Visiting your Filipino Wife’s Place can be an Opportunity to Travel Off the Beaten Track

I mentioned in one of my posts that when Filipinos go home to the Philippines, they generally want to stay home with their family and relatives, so, if you wish to visit some exotic beaches when you visit the Philippines with your Filipino wife, you have to figure out a win-win solution.

What I suggested in a previous post is to book in advance a flight to some island, maybe Palawan, Coron or wherever it is that you want to go, before you actually go to your wife’s hometown because, once you are in your wife’s birthplace she will probably not want to go somewhere else.

Nevertheless, even staying in your wife’s birthplace could be an enjoyable experience even if her place is not a tourist spot, depending of course on where your wife’s place is situated in the Philippines. Actually, the fact itself that your wife’s hometown is likely not a tourist spot could make your stay there even more interesting than visiting the coral reefs or the white-sandy beaches.

As far as I am concerned, staying most of the time I spent in the Philippines in my wife’s hometown turned out to be a blessing in disguise…

My wife’s hometown (San Ildefonso, Bulacan) is far from any white-sandy beaches and there seems to be nothing exciting to do in the barangay or in the barrio.

However I discovered that within 30 or 40 square miles there are interesting places such as a virgin jungle, waterfalls, rivers and even an underground river that no one ever bothered to advertise and those places are definitely off the beaten track and the only way to get there is by means of an off roader and strictly accompanied by locals, and those are places where no Western tourist has ever been to except myself (apart I guess from the Spaniards a few centuries ago).

So, even if there is no famous tourist spot to visit in your wife’s area, the idea itself of being the only foreigner who ever set foot there could, in and of itself, make your vacation.

As for me, the time I spent in the Sierra Madre Ranges in Bulacan visiting such unknown spots as the Bulusukan river, the jungle, the Madlum river etc. proved to be a lot more interesting than snorkeling in the One Hundred Islands National Park.

So, the next time you visit your Filipino wife’s hometown, if her place is situated somewhere in the province, before concluding that the only way you can enjoy your vacation in the Philippines is by going elsewhere, try to ask your wife’s relatives, especially those who have jeeps, if they can take you to some off the beaten track place nearby that can only be reached by driving on rough roads.

I did it and that was the real highlight of my experience in the Philippines.

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The Philippines is an Island Nation but if you Marry a Filipina she Probably can’t Swim

If your mental picture of a Filipina is that of an exotic woman who will be your snorkeling buddy when you go to some coral reefs in the Philippines, you might be in for a surprise.

Although the Philippines is an island nation, most Filipinos and Filipinas just can’t swim.
First of all they live on islands, not in the water. Second many of them live away from the beach, in the cities or in the mountains.

Even cities or villages that are relatively close to the sea are sometimes poorly connected to the beaches, long stretches of seacoast are occupied by private resorts and many Filipinos don’t have the money to pay the entrance fee. In several areas of the country the sea is polluted and, in many parts of the country, that are situated close to the sea, there is nothing but fields and countryside between the sea and the main road and there is not a single driveway that leads to the shore.

Third there are relatively few swimming pools (private or public) spread over the country.

Roads are insufficient and there is so much traffic that it takes forever to get to the nearest beach.

Much of the inland is covered with hills and mountains and there is nothing but rough roads in most inland areas and getting to the nearest body of water may require long hours.

My wife comes from barangay Pinaod, between San Ildefonso Bulacan and Donya Remedios Trinidad which, theoretically is close to both the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The China Sea stretch of coast that belongs to the Province is too polluted and between the villages and towns of Bulacan and the Pacific coast, on the opposite side, there is a thick jungle and no roads crossing it, not even a trail.

There is only one swimming pool near my wife’s hometown and it is located some 20 km away and the nearest (clean) river is Bulusukan which is some 30 km away and swimming there is not for everyone as there are waterfalls and the current can be strong.

So, although she comes from a village situated in the middle of an island, her hometown is so far away from any body of water that there is no way local people can practice swimming on a consistent basis.

Another factor that keeps Filipinos from learning how to swim, even if they live close to a body of water, is that for many of them entertainment is not hiking, swimming or any other physical activity but rather staying home and chit-chatting with various relatives and guests who show up at any hour, so women spend much time preparing meryenda. They also prefer social gatherings, karaoke, going to fast-food restaurants or to the shopping mall to going to a beach so, even a lot of people who live close to beaches have other priorities.

So, although you marry a woman who comes from one of the most beautiful island nations on the planet, chances are she can’t swim.

So, don’t expect a swimming or snorkeling buddy, rather, when you visit the Philippines, prepare yourself to spend most of your time there window shopping at the megamall, eating at Jollibee, KFC, Burger King etc. or at social gatherings.

The Philippines is in the middle of the sea but the sea is not a priority for most Filipinos and all the more so for women.

Palwagan: the Filipino Bank

As I keep mentioning in my posts money management is one of the areas where a Westerner and a Filipina hardly see eye to eye.

Many people in the Western world like to save and invest while a lot of Filipinos who live and work overseas seem to be more inclined to spend all they’ve got in non-essentials like expensive cars, the latest smartphones etc. and they seem to go about spending rather casually. They also send money home to support various relatives who are not always in dire need. And so arguments about money are likely to arise pretty often in a Filipino-Western Intimate Relationship.

Another aspect involving money, that one who is contemplating entering a relationship with a Filipina needs to be aware of, is the so-called Palwagan.

What is it?

It’s an informal form of saving and lending money between friends, relatives, members of a community etc.

Basically, all the members in the paluwagan will throw in a certain amount of money into a pool of funds. This will then be kept by one of the members.

Although I trust the honesty and the good motives of those involved, this system scares me quite honestly so, as far as I am concerned, I stay away from it.

