It has been nearly a year since my last update. I have not forgotten about you, dear reader and I offer you the latest developments herewith. We are now in Hungary, more or less on a permanent basis (is anything permanent in a life that is temporary?) mainly at my wife's choice. I hardly influenced her decision at all.
We both have adjusted well, perhaps too well. Adjustments were needed to the waits of our clothing and our belts. My excuse for gaining weight is that I have quit smoking (again), my wife does not have a convenient excuse. We went back to the Philippines for the coldest three months here and that required an even bigger adjustment. I almost turned around and came back. It was difficult to get used to living in a filthy, dirty third-world country again where water service was disrupted more than it was on, where the electricity would go out without notice for hours and in some places, for days, where customer service is an alien concept and so are vegetables, perhaps with the exception of kankong and pichay, both unfit for human consumption.
Three months there was more than enough and we are both very happy to be back in Europe. In fact, my mother-in-law is also here with us for a three-month visit. We are hosting a small family reunion next month, so we will not be traveling for a while. Before Yolanda's arrival, we did have an opportunity to take a 4-day holiday in Tauplitz, Austria with our dear friends from Kalocsa. Tauplitz is in a spectacularly beautiful region called Salzkammergut, surrounded by the high Alps and not too far from Salzburg.
I am teaching, I am programming and I am having the time of my life. I would love to see my children and three beautiful grandsons and hope to have an opportunity to do just that sometime soon. Cheche is a miracle -- supportive, loving, kind -- and I continue to be blessed to have her in my life.
Update: May 10, 2013
Since this is such an immensely popular entry (the most popular, in fact), I will write a short update to my original (August 23, 2011) post. As of December 1, 2012, we have been together for over two years, and married nearly as long. In that short time, we have traveled the world, moved into our new home and made many new friends.
I was seriously wondering how she will like living in Talisay after she has seen Paris, tobogganed in the snow of the German Alps on the Zugspitze, beat the casino in Monte Carlo, and enjoyed the nightlife of Nice, Vienna, Budapest, Saigon and many of the world's cities.
Well, Cheche is the same, modest, happy-go-lucky, joyful and content woman I married almost two years ago. No demands, no expectations. Loving and attentive as ever, takes pleasure in the smallest things. I kind of expected a changed mentality with blind pursuit of things Gucci and Louis Vuitton and that never happened. She is happy to shop for her clothes at the local "ukay-ukay" (second-hand store), although she knows and manages our monthly budget and could shop at department stores.
One big question on many readers' minds has to do with the financial support of her family. As I said, we have a monthly budget and we rigorously adhere to it. One line item is "Family Help" and frankly, it is not a lot on money -- only 2,000 pesos per month. Cheche usually uses this to take her mom shopping in Bohol at a supermarket but sometimes she, or Cheche's aunt, would rather have the cash. Support of the extended family is one key element of how her family will view you, so think about this carefully. You do not want to become the family's ATM machine yet at the same time they need to know if there is a dire emergency, they can count on you.
As a rule, we do not lend money. If immediate family has a real need, we will probably cover the expense (hospital bill, repair bill, etc.) but we rarely hand over cash. There were a couple of times when a member of her extended family was in a bind and really needed a short-term loan and we gave it to them. We have been repaid in full. They know (from Cheche) that if they do not pay us back, there can be no more "utang" (loan) and they want to keep the line of credit open.
ORIGINAL POST FOLLOWS
As discussed in the previous post, Filipinos are amiable, easy-going, cheerful, happy people by nature. They bear their burdens with stoical equanimity and are accepting of hardships and differences.
The Filipina wife is in a class of her own. I have traveled extensively all over the world, have lived on three continents and I can unequivocally aver that the Filipina makes the best wife for any man but especially for an older westerner. I will highlight some of the reasons for this conclusion, but first, the requisite disclaimer.
Not all Filipinas are alike. There are plenty of schemers and gold diggers, opportunists, users, takers and con artists. There are self-serving sycophants here just as there are in any culture. However, that is not the norm. If you look for your Filipina wife in bars, mega-malls, free Internet dating sites, you might get disillusioned and disappointed. There are plenty of horror stories out there. If, on the other hand, you look for a woman with solid values, traditionally raised, "simple girl" typically not from a big city but from the provinces, your chances will be immensely improved.
