How Soon is too Soon to Get Married?

(for some strange reason I moved this old post to the draft section so I am republishing it)

I remember talking to a young Filipina who was 20-21 years old and asking her if she was still going to school or working and she said “no, I work to support my husband and my child in the Philippines”.

I was rather taken aback that she was already married and she even had a child: I actually thought she was 16-18 years old, in fact she looked very young.

A lot of Filipinos get married and have children pretty soon in life. I know a lot of buntis or pregnant 18-25 year old Filipinas and a lot of very young Filipino couples who have kids before they even get adequate qualifications and a proper job.

I am not judging anybody, I just want to share my thoughts on the subject because I am an advocate of strategic thinking and moves.

I think one of the best strategic moves I have made in my life was my decision to take my time before getting married.

I got married at age 36 and I don’t regret at all waiting that long.

Few months ago I went through the Facebook profiles of some of the girls I was badly in love with when I was a teen-ager, and even in my early 20’s, and, by observing the stuff they post, I realized that the kind of person I am now, my top values and priorities, has absolutely nothing to do with what these women have become and marrying one of them 30 years ago or so would certainly have turned out to be a disaster.

What this tells me is that when I was too young my emotions were too wishy-washy and I was definitely not in the position to choose a person for life.

Also, I would have missed out on a lot of amazing trips around the world and adventures that have enriched my life beyond measure and that I could hardly have made had I chosen to get married (let alone having kids) in my early 20’s.

It is true that I still travel as a married person, and I have been to the Philippines a few times with my wife, and to a couple of more countries as well, but I used to travel abroad up to three times a year before getting married, while now it only happens once in a while. And, when I go to the Philippines with my wife she is more inclined to visit friends and relatives than to go on some adventure.

I would have also missed out on the opportunity to have a meaningful share in an international volunteer work that I did for years that has also added meaning to my life while now I have to work secularly a lot more.

I would also have missed out on the opportunity to come up with a crystal clear life purpose and find out what my life is about. Figuring it out years down the road when you work hard and have kids is tricky to do and exposes one to the danger that husband and wife who got married too soon discover a life purpose and adopt a set of values that are entirely different than that of their spouse, so I think it is better to be in a relationship with a person who has already found out who he or she is and what he or she wants out of life. When you are too young your core ideas and values are too fuzzy.

On top of that I am in an interracial marriage which requires long years of groping for a bridge and, therefore, requires a lot of emotional intelligence and maturity to cope with culture-shock and I am sure that in my early 20’s I was just not prepared for those challenges.

I think that waiting until I was 36 to get married has definitely been a wise move.

One of my pre-marital adventures: swimming in a cold lake near the Arctic Circle around age 30

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.

https://italpinoy1967.com/2019/11/05/filipinos-in-italy-and-integration/

https://italpinoy1967.com/2019/11/27/the-misleading-western-veneer-of-the-philippines-part-1/

“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….

https://italpinoy1967.wordpress.com/2018/10/29/is-the-philippines-is-a-matriarchal-society/

http://buildingfilipinowesternbridges.com/2019/10/19/the-stereotype-traditional-image-of-maria-clara-vs-the-modern-filipina/

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 http://www.akoaypilipino.eu) 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 (https://buildingfilipinowesternbridges.com/2019/10/07/how-to-meet-a-filipina-for-marriage/).

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

How to Deal With the Filipino In-laws Culture Shock

In the Philippines the whole extended family lives in a compound like this where doors are wide open and relatives come and go at any hour

No amount of reading books about the Filipino culture and language will help you to build rapport with the extended family unless you open your mind and show genuine acceptance and willingness to go the extra mile

Here in Rome there are at very least 50,000 Filipinos most of whom are not here on their own.

Entire Pinoy extended families live here up to three generations.

Large portions of the population of such towns as Balayan, Batangas or Candon, Ilocos Sur, just to mention a few, have moved to Rome and they have carried the Filipino in-laws culture with them.

