It recently occurred to Janet and I that we are approaching our 2nd anniversary. This blog was originally dedicated to describing the joys of a newly-wedded Fil-Am couple. At almost 2 years I may have to change the focus to a mature and experienced Fil-Am couple; cranky even (OK, that’s just the male half of the couple).
In addition, in my previous forays into marriage I visited many couples therapists. Usually these pleasant engagements occurred when my ex would sweetly say, “honey – go with me to therapy or get the hell out!”
I counted the other day (this is how exciting my daily life is) and came up with six different couples therapists I have seen, though fortunately none with Janet. In addition, there was the couples therapy group I was a member of for several years. Of the eight couples that worked successfully together to improve their marital lives, I am pretty sure that one or two pairs are still married.
The point of all this is that clearly I am now an expert in the area of Fil-Am marriage (and marriage in general) and so finally feel capable of dispensing “Dave’s Tips For a Successful Fil-Am Marriage.” Read it at your own risk. You have been warned!
1. Learn to speak her language: No, I am not talking about learning Tagalog or Visayan, though that’s not a bad idea and I know one or two guys who have actually learned to speak Filipino well enough to not be laughed at throughout the Philippines.
Me? Janet has taught me the Visayan words for all the body parts (or at least the good ones) as well as a few intimate acts. When Janet told her mother what she had taught me her mother yelled, “Why would you teach him that!” Because it’s fun – that’s why. At age 62 I now get to talk dirty in a new language and am having a blast.
But actually what I meant when I said you should learn her language – is English. English, you ask? That’s what we Americans and Canadians and British and Australians speak. That’s the language our Filipina brides ought to learn better. That’s the language we, as native speakers, ought to be teaching our Filipina brides. Wrong!!
Don’t kid yourself: it’s not your responsibility to teach her English. It’s your responsibility to learn her English! Think you’re gonna get her to stop using terms like “nosebleed,” or “open/shut the light?” Nor could I ever get Janet to stop calling me “Sir Dave.” Come to think about it why would I want her to stop 🙂
Despite the fluency of many Filipinas, English can be tricky. Lately, Janet’s gotten into baking. The other day she asked if she could find “coqua” here. She described it as a chocolate baking powder. I assured her that chocolate baking powder was easy to get but I didn’t know about coqua. “I’ll look it up. How do you spell it?”
“Cocoa,” she answered.
“Oh, you mean cocoa.”
“Don’t worry. We can get some Hershey’s coqua at the store.”
So bone up on your Filipino English, guys. You’re gonna need it.
2. Find the best place for lechon: There’s the old adage “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” In this case your silo of a stomach is irrelevant. You’re a kano; you can eat whatever crap kanos eat. But she will miss all of her native foods.
Before Janet arrived I thought I had done the right thing. I’d bought a rice cooker, and a good one at that, and scoped out several Asian markets and a Filipino restaurant. ‘That should do it,’ I thought. Wrong! Despite the stereotype that they are poor Filipinas who mostly subsist on rice, and only white rice at that, her palate is as varied as yours; for example, sometimes KFC will do and other times is has to be Popeyes 🙂
But seriously, just as if you lived abroad you might miss a New York steak, your fave gouda, or if you’re me, Kraft Mac and Cheese, she will miss all her favorites. Sometimes you will look everywhere and find something and declare “Eureka! I found it,” only to be told that that brand isn’t very good. Janet has been trying to find a good chicharon (pork rinds) for 2 years with no success. Sure we can find chicharon but not the good stuff. BTW, for those really interested, Carcar is the chicharon capital of the Philippines, so if you want the good stuff it’s only 8000 miles (and a 2 hour drive south of Cebu City) away.
BTW, for those really interested, Carcar is the chicharon capital of the Philippines, so if you want the good stuff it’s only 8000 miles (and a 2 hour drive south of Cebu City) away.
Sometimes it’s the simplest things. When we first arrived Janet wanted corned beef. No problem, I told her, and picked up a can of Hormel’s. “Yuck,” she said. “This is not corned beef.” “It says corned beef and it’s made by Hormel, the king of junk meat,” I replied.
All the Asian stores we have been to do not carry real Philippines corned beef and Janet has been missing it. But then a miracle happened. A couple weeks ago for her birthday a friend brought Janet a couple of tins of corned beef. A certain amount of begging was required to get the friend to reveal her special source. These are the sorts of things you must do to keep your wife happy and avoid the couples therapist, who wouldn’t know where Filipino corned beef can be gotten anyway.
3. Get to know (and like) the family: I know, I know. You married her, not her family. You have enough troubles dealing with your own family and if you’re like me you deliberately live thousands of miles away from your ancestral home and return rarely. And of course you and your bride live many thousands of miles away from the Philippines. And even if you two eventually decide to live in the Philippines, you will heed the words of many wise expats and live two islands away from the family; that’ll keep you from having to deal with them. Umm – not quite!
Janet has nine brothers and sisters and while it’s taken two years of intensive study, I now know all their names and pretty much know who is who. Since I am told about them in intimate detail, I figured I might as well learn to accept that fact. So should you.
But if you’re fool enough to listen to me, you ought to take it a step further – get to know the family and like them.
We’ve returned each year to Janet’s hometown in Alcoy and frankly the family, while happy to see Janet, seems fascinated to see me. Actually, they seem most fascinated that I am interested in them and wish in some small way to be part of them. As I’ve detailed before, the kids are shy, but watch what I do like a hawk.
I suppose when it comes to the family, the greatest fear on the part of many husbands of Filipinas is financial. We hear horror stories and figure the easiest way to not have our cash parted from us, until we’re cold and dead, is to stay far from the family.
While I suppose it’s a risk, I just don’t agree. Get to know her family, her friends. Soon they will spill the beans on your bride and tell you everything imaginable. You want to know everything don’t you? No? Then why did you marry a Pinay?
And if someone asks for money (that you don’t have or don’t wish to give), describing in their best English what they need the money for – tell ’em you’re having a nosebleed.
Tip of the Day: If you’re visiting or moving to the Philippines and are worried that everyone will think you are the aforementioned rich kano – well, you’re right. Every cousin, hell even lolo, is on Facebook. They know the car you drive, the clothes you wear, the square footage of your house, what version of iPhone you have, etc. Why? Because you are an idiot and post all these things!
So what’s my tip? Think Jed Clampett. Remember the Beverly Hillbillies, where Jed had something like $60 million, back in the day when $60 mil was real money? Did he drive a Mercedes, dress in Armani, and post it all on FB? Nope. Here’s how he rolled. Do the same and you won’t be considered the rich kano. Or, only somewhat rich 🙂