“Gold-diggers who are only after a green card”—Pinays dating foreigners are often plagued by this stereotype not just in the Philippines, but elsewhere around the globe. Here, Pinays who are married or engaged to foreigners get real with us about how they met their partners, how they deal with the stigma, and why they’ve chosen to soldier on with their relationships anyway. (One word: LOVE.)
1. Ada and Eric
Ada met Eric, a member of the US Navy, online, but he proved his love by making trips to see her in Manila. They are now married and based in Kanagawa, Japan.
Ada: We first met online in 2009 through OkCupid. After a few months of chatting and exchanging emails, his ship made a port visit to Manila, and we decided to meet in person. After he made a couple more visits to the Philippines, I realized that this guy was serious and not just fishing for some random Filipina to marry with some hidden agenda. Even though I didn’t like the way he made fun of how I pronounced “hippopotamus” and “broccoli,” I married him. Things just clicked between us.
Racial stereotyping is inevitable. Once while we were having dinner out, two Japanese women who were with two foreigner men stared at me, presumably to see what this American guy’s date looked like, and laughed to themselves. Another time at a Filipino restaurant, a Filipina stranger eyed Eric from head to toe with a look of disgust. But I don’t really care anymore and just ignore the negativity. Whenever these things happen, I hold on to the best things that make me feel good about myself.
They can judge us as much as they want. Not all Filipinas who are in relationships with foreigners are after money, sex, a green card, or whatever racist assumptions they have. Sometimes, it really is a result of true love.
2. Diane and Matt
Diane’s first boyfriend was Matt, an American—and they’ve stayed together since. Now married, they have made Los Angeles, California their home.
Diane: My husband Matt and I met through a friend. He is an introvert and I am more outgoing, but we had an undeniable connection and things got serious pretty quickly. He was my first official boyfriend.
Yes, our relationship is far from perfect, and yes, there are cultural differences, but we’ve never felt that it was because he was American and I was Filipino. We’re just like any other couple. Although foreigners do love Pinays because of our nurturing and caring nature, they don’t expect a subservient partner. I actually love that we don’t have gender roles in our household.
Our first year of marriage was difficult, because inevitably, some of his family thought we got “married out of convenience” and I married him for his money and a green card. Matt yelled at a couple of titas once at a Filipino market, who said I must’ve put out easily to be able to score a “puti.” It was definitely hurtful at first, but we realized that we don’t have to prove anything to anybody.
Seven years later, we are still happily married, with a son who eats rice with his pizza!
3. Joli and Rob
Joli and Rob, an American, first crossed paths in Cebu thanks to a mutual love for traveling. Now, they are married and living in Maryland, USA.
Joli: Rob and I met at a travelers’ meetup party at the Sinulog Festival in Cebu. We quickly hit it off due to our shared passion for traveling, our geekiness, and similarly sarcastic sense of humor. We stayed in touch as friends on Facebook but didn’t become a couple until more than three years later when I went to New York City to take a postgraduate course.
In our travels, I’ve found that we get the most stares in the Philippines than anywhere else. I used to be conscious about it at first, but I’ve learned to look at it more positively. More often than not, people are just naturally curious about our unique situation. Still, I’ve gotten the occasional microaggression—from an acquaintance telling me that I’m an unusual pick for a foreigner since I “don’t look exotic or native enough” (kailangan exotic, parang pagkain?); to someone on the Couchsurfing app asking me, “Why do Filipinas have a white man fetish?” (Can’t I just like him as a person; does it have to be dismissed as a fetish?); to a makeup artist once telling me, “Ang swerte mo dahil ‘Kano ang BF mo” (That’s very true, but swerte din siya sa akin!)
I’ve learned to ignore these statements because the people who think that way don’t know us and have no right to judge us. At the end of the day, we are just like any other married couple with our similarities and differences, ups and downs—no matter what nationality or ethnicity. After all, love is love is love, right?
4. Juliene and Colin
Juliene connected with Colin, a British-Irish man, online while she was living in Singapore. Now married, they have migrated to Melbourne, Australia.
Juliene: We met on Craigslist and ended up dating exclusively a few months later. I knew he was The One because our core values were the same; we shared the same faith, agreeing on certain morals and standards when it came to the way we communicated in our relationship. We saw our lives going in the same direction and worked hard towards the same goals.
Unfortunately, there has always been a stigma around interracial marriage. Our local post office has a Pinay working behind the counter, who, upon realizing my husband was Caucasian, said that I did well to “marry up.” She implied that I did not have to work hard to get to where I am, which was hurtful and infuriating!
Colin and I try to make sure we handle such instances with grace especially now that we have a seven-month-old son, Hendrix. We want him to embrace all cultures and races with kindness and equality.
I want people to know that love doesn’t see race—you fall in love with the person for their soul, for who they are, and for what they bring out in you. At least, that’s what happened with us.
5. Ligaya and Jacob
Despite initially harboring biases about each other’s cultures, Ligaya and her Danish husband Jacob fell in love, tied the knot, and are now living in Houston, Texas.
Ligaya: We met online when I lived in Denmark. I’ve always thought Westerners to be aggressive when dating, but I wasn’t the only one with a bias. Since I was Filipino with a Catholic upbringing, he thought he’d take it slow so as not to scare me, and ended up moving slower than I expected. Hard to say when I knew he was The One, but it felt right every time we were together.
It’s a common prejudice among Westerners that Asian women are submissive and that a relationship like ours is based on financial circumstances. In the Philippines, I occasionally overhear comments about us; one that stuck was about Jacob being a “walking ATM.” These sadden and annoy us—we both work hard for a comfortable life. I try to rationalize why people think the way they do, and I often let these comments go, but sometimes I feel impassioned to take offense and address them.
