I spent about 11 years fully immersing myself into the Filipino culture but, as I said in other posts, that didn’t create the bridge I was expecting to create.
My relationship started taking off when I began working on my mindset.
It dawned upon me that entering a multicultural intimate relationship and dealing with its complexity requires higher levels of spirituality and an above average ability to deal, emotionally speaking, with the inevitable upset that culture shock creates.
That is why my posts sometimes deal with specific aspects of the Filipino culture while on other occasions I talk about the importance of going through this kind of relationship with the right mindset.
It has been said that 80% of success in anything in life is mindset and only 20% is what you actually do.
Delving into the Filipino culture belongs to the 20% in my opinion while everything else is emotional mastery.
I think one of the keys to achieving spiritual and emotional mastery is how you start your day.
The ability to bulletproof your psychology, fireproof your spirituality and battleproof your internal dialogue early in the morning, by reading uplifting material and meditating a little bit instead of checking your Facebook notifications or watching the news for example, or making a list of what you are grateful for and what you appreciate in your spouse, determines how the whole day will play out and how you will react to the various challenging situations that arise in a complex marriage like the one with a Filipina.
Dealing with the extended family, dealing with the high emotionalism of Filipinos and dealing with the various idiosyncrasies of their culture will certainly put your emotions to the test.
You certainly need to learn as much as you possibly can about the bahala na, utang na loob, ningas kugon, balat sibuyas, hiya and many other aspects of your spouse’s culture but don’t fall into the trap of assuming that by simply becoming an expert of your wife’s culture you will create an outstanding relationship.
My experience is that success in this kind of marriage is more about psychology than it is about going Filipino and a very powerful way to fireproof your psychology is dwelling on uplifting thoughts as first thing in the morning.
There are people who are motivated by what they want while others are motivated by necessity. Some people have a proactive approach to life while other people, the majority actually, only decide and take action when they cannot help but do so because they find themselves in an emergency situation.
A case in point is healthy choices: there are people who proactively embark on a project to reach peak health because they want to and others who only make changes in their lifestyle when they are driven by necessity.
If you have ever been to a Filipino social gathering you have certainly noticed how, for the most part, Filipinos basically eat rice or noodles and proteins which could include chicken, pork meat of fish. Actually there are dishes that contain more than one kind of animal protein in the same dish, such as pansit palabok, which basically is noodles with eggs ground meat, shrimps and grated chicharon on top (at least this is the variety they make in my wife’s hometown).
What is usually missing or is barely present is vegetables.
Now, although I am not a medical doctor, I think we all know that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and limiting carbs, especially refined ones such as white rice, as well as limiting animal proteins, especially the habit of mixing several types of those proteins in the same meal, is something that increases our chances to enjoy good health.
Most Filipinos view such diseases as high blood pressure for example, as inevitable, their bahala na approach to things gets them to enjoy food that is often not the healthiest possible and when the consequence show up then they take action.
I know very few Filipinos who eat whole grain cereals, fruits and lots of vegetables and they are usually people who went through some serious disease like cancer or severe high blood pressure.
They didn’t embark on a healthy diet proactively, they were just forced by a major disease into changing their diet.
So, it seems to me that taking action proactively is generally foreign to the Filipino mindset and, by and large, Filipinos appear to be more driven by fixing emergencies than preventing them by making wise choices upstream.
A few days ago I read an article about the underlying reasons why Filipinos seem to lack a long-term view of things and tend to focus on the immediate benefits. It pointed to the fact that the early settlers of the Philippines got there by means of small boats called barangay that were designed for short island hopping rather than huge oceangoing vessels designed to explore vast and unknown spaces and that were built for a long-range journey.
So, it seems like from the time Filipinos settled in their archipelago, they have been characterized by a lifestyle oriented toward short-term decisions and actions.
So, by being married to a Filipina, you will likely be sharing your life with a person who, by and large, is more driven by necessity than ambition or possibilities and what I’ve found out is that, a good share of the time, the only way to motivate a Filipina is by telling her what she is going to lose if she fails to take a certain action rather than what she is going to gain if she does take action.
Filipinos definitely seem to be more driven by pain than by gain.
As I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts, my country, and particularly Southern Italy, has much in common with the Philippines.
One of the things that add to the similarities is the fact that Filipinos eat pasta and particularly spaghetti.
The way they prepare spaghetti is not anywhere near how we do it here in Italy, as Filipinos usually add sugar to sweeten and use UFC banana ketchup instead of tomato puree or peeled tomatoes to make the sauce. They also put hot dogs and ground meat in their unique version of spaghetti.
Aesthetically speaking they kind of resemble what we call here “amatriciana”, a pasta recipe that comes from the town of Amatrice, some 100 miles away from Rome.
The two pictures highlight the huge differences between the two “schools of thought”: the ready-made Filipino spaghetti sauce package my wife bought in a sari-sari store here in Rome reads “sweet Filipino style” while in the other picture you can see my basic recipe that I made with fresh home-made tomato sauce and extra virgin olive oil and I had it with artisanal wine from the Sorrento Peninsula in Southern Italy.
Do Italians like Filipino spaghetti?
Well, after spending a couple of weeks in the Ilocos region where I ate nothing but dried fish every single day, the Filipino spaghetti I had in the Baliuag S.M. in Bulacan tasted like home.
So, is Filipino spaghetti good or bad? My diplomatic answer is: it’s Filipino.
One of the reasons why Filipinos like living and working in my country is that mabait ang gobyerno dito or, basically, “the government is kind to them here”.
As I’ve pointed out in a previous post, Italy, and particularly Southern Italy, could, under certain aspects, be viewed as the “Philippines of Europe”.
