Love in the Time of…Coronavirus

An invitation to stay home from the Italian government that very few drivers dare to ignore

I have heard about a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez entitled “Love in the Time of Cholera”.

I haven’t read it yet but it seems like it would be a good idea to do so given the particular time we are living in.

When I complete reading “The 5 a.m. Club” by Robin Sharma I might check out Marquez’s book but for now I have to figure out how to remain in a state of love during the quarantine because, like all couples in the various countries that are under lockdown, my wife and I will be spending a lot of time together without any possibilities to go on a solo retreat when the atmosphere gets intense.

The increased anxiety, and the irritability that goes with it, that characterize this unusual time make it difficult to practice some of the keys to a happy marriage that experts talk about.

  • One of the key ideas that I have abundantly read about in various relationship books and that I have (more or less) diligently tried to practice is the idea of showing ‌appreciation.

Now, because during the lockdown we will be spending a heck of more time together, chances are that I will see more clearly the ugly things than the amazing things in my wife (and she will see my ugly side of course).

Because it is going to get increasingly difficult to see the things we appreciate in each other it’s time to practice this appreciation thing even more consistently. So my battle plan is to make it a daily practice to look at as many pictures as possible of the best moments my wife and I spent together throughout all these years.

Also, because I regularly put down in writing the things I love about my wife (as experts suggest) and the reasons why I fell in love with her in the first place, I am thinking about spending more time doing this and doing it even more than once a day.

I am also working out a strategy to be able to (somehow) do other things that are important in a relationship, namely:

  • Going on a date:

We won’t be able to eat out for weeks to come (or even longer…maybe) so my idea is that we could go on an imaginary date by turning our house into a restaurant (provided that grocery stores will stay open).

We could perhaps prepare a special Filipino meal together and she could teach me (for the 20th time because I keep forgetting) how to make lumpya or Filipino spring rolls (she once taught me how to make pandesal and I did a great job but, as usual, I forgot how to do it).
Yes, cool idea: we could create a home restaurant…

  • We could go to the movie by watching a movie together…on YouTube (as if we were going to a literal movie theater…which we actually never do but we could start doing it now).
  • We could spend an evening with some close friends through Zoom or Skype.
  • We could replace going on a romantic getaway with planning our next trip by means of Google Maps or looking at some pictures of the best trips we made together in the past.
  • Another crucial thing in an intimate relationship is giving space: not easy when you share the same room 24/7 but I could allow her to watch her own things on YouTube while I do my Kindle reading, so we could give each other space this way without leaving the room.

There are different ways to go about working out a viable strategy to prevent the inevitable tension that characterizes a lockdown from eating away at love and intimacy.

At least I have started thinking about it and putting down in writing some ideas. I’ll try to come up with more ideas and insights in the days to come…as a matter of urgency!

Filipino “Diskarte” Amid Coronavirus Crisis: Homemade Face Masks

Filipino people have a way with finding creative solutions to all kinds of problems.

This Filipino trait is known as diskarte.

A serious problem most people have at the moment here in Italy is how and where to find face masks to protect themselves from Covid 19.

I don’t have any problems in this regard because my wife comes from the land of diskarte so I have my personal collection of homemade face masks.

Face masks are almost impossible to find in this country at the moment but, a couple of weeks before the nation-wide lockdown was introduced, I already had my Filipino-made masks.

I am not quite sure about the actual effectiveness of these masks against the virus, but grocery stores won’t let me in without one, so these ones should do their job and grant me access to the nearest supermarket.

It’s getting tough here…..

New restrictions coming…

Mga Pagnanasa vs mga Pangangailangan: mga Di-inaasahang Kapakinabangan ng Lockdown

Sarado lahat ang mga mall: paano ang mga Pilipino?…

Dito sa Italya nagiging talagang mahigpit ang lockdown dahil sa bilis ng pagdami ng cases ng Coronavirus.

Walang bukas na bar, restaurant, fast-food, shopping mall o kahit anong uri ng negosyo na hindi itinuturing “necessary”.

Ako ay matagal nang may masamang kaugalian na magkape sa bar kahit 3 o 4 na beses sa isang araw, kapag may pasok ako.

