose something in terms of career, productivity and financial goals but, if you go about it the right way and with the right mindset, you will definitely raise your communication skills, your level of emotional intelligence, your ability to share, your view of elderly people and family ties.

I don’t regret having married a Filipina and I can definitely say that being in this relationship has brought great value into my life.

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.

“Ulo” ng Pamilya and “Utak” ng Pamilya

Riding on a “sasakyan” with tito Benje to take his wife home after teaching

One of the things that my Filipino wife used to tell me was “ikaw ang ulo ng pamilya, ako ang utakmeaning “you are the head of the family while I am the brain”.

While in my family we have a proper and balanced view of headship and it is not (not always at least) quite the case that ako ang ulo at siya ang utak, in quite a few Filipino families the husband is indeed the ulo while the wife is the utak.

I remember meeting one of my wife’s kapitbahay or neighbor in the Philippines whose wife is a propesora in a high school situated in the Dona Remedios Trinidad area in the mountain region of the province of Bulacan and he is a tricycle driver and basically his main job was taking his wife to work and take her back.

A Filipino friend of mine once told me that in the Philippines many wives are engineers (or they have other higher qualifications) while their husbands are gingineers, as they spend the day sitting idly and drinking gin.

As I said in some of my articles about the macho-machunuring (submissive and henpecked macho), wives often take the lead in a Filipino family.

When this happens it can really be said that the asawang lalaki ay ang ulo ng pamilya while the wife is ang utak….

Language Barriers in a Western-Filipino Couple

When I first met the Filipino woman who later became my wife she could barely speak my language. This was not a problem because I am fluent in English and, like many Filipino women, she is fluent in English too, and all the more so because she’s got a college degree.

I have been in this relationship for 20 years now and she is now fluent in Italian and I am fluent in Tagalog. But it took her around 10 years to really become fluent in Italian and it took me, more or less, the same amount of time to master Tagalog to the point of being able to communicate with her in a meaningful way.

I know plenty of Western-Filipino couples where the husband is Italian or from another non-English speaking country (I know French-Filipino couples, German-Filipino couples etc.).

In most cases the Western husband is a well-travelled individual who is fluent in English and few of them are also trying to learn Tagalog.

However I know few couples where the Western mate speaks neither English nor is he trying to learn Tagalog.

Now, what I have noticed is that most Filipinas, when they settle in a non-English speaking country, it really takes them a long while to master the local language.

Here in Italy most Filipinos never really learn the language properly and the kind of job they do (many are live-in domestic helpers) doesn’t offer them the chance to mingle with local people and practice the language. On top of all that I’ve also noticed that Filipinos don’t have a way with languages and grammar. Although my wife is Filipino and I am always surrounded by Filipinos, I have had to study Tagalog by myself because they don’t even know the structure of their own language, let alone being able to explain it to others (Italians are not any better under this aspect though).

So, apart from English, which they learned in the Philippines when they were kids, when they move to a foreign non-English speaking country, they struggle to learn the local language.

So, I guess that if a non-English speaking guy struggles with the English language, he’d probably better improve it before marrying a Filipina because being already in a relationship where he speaks nothing but Italian, French, German or any language that is different from English and she struggles with the language of her husband can lead to huge communication issues.

I know a couple that lives in my neighborhood and they have this communication gap and, sure enough, the relationship is barely coasting along. There might be other problems that I have no knowledge of but certainly the language barrier is a huge obstacle.

I know other couples in which the parents of the Filipino wife live with them and the Western husband is unable to understand what they talk about.

So, in those situations a lot of problems can arise and do actually arise.

Although my wife and I can communicate in English, Italian and Tagalog we still have misunderstandings from time to time and culture shock still requires a lot of effort on both parts.

So, in order not to end up like those couples that only have superficial communication and avoid all the problems that are a consequence of that, non-English speakers who wish to marry a Filipina had better carefully weigh how language barriers might impact their interracial relationship before committing.

Are Filipinos Abroad Fully Integrated?

A couple of years ago my wife and I went on a road trip to Switzerland.

One of the towns we passed by is Campione d’Italia. There is nothing special about Campione except for the fact that it is an Italian enclave surrounded by Swiss territory.

While we were driving along the shores of Lake Lugano, I stared at this unique town, one of the few in Europe that is physically situated within the boundaries of another nation while not being part of it, and, while staring at it, I thought that the town of Campione is an interesting metaphor of the cultural condition of the Filipino community here in Rome and the issue of integration.