So an Italian who marries a Filipina who lives and works here is highly likely going to become part of a giant iceberg of which his wife is just the tip.

I spent the past ten years living with my wife’s extended family (which is one of the few here in Rome that is not so big) and, for about 5 years, I really struggled to create rapport with them and how to deal with my Filipino in-laws became a crippling problem for me which had become so corrosive that it had started to eat away at my marriage.

In dealing with my Filipino in-laws I found myself in the situation described in a book I bought in the Philippines some 9 years ago, entitled “Culture Shock Philippines” by Alfredo and Grace Roces: “what choices do I have….when the queasy feeling of uselessly groping for a bridge begins to make me tremble and I find myself utterly sealed away…. what do I do?”.

I found out that the answer to the question is: YES I DO HAVE A CHOICE and the choice is to first of all determine IF MY ATTITUDE TOWARD MY WIFE’S EXTENDED FAMILY SOMEHOW TRIGGERED MY IN-LAWS’ STANDOFFISHNESS AND HOSTILITY.

I began asking myself “have I ever told or even implicitly suggested to my wife that her parents shouldn’t be interfering with my family life? Do I look at them with a frown on my face when they seem to intervene in my family affairs?”.

In the Filipino culture the extended family does interfere in their married offspring’s life, this is deeply entrenched in the Filipino mentality (see the caption below the picture above).

So I realized that the cause of hostility on their part was my attitude toward them. I realized that, although they were displaying a standoffish attitude toward me, theirs was simply a reaction to the negative thoughts toward them that I was dwelling on and projecting outward.

As the “Culture Shock Philippines” book says, I had become the frustrated and antagonistic foreigner who was retreating into the protective shell of his culture and “bashing the habitat that I myself had chosen to inhabit”.

Although I was going to great lengths to learn about the Filipino culture and language in order to build rapport with them, deep down I was harboring feelings of hostility and, even though I was trying to hide those feelings, I was inevitably projecting them outward. Because the extended family could sense that I was trying to edge them out or, at least, trying to set limits to what I was perceiving as “unwarranted interference” on their part, they were treating me in kind.

I had become well versed in the language, the history and the literature of the Philippines but I had not quite mastered the psychology of how to deal with the Filipino in-laws culture shock effectively.

My relationship with my wife’s kin-group only began to change when I STOPPED BLAMING THEM FOR BEING HOSTILE AND STARTED TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR HOW THEY WERE TREATING ME.

To further cement this idea let me offer you a few ideas I learned from one of America’s greatest psychologists, Dr. Wayne Dyer, in his book “The Power of Intention”.

“What you feel is wrong or missing in these relationships is an indication that something is amiss within you, because broadly speaking, anything you see in anyone else is a reflection of some aspect of you—otherwise you wouldn’t be bothered by it, because you wouldn’t notice it in the first place…… If your inner speech centers on what’s annoying about them, that’s what you’ll notice. As much as you’re inclined to blame them for your annoyance, it’s yours, and it’s coming from your thoughts. If you make a decision to put your inner attention, your life energy, on something quite different, your relationship will change. In your thoughts, where your family relationships exist, you’ll no longer be annoyed, angry, hurt…………………Being authentic and peaceful with your relatives is only a thought away”- from Wayne Dyer’s “The Power of Intention” chapter 9: “It is my Intention to: be Authentic and Peaceful with all of my Relatives”

Although I had spent years trying to learn Tagalog and become familiar with the Filipino culture to very little avail, it only took me a MENTAL SHIFT to turn things around and in ONLY A FEW MONTHS I experienced the truthfulness of the statement “Being authentic and peaceful with your relatives is only a thought away”.

  • So the very first thing to do to deal with the Filipino in-laws culture-shock effectively, based on my experience, is to take responsibility for how they are treating you and remove any hint of hostility toward them.