"Simple" here refers not to the woman's mental capacity but to her spectrum of needs. It is an adjective they themselves use to describe their lifestyle, lack of make up, adornments and needfulness. A "simple" girl bears the characteristics I describe below, as contrast to "city girls", "bar girls" and "mall walkers".
First and foremost, the Filipina wife is devoted -- to her husband, to her family, to her large extended family and to God. It seems that there is nothing she would not do for her brood, even at the point of self-sacrifice. "Circumstances don't matter, I am your wife and I will be by your side no matter what" seems to be their motto. A Filipina wife (asawa in Cebuano and Tagalog) will work tirelessly all day long, never asking for anything, with a smile on her face and a song on her lips. They will endure almost any condition without demands. Not only will an asawa not ask you to help with the dishes or other housework, she will insist that it is her job.
She will carry a "face towel" with her, only to wipe your sweaty face or back when you are hot. She will offer to massage your foot (or any other part) if she senses that you are tired. She will offer to wash your feet in the shower and scrub your back and generally take care of you like no other.
I am not talking about loyalty, even though many western husbands of Filipinas would describe their wives as loyal beyond reason. In my experience, loyalty leads to complacency, taking each other for granted. The ideal, in my opinion is mutual devotion and unconditional love.
Before you leap to a conclusion about the hard-working asawa, let me quickly disabuse you of the notion of getting a domestic slave. As a husband (bana in Cebuano, asawa in Tagalog), you have a responsibility to her her as well. Your primary responsibilities to her are to love her unconditionally, to provide for her according to your means, to care for her and her family, and to respect her. If you live up to your responsibilities, you will have an incredibly satisfying marriage.
It is advisable to hire a "house helper" to do the chores around the house like laundry, cleaning, cooking, washing dishes, grocery shopping and alike. A live-in helper costs 1,500 pesos (US$35) to 2,000 pesos (US$47) per month, plus room and board. A house helper will unburden your asawa from these chores, allow you to travel without leaving your house empty, care for your pets, and to deal with issues as they arise.
Happy Filipinas are ageless, playful and easy to laugh. But my point here is not mainly about her but her attitude towards age. In western cultures, older people are marginalized, ignored and shunted aside by youth revering Madison Avenue mentality. In Asia, age is respected and the wisdom of experience is highly valued. Your asawa will not care if you are 50 or 60 or even older.
Earlier this month I had an occasion to visit the US Consulate here in Cebu. While waiting my turn I overheard a man in his 70s ask the agent about a "Legal Capacity to Marry" affidavit. The agent asked a few questions, among them, "How old is your fiancée?" The man replied, "19". It is quite common to see "May - December" marriages here and no one seems to think anything of it.
My wife is 29 years old (OK, 30 but please keep it to yourself and remember that the best ten years of any woman's life are those between 29 and 30), university graduate and without children. She did not think anything of my age of 60 (when we met and were dating, now 61). She never asked if I had money or how much, in fact, she never asked me for anything of tangible value.
Try to get used to the strange notion that your age does not matter here (unless you are looking for a job — good luck with that — it is very difficult for foreigners to get a job).
A good asawa is frugal beyond measure. She has been raised to waste nothing, especially food. My wife saves every plastic baggie, every piece of string — it might be used again and again. She shops for the best quality foods but insists on the lowest price and will go to the trouble of taking a jeepney to the public market to get the freshest fruits and vegetables (on market days when the produce is freshest) at the lowest price. It may not matter to you whether she pays 65 or 70 pesos for a kilo of mangoes, but it is a matter of pride to her.
She will not make a remark if you spend 70,000 pesos for a motorcycle yet she will watch every peso passing through her hands — it is your hard-earned money after all!
A good asawa is affectionate and tender, loving and caring, gentle and kind — in every sense of the words. She will hold your hand public, hug you and kiss you without any prompting in private and she is an adventurous tigress in the bedroom. Once she grows comfortable with you she will lose all inhibitions and signs of shyness.
The typical asawa material Filipina is very sensitive. She will react to your every mood and every inflection. Take good care not to scorn her or raise your voice or express anger towards her. If you get frustrated, be sure to explain that it is not anger directed towards her but you are venting your frustration about some event or circumstance.