Sa ngayon wala akong magagawa kundi magdala ng thermos ng kape mula sa bahay.

Ito ay nagbibigay sa akin ng pagkakataon na mag-isip tungkol sa kung gaano karaming pera ang inuubos ko sa di-kinakailangang mga bagay.

Bukod dito kami ng misis ko ay mahilig sa dating at gusto naming kumain sa labas pero, dahil sa ngayon walang bukas na restaurant, nagdedate lang kami sa bahay at natuklasan namin na hindi talagang kailangan ubusin ang pera sa ganitong mga bagay para mag-enjoy ng pag-aasawa. Napakaromantiko na ang paglalambing sa kwarto namin!!!

Kung sana nilinang ko ang kaugalian na huwag gumastos sa bar o sa restaurant, na obligado akong taglayin ngayon dahil sa lockdown, noong bata pa ako marami na sana akong savings sa ngayon.

Ang Coronavirus Crisis ay nagturo sa akin ng isang importante aral tungkol sa kamangmangan ng pagsasaya ng pera sa di-kinakailangang mga bagay….

Thermos ng kape na lang
Sarado lahat

First Weekend Ever Under Lockdown in the Italian History: How are Italians and Filipino Immigrants Coping?

We are running out of masks but we’ve got plenty of wine bottles and jars
When you can’t go fishing
When you need to fill out a form to justify to the police why you are not at home….you can write that your dog needs to poop
When you are used to standing in a crowded bus

When discos are closed

What is likely to happen if the lockdown lasts too long
Saturday night (Corona) fever

What about Filipino immigrants?

They are not supposed to do the things they love the most like:

  • Going to large social gatherings
  • Going to shopping malls
  • Hanging out in front of the monument to José Rizal (we have a Luneta Park here in Rome)

So what’s the alternative?

Group chatting!

Foreigner na Mahiyain at Pilipinang Mahilig sa Pakikihalubilo

Ang isa sa pinakamalaking mga hamon sa aking pag-aasawa, bilang foreign na asawa ng isang Pilipina, ay na ang misis ko ay galing sa isang kultura na mahilig sa maraming pakikisama at pakikihalubilo samantala ako ay mas mahilig sa pagbubukod sa sarili at medyo reserbado ako.

Pwede kayang gumana ang relasyon sa pagitan ng isang babae na mahilig sa maraming pakikisama at isang lalaki na mas mahiyain at hindi gaanong mahilig sa maraming pakikisama?

Heto ang ilang mga bentaha ng pagiging isang lalaki na mas mahilig sa pagbubukod ng sarili kaysa sa labis ng pakikihalubilo at kung gaano, sa totoo, kapaki-pakinabang ito sa pag-aasawa.

Pinahahalagan ng isang taong hindi masyadong mahilig sa labis ng pakikihalubilo ang pagkakaroon ng de-kalidad na mga relasyon

Kahit mahilig ako sa pagbubukod ng sarili hindi naman hermit ako: mayroon akong mga kaibigan, kaya lang, sa halip na magkaroon ng napakaraming mababaw na mga relasyon, mayroon akong kaunting mga kaibigan pero ang mga iyon ay de-kalidad na mga kaibigan.

Ang posibleng mangyari sa mga taong may labis na pakikisama (at least sa ilan sa kanila) at na may napakaraming mga mababaw na relasyon sila ay na madaling pinuputol nila ang relasyon sa isang kaibigan kung may kaunting di-pagkakaunawaan dahil, tutal, marami silang kaibigan at option.

Sa kabilang banda mas malaki ang posibilidad na ang mas reserbadong uri ng tao na mas mahilig sa pagkakaroon ng kaunting kaibigan ay gagawa ng lahat ng makakaya para maging matalik at de-kalidad ang kanyang mga relasyon at kung may problema lulutasin iyon imbes na tumakas at, bilang resulta, gagawa siya lahat ng paraan para maging matalik na kaibigan ang kanyang kabiyak at lutasin ang lahat ng uri ng hamon at problema.