In my post about “acceptance” in an interracial intimate relationship https://italpinoy1967.wordpress.com/2019/09/19/acceptance-one-of-the-keys-to-a-happy-interracial-marriage/ I partly said “there are aspects of your partner’s culture, habits, values and so on that might never change and this is certainly true in a multicultural intimate relationship.

Certain ethnic groups, such as Filipinos, are so set in their ways and their values that trying to get them to change their core values about what constitutes a family and the role of the extended family, for example, can create a lot of friction and frustration and can get their Western spouses to “bash the environment that they themselves have to inhabit” (as the “Culture Shock Philippines” book, that I keep quoting, says).

Now this expression “bashing the environment that they themselves have chosen to inhabit” is very interesting because it points to the core dysfunction of many interracial intimate relationships (and of other kinds of relationships for that matter).

Bashing the environment that you have chosen to inhabit amounts to resisting reality. The reality is that you knew that your future spouse was a foreigner, you knew that he or she had very different core values, but you decided to go ahead anyways and marry that person and now you are resisting that reality.

What causes much of our suffering is when we resist reality.

I remember hearing a nice illustration about poor conductors and superconductors: if current passes through a wire that has high resistance heat is generated and the wire melts. If, on the other hand, current passes through a superconductor that has zero resistance no heat is generated and the wire doesn’t get damaged. What damages the wire is not the current, rather it is its resistance.

Similarly what causes many Westerners to get mad at their Filipino, or otherwise foreign, spouse is not the fact that he or she is culturally different, rather is their resistance to their partner’s different reality“.

So removing resistance and hostility toward the Filipino in-laws culture and practicing acceptance is vital if your Filipina is deeply entrenched in this mentality.

But much more is involved in getting them to love you and open arms and hearts.

If you simply part with the idea of edging them out of your marriage, you may get them to have a “neutral” attitude toward you and you will manage to remain in peaceful terms with them.

  • But being in “peaceful” terms doesn’t mean being in “friendly”, let alone in “loving” terms. It doesn’t mean that they love you and have fully embraced you.

Relationship experts say that another key to a successful marriage is appreciation, not just acceptance, for without appreciation acceptance becomes mere (and perhaps even reluctant) tolerance.

So you need to go the extra-mile and, instead of just accepting the kin-group as an inevitable price to pay to have a Filipino wife, learn to appreciate the differences between the Western concept of family and the Filipino one as exciting and interesting.

I keep dwelling on the idea that here in Italy many elderly people often die alone and forgotten while the Filipino in-laws culture or extended family culture is such that this kind of scenario is highly unlikely.

This will get you to be much more than just “at peace” and you will have won the entire kin-group as your allies.

  • But how do you strike a balance between being in “peaceful” terms, or better yet in “friendly” (or even better in “loving”) terms with them with the need to set limits to the Filipino sense of entitlement that often causes the Western husband of a Filipina to be viewed as the wealthy provider of the whole kin-group?

How do you balance winning the love of your extended family with not being treated as the rich Westerner who is supposed to provide everything for everyone who belongs to “big family”?

Again, based on my experience, it much depends ON YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD THEM.

If, somewhere along the line, you taught them (directly or indirectly) that the extended family is a BURDEN to you and that you want to SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES with them they may have NO FEELING for you and only see you as the RICH WESTERNER TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF AND THE MORE YOU GIVE THEM, perhaps just to please your wife, the more THEY WANT AND THEY WILL NOT EVEN SAY THANK YOU.

If, however, you endeavour to view them as your friends and allies and go the extra mile to show them that you HAVE NO HOSTILITY FOR THEM, THAT YOU ARE GOING TO GREAT LENGTHS TO EMBRACE THE FILIPINO KIN-GROUP CULTURE, they will BEGIN TO TREAT YOU AS A FAMILY MEMBER AND AUTOMATICALLY STOP WALKING ALL OVER YOU.