I keep stressing that, in order to enjoy a great relationship with a Filipina in spite of the Filipino traits that may generate arguments and conflicts, being “in love” is better than “being right”. However, when it comes to money, being “in love rather than right” must necessarily be balanced with being “rather careful”.

The Filipino “Crab Mentality” and how it may Affect your Marriage

Here in Rome there are some 50000 Filipinos. They constitute one of the largest groups of immigrants in the city and the Filipino community has been existing here for about 40 years.

Yet, almost all Filipinos here started out working as katulong or domestic helpers (many work live-in meaning that they are only free on Sundays and on Thursday afternoons) and to this day still work as katulong.

Many other immigrants set up shop such as the Romanian who run their own businesses in such fields as construction, plumbing, electrical installations etc. The Punjabi run dozens of bakeries in town. The Chinese have hundreds of eat all you can restaurants and shops and recently they’ve also started running cafeterias and, in some cases, they even hire Italians.

And yet Filipinos who have been here much longer than other groups hardly attempt going into business or getting a job that is other than katulong. Even their sons and daughters graduate from high school and, in most cases, follow in the footsteps of their parents and become katulong themselves.

There are a couple of Filipino restaurants in town and some sari-sari store but I am talking about a very small minority of Filipinos.

But what really amazes me is that even many Filipinas whom I know, who are married to Italians, and for this reason qualify for an Italian passport which would give them more opportunities to reach out for better jobs, keep working as katulong.

I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that one of the reasons being utang na loob or “debt of gratitude” toward their employers who, somewhere along the line, helped them with their resident permit.

In addition to the “debt of gratitude” there is another psychological factor that keeps them from attempting different careers that would give them more time for their family lives (I am not saying that money and career are critical for the success of your marriage, my concern is having a job that does not get in the way of a meaningful family life and most domestic jobs, especially live-in work, do get in the way of family life). I am talking about the crab mentality, namely the idea that I am not supposed to get ahead otherwise other crabs will pull me down.

A few years ago a Filipina who used to run a sari-sari or grocery store, tried to set up a Filipino restaurant but no one would support her and it seems like other Filipinos were telling one another not to eat in her restaurant. Whether these rumors or tsismis are true or not, the fact is that the restaurant did not stick around likely due to the crab mentality.

So, it may occur that, although a Filipina is married to a Westerner, she will continue to do the domestic job she used to do before getting married.

Being aware of the two underlying reasons why often Filipinas stay with their employers, namely utang na loob and psychological fear of being pulled down or sabotaged by other Filipinos and their crab mentality will help you show insight and minimize your upset should your Filipino wife linger in the job she was doing before she married you.

A Very Powerful Idea for Dealing with Emotional Filipino Women: Lashing out is a “Cry for Help”

As I keep saying in my posts, one of the main challenges of being married to a Filipina is that many Filipinos tend to get emotional.

I’ve already published an article where I explain what, in my opinion, lies behind the emotional volatility of Filipinos (https://buildingfilipinowesternbridges.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/effective-communication-with-my-filipino-wife-her-lashing-out-is-never-or-hardly-ever-an-attack-on-you/)

Today I want to share with you a core distinction that has immensely helped me to deal with emotionally charged situations and this distinction is that

“in every human interaction a response is either “a loving response or a cry for help”.

I’ve heard this concept in some communication seminars. I think it comes from a book entitled “A Course in Miracles”.

Your spouse is lashing out, she is attacking you verbally, she is calling you names. Our natural tendency is to respond in kind.

We all fall into this trap but we might also have noticed that when we vent back the conversation is going nowhere and we are not accomplishing anything.

An emotionally charged situation however can be a great opportunity to show genuine love if we constantly remind ourselves that BEHIND THAT LASHING OUT, BEHIND THOSE SHARP WORDS, BEHIND THOSE CUTTING REMARKS THERE IS ALWAYS, YES, ALWAYS A CRY FOR HELP.

I know this idea is a little tough to grasp, I know it is perhaps a bit unnatural to see things that way and I am still struggling to apply it myself, especially when, in addition to dealing with my Filipino wife I am also dealing with my wife’s whole extended family, but when a highly emotional person unloads on us it is much more effective to stop, pause and ask ourselves: “where is the cry for help here and what is the most appropriate loving response to this particular cry for help”?

This approach may take years or even a life-time to master, but I think there is no way around it if you want to deal effectively with an emotional woman, and all the more so because Filipino in-laws, more often than not, take sides with her and also react emotionally and the atmosphere may get really intense, so investing time and energy in mastering the art of identifying the cry for help behind what looks like an attack on you will definitely increase the quality of your relationship.

In my experience this distinction has immensely helped me to enhance my ability to show empathy and understanding.

As I keep saying in this blog, becoming familiar with the Filipino culture and its countless manifestations (and idiosyncrasies) is very useful and in this blog I’ve mentioned a lot of cultural aspects that a Westerner needs to be aware of to succeed in a relationship with a Filipina. However I am a believer in the idea that a successful intimate relationship with anyone on the planet, no matter where this person comes from, has more to do with psychology and mindset than it has to do with exploring our spouse’s culture in all it’s avenues.

Operating from the idea that every interaction is either a loving response or a cry for help is a very powerful needle mover and game changer in a challenging relationship like the one with a Filipina.

What you Gain and what you Lose in a Relationship with 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.

For example if I walk down a street and I notice some litter and I pick it up and throw it in a trash can my impact on that place has created added value. Similarly if I go to a party and someone is bored and I walk up to him and uplift him, I have added value.

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

Do Filipinos 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 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.

I also find it difficult to pursue a proper work career as my wife and I have a way too active social life with Filipinos.

I used to travel much more before getting married but, because Filipinos prefer more sedentary forms of entertainment, I am now traveling a lot less.

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, travel 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.