One of the reasons is that Southern Italians themselves take laws and regulations quite lightly so Filipinos feel comfortable here.
Filipinos respect the law only where they have too, like in certain Northern European Countries for example.
They have a preference for countries where they can find some butas or loophole to kind of dodge the law and here there are maraming butas or many loopholes.
Many Filipinos come here illegally knowing that sooner or later the government will give them an amnesty and allow them to have a permit of stay if someone hires them.
Many Italian drivers take traffic rules lightly and Filipinos follow suit.
Many Southern Italians dispose of big pieces of garbage such as washing machines etc. in parks to avoid taking those things to a dumpsite and, under this aspect, they are similar to some Filipinos who throw everything in the rivers.
Filipinos feel more at ease in an environment that is hindi masyadong istrikto or not too strict.
As I have pointed out many times if you marry a Filipina you can’t be too direct and strict.
Filipinos thrive in an environment that allows them to live by their bahala na easygoing and carpe diem principles and anyone who uses a heavy handed approach will find himself ill at ease.
In this country Filipinos feel at home and, generally speaking, Italians who are married to a Filipina (at least the ones I know) hardly report having experienced major culture shock while, based on what I’ve heard from several people in the 20-year period that I have been married to a Filipina, Northern Europeans, Americans or others who come from cultures where the approach to things is more rigid, seem to have a harder time getting adjusted.
Whether this is just my personal perspective or an actual fact what is certainly true is that those who marry a Filipina can’t be masyadong istrikto.
As I’ve already mentioned a few times, one of the characteristics of Filipinos is emotionalism. Filipinos are, by and large, more driven by their emotions than by intellect. One of the characteristics of emotional people is the tendency to either conjure up the past or fret over the future.
As I pointed out in my previous posts the bahala na and the isang kahig isang tuka mentalities seem to indicate that, by and large, Filipinos enjoy the present and don’t worry too much about the future.
However Filipinos seem to have a very strong tendency to ALLOW THE PAST TO AFFECT THEIR PRESENT BEHAVIOUR.
The utang na loob or debt of gratitude gets Filipinos to be eternally grateful to someone who did them a favor 20-30-40 years ago.
Another characteristic that seems to keep many Filipinos stuck in the past is that, in much the same way as they eternally hang on to feelings of gratitude toward another person, they can also hold a grudge for years or decades and allow hinanakit or resentment for something that happened years or decades before to affect their present relationships.
A tendency toward constantly conjuring up the past is one of the most destructive forces in an intimate relationship as it gets in the way of appreciating the good qualities of one’s spouse and it keeps a couple from looking for solutions.
Conjuring up past upsets is like trying to drive a ship by staring at the wake or the trail that is left behind. Psychologist Dr. Wayne Dyer said that allowing the past to influence the present in a relationship is like uselessly staring at the trail that is left behind instead of concentrating on how to set the sails of the boat or control the rudder.
Because many Filipinos don’t invest time and resources reading spiritually and emotionally uplifting stuff and spend much time on things that cater to instant gratification, many fall into the trap of allowing hinanakit to get in the way of their present relationships.
I think the way Filipinos could get out of this cycle of strong emotionalism would be cutting back on entertainment and cultivating spirituality, spending more time raising their level of consciousness by walking in nature, reading uplifting material and meditating. Relatively few Filipinos are willing to do that.
Dealing with emotional people calls for higher levels of emotional intelligence.
When emotions get intense in a relationship you can either escape from it or take your mixed-relationship to the next level by cultivating emotional and spiritual mastery.
By reading and meditating on uplifting material you can acquire the skills that will allow you to LOOK THROUGH the day-to-day emotion-driven behaviours that your Filipino wife maybe acting out by LOOKING INTO THE REASONS that account for this emotionalism.
By OBSERVING the environment she comes from you can get to develop more empathy, understanding and compassion and manage to SEPARATE WHO YOUR SPOUSE IS AND WHAT THE RELATIONSHIP IS ABOUT from BEHAVIOURS THAT ARE THE PRODUCT OF THE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT she comes from and that are typical of Filipinos in general and not necessarily a weakness of your spouse.
The Philippines is a republic and it has a president. Yet, under certain aspects it is similar to ancient Rome.
Rome, the city I live in, used to be an empire and it used to have an emperor.
Well, although the Philippines is not an empire and it has a president, it also has an Emperador or emperor and the emperor is definitely higher than the president.
Why? Because the president seats in his office while the Emperador always stands on the table.
Now, it stands to reason that the one who stands is higher than the one who sits, therefore there is no doubt that ang Emperador ay mas mataas kaysa (higher than) sa Presidente and all the more so because mataas ang leeg or it has a long (bottle)neck.
Emperador is not a person or a title, rather it is a popular brand of brandy in the Philippines. The Spanish brand Fundador is also very popular.
Filipino men are, in many cases, heavy drinkers and one person can polish off at least half a bottle of hard liqueur in one evening.
That is why the Emperador has more influence on some Filipinos than the president himself.
Obviously Emperador is just one of the several options Filipinos have when it comes to drinking.
Gin is probably the most widespread along with rhum and strong Red Horse beer.
Women generally don’t drink in the Philippines (and I’ve written a post about how they actually often frown upon this habit) but, if you are married to a Filipina, her male relatives likely do and they do it in interesting ways:
The Tagalog expression for “a little bit” is kaunti-kaunti. The standard amount of alcohol they actually consume is actually kaunti-container.
Yes, the Philippines is a republic and not even a very powerful one. Some consider it a “mere footnote in history”.
Yet the Philippines, in addition to having a president, also has an “emperor”.