THEY WILL BE THE ONES TO SET BOUNDARIES AND YOU WILL NOT NEED TO SPEAK UP TO GAIN RESPECT AND GET THEM TO STOP CROSSING THE LINE.

Psychologists and relationship experts talk about the three As that create amazing relationships being Acceptance, Appreciation and Acknowledgement.

This is not just fluffy wishy-washy theory, especially in a relationship in which there is a deep cultural chasm between husband and wife.

My personal experience shows that the only way to build and shore up a bridge over this deep cultural chasm is by dropping resistance and replacing it with acceptance and then going even further by figuring out ways to learn to appreciate the Filipino in-laws culture.

I did it and, as a result, I am experiencing a beautiful and harmonious coexistence with the Filipino in-laws culture.

Why Should You Learn Tagalog if you are Married to a Filipina?

You can take buses alone and no one will try to rob you or harm you in any way if you speak Tagalog because, as Filipinos say “hindi ka maibebenta”

You can take tricycles alone

You can ask your wife’s relatives who are not that fluent in English to take you to the remotest corners of the province

You can hop on and off several buses and do that alone

You can talk to local children

You can approach Filipinos in a big Western city and startle them by talking to them in Tagalog

Many Filipinas who move abroad are fluent in English and so if you come from an English speaking country, or you are otherwise fluent in English, learning Tagalog is probably not that necessary to have quality communication with your Filipina.

I am not a native English speaker but, although my Filipino wife speaks Italian really well, I prefer to use the English language to communicate with her because she speaks English definitely better than she speaks Italian.

I can speak Tagalog but I find that the English language has a much wider vocabulary than Pilipino so it gives you more options to engage in meaningful communication with your Filipino spouse. Tagalog is a rather incomplete language and does not always give you the chance to express nuanced concepts and ideas and you need to use English to bridge the language gaps.

For example, if my wife hurts me, I can use words and expressions that convey the idea of a major hurt or a minor one if I speak in English. I could say something intense like “you stabbed me in the back” or something milder like “you peeved me”. In Tagalog I know of no other expression than “sinaktan mo ako” to express both more intense and milder hurt. The word tapat is used to express both the ideas of faithful and loyal (which are not quite the same thing) and these are just few examples.

So, if you come from an English-speaking country or you are otherwise fluent in English, learning Tagalog is probably not critical to the survival of your marriage and to the quality of your communication as a couple.

So why should you learn Tagalog?

  • One reason is that, when you marry a Filipina you marry (almost literally), the entire kin-group so you are going to have regular interactions with them and it is also likely that your Filipina might want her parents, or even her brothers or sisters, to live with you and all the more so if you move to the Philippines for good, chances are that you will live in the same compound where the entire extended family lives.

Even if your Filipina’s extended family members are fluent in English (like in my case) your effort to learn Tagalog will most certainly be viewed as an effort on your part to go the extra mile.

  • Another reason why you should learn Tagalog is because you are going to have 90% of your social intercourses with Filipinos only, especially if you live in a big Western city like Rome where there is a huge population of Pinoy immigrants. Filipinos hardly widen out and have social interactions with local people (at least here in Rome).
  • Another reason why you should learn Tagalog is this: I have noticed that, unlike Italians, who only like to gossip about other people when those people are not around, Filipinos like to whisper even in the presence of the person they are tsismising about, so if you can’t understand what they say you might find yourself in the awkward situation where you are not sure if they are talking about you or about somebody else.
  • You can startle Filipinos who live in your country by talking to them in Tagalog.
  • Being able to speak Tagalog will stand you in good stead even if you only visit the Philippines as a tourist.

I remember carrying way to much hand luggage when checking in at the Manila International Airport known as NAIA and I got away with it because I talked to the officer in Tagalog and he just smiled and let me go.