Ang taong hindi masyadong mahilig sa labis ng pakikihalubilo ay nagbubukod ng sarili nang medyo madalas

at, sa palagay ko, ito ay isang malaking tulong para sa relasyon.

Ang regular na pagbubukod ng sarili ay nagpapahintulot sa akin na nagmuni-muni tungkol sa kung ano ang gumagana o hindi gumagana sa relasyon at bulay-bulayin kung papaano gumawa ng kinakailangang pagbabago

Mas mapayapa ang relasyon sa isang taong hindi masyadong mahilig sa pakikihalubilo

Bilang taong mahilig sa pagbubukod ng sarili komportable ako sa pag-iisa.

Sa pag-aasawa may mga situwasyon kung saan kailangang umalis at ibukod ang sarili, halimbawa kapag sobrang mainit ang ulo ng kabiyak at, syempre, dahil hindi problema para sa akin ang pag-iisa mas madali para sa akin lumayo mula sa misis ko kapag mainit ang situwasyon at hindi kapaki-pakinabang pilitin siya na makipag-usap.

At malaking tulong ito upang maging mapayapa ang relasyon.

So, para sa akin at batay sa aking karanasan, talagang kapaki-pakinabang kapag ang isang taong sobrang mahilig sa pakikihalubilo ay nagiging asawa ng isang taong mas mahilig sa katahimikan.

Can Empathy be Learned?

As I said in my post about how a strong introvert can succeed in a relationship with an extrovert, I am a very strong introvert.

Sometimes this trait of my personality causes me to come across as uncaring, aloof and lacking empathy.

The truth is that I do care about the feelings of other people, and I do care a lot, but I have a hard time expressing my feelings so I come across as cold, uncaring and indifferent when in fact I am not and, deep inside, I am the exact opposite of that.

I have deep concern for people who suffer, even for animals for that matter, and I have a deep desire to help but I struggle to project those emotions outward.

My wife, on the other hand, because she comes from a culture that encourages reaching out to others and connecting with others, is much more capable of expressing fellow feeling and empathy.

So, when I became aware that feeling love and care deep inside while not being able to let people know what I feel and how much I feel and care doesn’t work in an intimate relationship, I decided to conquer this weakness by basically applying the same method that has helped me to conquer my inability to listen to others.

Few weeks ago I wrote a post about how I learned to listen more.

I used to suck a lot at listening to others but, when I became aware of how this weakness was eating away at my marriage, I trained myself to listen more by making a deliberate effort to practice paying attention when others speak in every situation.

For example, because I regularly attend meetings, lectures and conventions, I make it a practice to remember at least three points of each talk I listen to and then approach the speaker and give him feedback about what I liked in his presentation and try to be as specific as possible.

And when I go to a large Filipino social gathering, instead of shying away from kwentuan (a lot of people who chit-chat, usually about petty issues) and retreat myself into a corner, I try to sit close to the people who are engaging in kwentuan and try to pay attention to, at least, three points and make three comments before retreating myself in a corner.

By training myself to make a deliberate effort to listen and give feedback in every situation I am also making good progress under this aspect in my family life.

And it’s the same with empathy: by practice it can be learned, and, again, I am not talking about the empathy that I feel deep inside but rather the ability to come across as one who really cares.

So, what I started practicing, to come across as more empathetic in my marriage, is simply this: I make a deliberate effort to repeat out loud the gist of what my wife has just said whenever she is talking to me.

I am not perfect at this yet, it might take years to master this but I am glad that I decided to work on my old habits.

I really want my marriage to grow and thrive so I cannot afford to be stuck in old patterns.

I used to believe that a thriving marriage with a Filipina was all about learning about her language and culture and building rapport that way but, somewhere along the line, it dawned upon me that the key to an amazing marriage (and it doesn’t really matter if we are talking about an interracial one or a quote-unquote “normal” one) is a huge mindset shift and working on one’s psychology.

As human beings we share the same underlying psychology and empathy is one of those things that work cross-culturally.

Learning about my wife’s native culture and language without working on my mindset weaknesses was producing absolutely nothing, therefore I decided to spend much more time reading material on the psychology of healthy relationships and trying to apply those bits of information and I cut back a bit on my deep study of the Philippines and its culture which is, without a doubt, very useful but is definitely not the master key to a successful relationship.