The Filipino community in Rome is as large as the population of many small towns in the Philippines and it is, under many aspects, like a town of the Philippines situated within the boundaries of the Italian territory, a Filipino enclave in Italy if you will.

The reason why I find this metaphor of the “enclave” fitting is because my perspective as husband of a Filipina, who has been living in Italy for over twenty years, is that, by and large, Filipinos move their bodies to other countries but their hearts and minds seem to remain in the Philippines and, as a result, they spend a large portion

Filipinos eating at one of the few Pinoy restaurants in town

of their free time chatting with relatives or friends who live in the Philippines through social media and associating with other expatriate Filipinos and rare are the interactions with local people and the local culture that surround their “enclave-like” life.

Here in Rome thousands of Pinoy never learn Italian properly and I know quite a few who have been living here for years now and they can’t speak the language at all. And they don’t quite need to because, most Filipinos who live here, almost have the whole barangay here and they have dozens of relatives in some cases, they have their own churches in Tagalog, their Filipino clubs, Filipino banks, a newspaper in Tagalog ( “Ako ay Pilipino” or and countless opportunities to have salu-salo or social gatherings.

This means that in this city they have very little motivation to learn Italian properly and hang out with local people.

This can be a challenge for a Western husband who might find himself spending almost all of his free time going to Filipino parties and having little time left for his family and friends.

I’ve got long time friends who have never met my wife and it is not as if they didn’t try to invite us (but lately she has become a lot more expansive though). Other Filipinos whom I know are no different, they definitely prefer to associate with other Filipinos to mingling with local people and it takes time and a lot of insistence to get them to mingle with locals.

This is at least what I observe here in Rome where there is a community of over 50,000 Filipino Overseas Workers, a Filipino town within the Italian territory, an enclave like Campione d’Italia!

In rural areas where Filipinos are more scattered and hardly have a chance to gather together, Filipinos are more likely to associate with locals because they have no other option.

I was in Ancona, a small town on the Adriatic coast, where a family of Pinoy friends lives and they said to me that sometimes they have to drive up to two hours to meet other Filipino people, while here in Rome you hardly ride on a bus or wait for a bus at a bus stop without spotting at least one Filipino.

As I said in my post about how to meet a Filipina for marriage, the fact that Filipinos hardly mix with local people is such that often the only way an Italian can meet a potential Filipino wife is if he has a connection with the Filipino community (

The tendency that many Filipino overseas workers have to mostly associate with other Filipinos only is a deeply entrenched cultural trait of expatriate Filipinos who, by and large, haven’t moved abroad to explore other cultures and to widen their perspective but only to work and support their families, so their hearts and minds remain in the Philippines, especially if they live in a big city that has a very large Filipino community they can associate with.

It has been said that Western expatriates who live in the Philippines retreat into the protective shell of their cultural comfort-zone and “march to the beat of a different drum in a place where there are no drums” but so are thousands of Filipinos who live in other countries.

The Filipino community here in Rome, and in Italy in general, is by far the best accepted and beloved foreign community in the country, as 78% of Italians view them as hardworking and 66% view them as honest. Italians do appreciate Filipinos but a combination of shyness (often Filipinos associate the idea of an Italian person to the image of their “amo” or employer) and cultural conditioning on the part of many Filipinos keeps the two communities often as separated as oil and water.

Other foreign communities often march for integration and join protests against lack of integration while for Filipino immigrants integration seems to be a non-issue.

Personally I do not believe that integration is something that people need to march for or that politics can or should fix.

Integration is the result of operating from the mindset that we share the same humanity and that each culture has exciting aspects to offer to those who get past the protective shell of their mental comfort-zone and, as a passage of the New Testament says, are willing to “widen out”.

“Widening out” and stretching the boundaries of one’s cultural comfort-zone is by far one of the most exciting experiences for a human being.

Personally I am happy that my Filipino wife has made a huge effort to learn how to widen out (after I did my homework to embrace her culture) but, by and large, I view the Filipino community here as some sort of closed enclave that has miles more to go to fully blend with the surrounding environment…..but so are many Western expatriates in the Philippines after all…..

The town of Campione d’Italia, an Italian enclave surrounded by Swiss territory: a metaphor of the Filipino community of Rome

The road to Campione d’Italia in Swiss territory

Italian-Swiss border