A friend of mine who spent several years in the Philippines once told me about one of his fellow countrymen who was held up by a band of robbers: he started talking to them in Tagalog kind of pretending that he was being given by the Holy Spirit the gift of “speaking in tongues” and that he was some kind of “pastor” at which the thieves dropped their weapons, apologized and run away saying “sori po pastor”. Well, I am not sure whether this is a true story or an exaggeration but I have a strong feeling that it is very likely true.

Because I speak Tagalog I was able to walk the streets of my wife’s village alone and even take buses alone to go to other towns pretending that I was a mestizo (a Filipino who has Western origins) so that nobody would rob me or hold me up.

Filipinos are by and large easygoing and I’ve noticed that if you are fluent in Tagalog they become even more relaxed so if you can learn Tagalog your trip to the Philippines can be much more interesting.

Having Children With a Filipina

One of the hallmark characteristics of a healthy relationship is learning how to compromise but no matter how good one is at compromising, in a marriage, and particularly an interracial one, there are issues that just cannot be solved by compromise alone.

Having or not having children is one of those issues that cannot be solved by simple compromise for you either have kids or you don’t and one cannot have half a kid to meet half-way.

I remember watching an episode of the series “90-Day Fiance” where an old American guy got his younger Filipina fiance to sign a paper binding her not to have any kids because he wanted to fully enjoy his “sunset” with a much younger wife without the interference of kids around but she was clearly not happy.

So the way to go is talking things out and making sure of all aspects involved before entering the relationship and making sure that both will be happy instead of imposing one’s viewpoint on the other, let alone getting her to sign a paper (my humble opinion).

I come from a country where couples, especially young ones, often don’t want any children or have one kid at best.

Due to economic stagnation most couples these days think twice before embarking on the adventure of raising kids in a country where the cost of living is too high and even childless families barely make it through the day.

In the Philippines people have plenty of kids regardless of their economical situation (and many later have to move abroad to work leaving their children in the Philippines for years) and even many Filipinos who move to my country make kids before finding a stable job or even before they qualify for a legal permit to stay in the country.

So a Western man who comes from a country like mine, where people weigh things very carefully before having kids, may find himself arguing with his Filipina who might want more than one kid and might be under the pressure of the extended family that expects her to have many kids.

One of the very first questions I get asked when I talk to Filipinos in Tagalog, and I say that the reason why I speak Tagalog is because my wife is Filipino, is “May anak ba kayo?” (“Do you have any kids?”) or sometimes they even bypass that question and directly ask “ilan ang mga anak ninyo?” (How many kids do you have?) and this question clearly shows that the anak culture is deeply embedded in the Pinoy culture.

Before I entered my relationship, I made extra sure that she understood what it is like to raise many kids in my country and only after I made sure beyond any reasonable doubt that we had the same mind on the matter did I go further in the relationship.

We limited ourselves to one boy only and we resolved not to have any other children, we went for a dog instead.

While raising a child is one of the most fulfilling experiences one can have, making kids without having the means to support them is a problem.

Life in Italy is tough as renting an apartment may cost 650 to 1000 euros a month, gasoline is 1,60 per liter, my car insurance is 800-900 euros per year (and we need two cars), each time I take my car to the garage I spend no less than 300-400 euros and so having many kids who need more than just food and shelter but rather the latest smart phone and many other gadgets would be impossible (as wages rarely exceed 1,200€ a month).

So, before committing to a relationship with a Filipina just remember that it is highly likely that the “may anak ba kayo?” mentality may have rubbed off on her and she might want to have more than one kid regardless of whether life is easy or the economy is stagnating.

If you come from a country like mine where having kids is extremely difficult and many couples go about having kids very carefully, you’d better weigh this cultural difference very well.

See also:

https://italpinoy1967.wordpress.com/2019/05/01/an-interesting-perspective-on-the-folly-of-separating-from-the-family-to-work-abroad/

https://italpinoy1967.wordpress.com/2019/01/10/freddie-aguilars-song-anak-and-its-relationship-to-child-rearing-while-working-abroad/