I had one incident (so far…) with my wife during our seven months of married life. She is a cheerful, happy-go-lucky person with a child-like curiosity about everything. One day I got flustered about one thing or another and she gave me the silent treatment. You know it, I am sure. "What's wrong?", "Oh, nothing." kind of thing. I kept prodding her often, asking her to open up and talk about what is bothering her but to no avail. Finally, I asked to her to sit down for a serious conversation. I explained that is it not possible for me to have a relationship with someone who refuses to relate to me. Did she want our relationship to suffer or even end? She came to realize how important it was to me and she opened up. She told me that she felt I no longer loved her and that I was angry with her. I explained that in fact that is not the case, that I love her very much and I was just venting my frustration, of which she was in no way the cause.
Gratitude is a naturally inbred attribute of most asawa-quality Filipinas. They are raised that way, to be thankful for the smallest blessings, to take nothing for granted. My wife is now an incredible cook — she cooks the most amazing European dishes with apparent ease. After finishing dinner she carefully prepared, she never fails to thank me for the food. She thanks the store clerk, the taxi driver and everyone who does anything for her. Before going to sleep, she thanks me for loving her.
Yes, I have been blessed; I am very fortunate to have Cheche in my life and as my wife. You might be wondering how I came to find her, to woo her hand and to marry her. Here is a brief version.
After having read about a bunch of Filipino and other Asian dating sites, I signed up with Cebuanas.com. It is a site where you can browse people for free but you have to pay a nominal fee to make contact. This is the very reason I chose them. The totally free sites seem to have more opportunists and I believe you get what you pay for. The women don't have to pay at Cebuanas.com, only the men. Nonetheless, there seem to be a better caliber of candidates there then any other site I have visited.
I signed up with Cebuanas.com for three months for $60 (they have a promo as of the date of this writing, you can get it for less than $50), thinking that if I don't find the love of my life in three months, I might as well give up. Within one month I was emailing (I was still living in the US at that time) with more than sixty Filipinas.
I had ranked all my contacts and paid most of my attention to the top three. Cheche was always number one, but the rest of them rotated positions as I learned more about them. I started using Yahoo Instant Messenger and Skype to video chat with Che and after about three months of getting to know each other, I arranged a three-week visit to the Philippines. I have been here before and I fell in love with the islands and I knew I wanted to retire to somewhere in Visayas.
Cheche is from the island of Bohol and she was working as a travel agency officer in Tagbilaran. This was great because she had access to a fast internet connection. She scheduled her vacation for the duration of my visit and we met for the first time at the Tagbilaran airport. I flew from Spokane, WA via Seattle, Seoul, and Manila to Tagbilaran, staying overnight in Manila to be rested and fresh for our first encounter. She met me at the airport with tears of joy in her eyes.
We had an incredible holiday on Palawan (where I originally wanted to settle) then returned to Bohol where I met most of her large family. We spent the remaining time on Bohol, thoroughly enjoying each others company. I left to return to the US with a heavy heart, Cheche bid me a tearful good-bye at the Tagbilaran airport.
We continued to stay in touch, knowing that there was more to this than a single encounter. She cancelled her Cebuanas.com membership and I let mine lapse. Six months later, it was time for another short visit. I booked a two-week trip (I was out of vacation time by then but not yet ready to retire) and we met for the second time at the Manila airport (NAIA). We enjoyed an incredible two-week holiday on Palawan (Busuanga, El Nido, Puerto Princesa), then Iloilo (Negros Occidental), Cebu City (Cebu) and Puerto Galera (Oriental Mindoro). It was a whirlwind tour as we were now actively looking at areas for us to settle. We said our good-byes with heavy hearts in Manila.
Six months later (November 23, 2010) I returned to the Philippines and left the US to retire here. We rented a two-bedroom apartment in Cebu City's Guadalupe barangay and got married on January 7, 2011. We have been traveling in the Philippines (at first), visiting many of the more than 7,000 islands. Lately we have expanded our horizons and visited Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic. In a couple of weeks we leave for Singapore and Malaysia and have plans to visit Thailand and Indonesia soon. We are building our house in nearby Talisay. I have never been happier.
I just read a fantastic post about this topic, you might enjoy the perspective of a Filipina wife. Please visit An Eye-Opener for Both Western Men and Filipina Women at FilipinaAZ.com. It is well worth a read!