Mga Pilipino sa Italy sa Panahon ng Coronavirus

Dahil sa bilis ng pagdami ng cases (top two ang Italya sa pinakamadaming case) ipinagbabawal ng gobyerno ng bansa karamihan ng mga bagay na gustong gawin ng mga Pinoy:

  • Bawal mag salu-salo
  • Bawal mag-inuman
  • Bawal magtambay sa kalsada
  • Bawal pumunta sa mga Mall

Ano kaya ang ginagawa ng mga Pinoy dito?
Kahit papaano nagpapatuloy ang pakikisama at pakikihalubilo….

Group chatting na lang!

Lockdown in Italy: the Deserted Streets of my Ghost Town

This is more or less what Rome looks like this morning.

All stores are closed except grocery stores, gas pumps and other very essential businesses.

It seems like the virus is hitting hard but Rome seems to have a charm that it never had in decades….

Driving on an empty road

Almost all stores are closed

People wearing masks in a grocery store

Very few people walking…and wearing masks

Can a Strong Introvert Marry an Extrovert?

A typical Filipino social gathering

My wife is Filipina and she comes from a culture that is all about pakikisama, a Tagalog term for togetherness.

I, on the other end, need, cherish and actually crave plenty of solitude and prefer associating with few selected individuals to having a lot of friends and going to large social gatherings.

I love solo hikes and I also love sitting alone on park benches or simply being shut away in my room to read for hours on end. And I love going to a cafeteria or a restaurant with maximum one or two very close friends and engage in deep conversation.

The Filipino culture is, on the other hand, all about large social gatherings, music, dancing and karaoke, chit-chatting and sharing.

The Filipino idea of togetherness fosters a spirit of bayanihan, a spirit of communal cooperation and help which is such that the whole community helps when of its member needs practical help.

So how can I, a very strong introvert, sit well with a Filipina who comes from a culture that is strongly oriented toward connecting with a lot of people?

Well, not only have I discovered that an introvert man can sit well with a woman who comes from a culture that encourages much togetherness but I have also found out that an extrovert person actually needs an introvert partner and that an introvert and an extrovert complement each other rather nicely.

Here are some reasons why I think an introvert like me can thrive in a relationship with an extrovert and make it work rather well.

Introverts are not hermits, they just prefer few and high quality relationships to many shallow ones

The Filipino idea of togetherness has a lot of great aspects to it, like the spirit of bayanihan that I have just mentioned.

On the other hand, because Filipinos definitely prefer large social gatherings to socializing with one or two people at a time, relationships tend to be rather shallow.

In my life I have always had very few friends but those people have been my friends for decades.

I have always preferred fixing misunderstandings and working on improving my relationships with those few people to running away from them when things don’t work out

There are people who seem to have plenty of options because they have plenty of shallow relationships with a lot of people so they always have someone else to turn to when they get upset with a particular person.

I prefer to maintain my relationships with the people whom I care about and make them grow to turning to other people when things don’t work out and this personality trait has stood me in good stead in my marriage.

I have been through a lot of misunderstandings and conflicts in my relationship (like all those who are in a marriage) but I have entered this relationship with the idea that there is no plan B. My wife is my best friend and the relationship has to work and I am committed to raising the quality of it every single day.

And, because I have very few friends outside the relationship, I can focus on my marriage without too many distractions from a lot of people who claim my time and attention.

Introversion Breeds Peace Within and Without

Because I need and cherish solitude I can easily leave the scene of a heated discussion without suffering too much because I can be just as fulfilled while alone as when I am interacting with my wife (or with any other person).

Also, choosing to deliberately isolate myself on a regular basis, by carving out moments in which I write in a journal, gives me the opportunity to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working in my relationship and come up with solutions I couldn’t come up with if I were always socializing.

Contemplation and inner work breed more self-control and peace of mind in general and create an internal environment that can hardly coexist with conflict.

An Introvert Gives Space

Because an introvert needs space he is also more likely to give space and giving space is vital in an intimate relationship.