In the end, our relationship is just like any other, with economic and emotional ordeals, et cetera. Trust, equality, respect—for each other and our respective cultures—and love are primary wheels that make it work. We do our best to look past our cultural differences, and instead work to create a hybrid of both cultures at home—something we’re proud to pass on to our kids.
6. Mara and Nick
Mara met her American fiancé Nick while on a medical fellowship in San Francisco. Nick was the one to take the plunge and move to Manila to be with her.
Mara: I met Nick when I was a dermatopathology fellow in San Francisco. A year and a half after dating long-distance upon my return, he resigned from his job as a data scientist at Airbnb to move to Manila. It was not an easy decision for him, and I was willing to start all over again in the US for him, but he, too, wanted the best for me.
A few Filipino peers expressed concern that “baka hindi ako seryosohin,” that he might not be accepting of Filipino culture, and that it would unlikely lead to marriage. I’ve also gotten judgments from Americans, with one immediately assuming I’d want to get a working visa and move to the US, and that it would be almost impossible to do so. It was disheartening to hear because it appeared like I was a desperate woman instead of a doctor with a career in my home country.
I used to have my own biases about dating foreigners, so the way I deal with the stigma I’m experiencing now is to remember that I once had the same biases, and that instead of taking it personally, I should just shed light on our relationship.
Although culture comes into the picture, finding a match is still largely a matter of personalities coming together. The prejudices you hold against specific races can actually prevent you from finding the right man—the man with the personality most suited for you. I almost missed the chance to meet Nick because of my own prejudices. Don’t let yours hold you back.
7. Pam and Jonathan
Pam and her British husband Jonathan met online, both hoping to find love in busy London. They continue to live in the city that brought them together.
Pam: Jonathan and I met through Match.com as we were both in search of a kindred spirit in a busy city whose people live fast-paced lives. I saw past the white skin, the blue eyes, the freckles, and instead saw a man who is lovable and kind. He laughed at my Filipino humor; he had it in him as well. It made me wonder if there really is such a thing as differences.
Strangely, I get the subtle judgmental comments from fellow Filipinos. We live in Southwest London in an area where the oriental Asians are bankers, lawyers, and doctors, where your trusty nanny would be the hardworking Filipina in charge of their large Victorian homes. While I would push my little wee one’s buggy, these Filipinas would ask me how I manage to look after my “alaga.” When they learn that I am the mum, they would always say “Ang swerte mo naman, patingin naman ng asawa mo.”
To people who hold the same views, I suggest you step out of your comfort zone, be it by traveling, trying something new, learning a new language, or making friends online. Maybe this will create a better and more peaceful world.
Love is love; it doesn’t discriminate against skin color or language spoken. Jonathan and I both saw that the person next to us was worth spending every waking day with, and that sealed the deal.
8. Tuesday and Frank
Tuesday, who studied in Germany, and Frank, who is German by blood, bonded over this connection when they first met in Makati. They are now married and living in Brisbane, Australia.
Tuesday: In 2011, Frank went to the Philippines as part of a group of Australians in a study exchange program sponsored by Rotary International. We met in one of the group’s projects, feeding and teaching 200 kids in an indigent school in Makati. During the welcoming program, the president of our Rotary club introduced me to Frank, saying I took my masters in Germany. Frank, who is naturalized Australian yet turned out to be German by blood, was amazed and talked to me in German. I blushed and we both laughed because I barely understood him. It was mutual love at first sight.
I knew that a Filipino marrying a foreigner would be faced with challenges and discrimination. I myself was skeptical of this kind of relationship, being an immigration officer for different international embassies before I met Frank. But being in a mixed-race marriage broadened my mind significantly.
I am not exempted from generalizations about Filipinas marrying foreigners to have a “better life” abroad—which does happen, but is not always the case. To rectify ingrained stereotypes like this, I always show a positive image of a Filipina married to a foreigner. Having a network of close family friends from a wide range of backgrounds including locals has also helped us integrate into the multicultural nation where we now live with our two kids. Also, the respect and acceptance I get from others is a reflection of how my husband sees me and how proud he is of who I am—and that is all that matters.
9. Via and ChanJae
After meeting online, Via embarked on a whirlwind romance with Korean tourist ChanJae in Davao City. They are now married and living in Uijeongbu, South Korea.
Via: ChanJae and I first connected via a travel/pen pal site, but it wasn’t until later when he vacationed in Davao City that we met and hit it off. Upon his return to Korea, after just three weeks, he decided to move to Davao City so that we could be closer. Sounds cliché, but I knew then that he was The One.
Due to the K-fever in the Philippines, I’ve gotten messages from random Pinays asking me how I was able to get my man, how lucky I was to be showered with items from Korea, how lucky I was to now be living with him in Korea. These inquiries used to annoy me; I would quickly correct them and say that I purchase my own items with my own money.
Meanwhile, in Korea, there are rampant assumptions that Filipinas are prostitutes or poor girls who go after old Korean men for money—which may be true in some cases, but certainly not all.
My advice for women who wish to pursue a mixed-nationality relationship? First, know and love the person for who he is—not for his citizenship. Second, make an effort to get to know each other’s cultures—it should be a two-way street and not just you doing the learning and adjusting. Lastly, stay true to who you are. Never lose your identity just because you are with a foreigner or you don’t live in the country anymore. After all, who you were originally is who your foreign partner fell in love with.