I need a lot of space and I am willing to give my wife space, to the point that I am willing to allow her to spend even one or two months in the Philippines while I stay here (and this has already happened three times since we got married).

An Introvert is Rich Internally and Therefore is Less Clingy

A strong introvert doesn’t enter a relationship because he is desperate about finding a spouse.

As I have already mentioned, during my moments of solitude I can be just as fulfilled as when I interact with people, or, more accurately, I feel even more fulfilled.

I fully enjoyed my almost four decades of singleness (I got married at age 36) so I was not really clinging to the idea of finding a marriage mate, I could perfectly function alone.

And, because one of the hallmark traits of a thriving marriage is giving, those who don’t enter a relationship because they badly need companionship have more to give, or, at least, have less to take.

The Downside of Being too much of an Introvert

So, being an introvert has, without a doubt, stood me in great stead as far as my marriage is concerned.

Yet I must admit that sometimes I push my need to be alone too far and my being too much of an introvert borders on selfishness.

Not only does my wife connect with a lot of people to just socialize with them: in so doing she actually helps a lot of people in many practical ways, which is something that I definitely need to work on and that I am learning from my Filipino wife.

So I think that an introvert and an extrovert can definitely learn from each other and not view each other as incompatibile.

I am the most introverted person you can imagine, I am, in fact, the peak of introversion while my wife comes from a culture that is the polar opposite of it and yet we manage to function rather well.

My experience shows that a relationship between an hyper-introvert and an extrovert is possible and if I can be in a relationship with an extrovert everyone else who is in a similar position can.

So, yes, a strong introvert can perfectly be in a relationship with an extrovert and my experience is the evident demonstration that this is definitely the case.

Il mio primo incontro ravvicinato con una scimmia nelle Filippine

Uno degli aspetti più interessanti dei miei viaggi nelle Filippine sono state le mie escursioni nella catena montuosa della “Sierra Madre”, una zona piuttosto remota e poco frequentata dai turisti (o meglio non frequentata affatto, molto probabilmente sono l’unico straniero che abbia mai messo piede in alcune di quelle zone dopo i colonizzatori spagnoli….ammesso che loro ci siano mai arrivati).

L’unica maniera di raggiungere alcune di quelle zone è a bordo di una jeep insieme a gente del posto, e questo è uno dei grandi vantaggi di essere sposati con una persona originaria di quelle zone che altrimenti un turista straniero potrebbe difficilmente visitare.

Il culmine di quell’esperienza è stato senza dubbio il mio incontro ravvicinato con una scimmia, animale che avevo visto in precedenza solo al Bioparco di Roma.

Il mio incontro ravvicinato con la scimmia è stato davvero particolare perché c’era qualcosa di molto strano nello sguardo di quell’animale, uno sguardo che era un misto di curiosità e aggressività.

Cosa rendeva quella scimmia particolarmente curiosa nei miei confronti? Forse il fatto che era la prima volta che vedeva un essere umano ricoperto di una folta peluria?

Gli uomini filippini non hanno una peluria simile alla mia o quella di altri occidentali (e questo è uno degli elementi che rendono attraente un occidentale agli occhi di una filippina…) e questo probabilmente ha preso alla sprovvista la scimmia che non riusciva a capire se avesse davanti un suo simile o qualcos’altro.

Qualunque sia l’idea che la scimmia si sia fatta di me io, guardandola negli occhi, ho avuto un’ulteriore conferma di ciò che già credevo da tempo: l’uomo e la scimmia non hanno nulla in comune!

Io parlo tre lingue abbastanza complicate e, come qualsiasi altro essere umano, potrei impararne altre e le lingue parlate dall’uomo hanno strutture grammaticali complesse a differenza dei pochi grugniti che ho udito da quella scimmia.

Il semplice fatto che l’uomo sia in grado di comunicare tramite il linguaggio mi dice che l’uomo e la scimmia non hanno nulla in comune e, fissando a lungo quella scimmia negli occhi (mentre facevo questa riflessione), me ne sono ulteriormente convinto al di là di ogni ragionevole dubbio…