Four couples find love across the Pacific
Being in a foreign country does not prevent one from falling in love, even in a time of diaspora. Globalization and love have something in common since both can cut across all borders. Unlike the former, however, the latter does not have any ill-effects.
BY CAESAR A. BAROÑA
These are the stories of four couples interviewed in Melbourne, Australia. They are narratives of love and romance amidst the background of uprooting, migration and movement in an interconnected world.
From Hong Kong to Australia
Reyvi was taking up law in Melbourne, Australia while Charo was a teacher in the Philippines who decided to work in Hong Kong. He was active in a Filipino support group in Melbourne while Charo wrote for a Hong Kong community newspaper for Filipinos.
Charo was interviewing Reyvi’s parents who were working in Hong Kong. The parents became fond of Charo and decided to let her meet their son. When Reyvi went to visit to Hong Kong, Charo took the opportunity to do a follow-up to her story about the couple’s success in sending their son to study law abroad.
Reyvi and Charo decided to exchange phone numbers and email addresses. At first, their conversations were very formal and their relationship was purely professional. Eventually, however, they ended up with each other. They got married and Charo moved in with Reyvi in Australia a year ago.
They said that they had their share of problems when they decided to be together. “Dumaan kami sa butas ng karayom (We went through the eye of a needle). What we share are values and principles. Marunong siya sa buhay (He knows about life),” Charo said.
Greg (not his real name), a Filipino-Australian with Greek heritage, was moving back and forth between Australia and the Philippines. He decided to go back to the Philippines and work as a graphic designer. Predictably, he led the life of a yuppie who loved occasional parties and gimmicks.
Bubbly Sheila was a corporate secretary for a Japanese multinational company. She was living a cosmopolitan life and was happy with her boyfriend. One evening, a casual conversation in an online chat room started the process that would change her life.
Greg and Sheila would continue with this online affair, “flirting wildly.” They then decided to meet face-to-face. After a while, they started dating. And they ended up marrying each other. They now have a child. Sheila and her son would follow Greg back to Australia where he now has a web design company. Sheila, meanwhile, works as a corporate events producer.
A Fil-Aussie Romance
Rozzini and Salvor are both Filipino-Australians who were enjoying their young life. Salvor had a few Australian girlfriends before meeting Rozzini. Their romance started at a party. A throwing-up incident led to coffee and then dinner. A few more dates and they went steady, visiting each other once in a while.
“She’s sweet and thoughtful,” Salvor says of Rozzini. The latter, meanwhile, says of him, “He’s very protective of me.”
“We always talk to each other. It’s not a boring relationship. We get along despite disagreements,” they said.
As with young sweethearts, they are trying to strengthen their relationship, and are in fact planning on having a future together with kids and a house. “We will come through,” Salvor said.
The two grew up in Australia. Once in a while, Salvor and his family would visit the Philippines. He said that he is happier in the Philippines because he has lots of cousins and he gets to meet different people. He clarified, however, that “It’s a hard place to live in.”
Salvor also had to get accustomed to what he says of Philippine culture being generally very conservative in terms of relationships, with many taboos involving PDA (or “public display of affection”) and pre-marital sex. He said that in the country one also has to contend with having chaperones during dates.
Mixed race couple
Bong would be what one would term “Pinoy na Pinoy” (very Filipino) while Kirsten is an Anglo-Australian. The two first met in April 1991 in the Philippines as participants in a conference of the Student Christian Movement (SCM).
Kirsten remembers clearly her first impression of Bong: “He had a big smile. I thought he looked confident, warm and street-smart.” Bong greeted him with the usual “How long have you been in the Philippines?”
They spent most of their time debating with each other, one a western feminist and the other a leftist ideologue. “But I thought his name was funny,” Kirsten said, referring to a device used for smoking substances.
But by then, they were spending a lot of time asking questions to each other and trying to understand different perspectives. The critical moment came when the two were alone together. When asked his concept of art, Bong asked Kirsten to close her eyes. He then kissed her. “She never forgot me from then on,” Bong said.
Kirsten went back to Australia, but the two got in touch through letters (the Internet virtually didn’t exist then). She came back to the Philippines in time for the big rallies against the U.S. military bases, and the two met again and made a pledge. “It was a challenge to commit in a big way,” Bong said.
Bong first arrived in Australia in 1992. They were married in May 1993. Bong was impressed by the vastness and cleanliness of the country. “I was learning to adapt to a new environment. I knew no one then.”
The couple had to face the challenges of raising a family. Looking for full-time work was not easy for both of them. Bong even felt the pressure of inequality, as well as being a “mixed-race” couple. In time, they hurdled most of the challenges. They have already established a web design business, bought a house and are now raising children. As of this writing, they have three healthy kids.
“Becoming a parent is a huge personal revolution,” Bong said. “The political debate has shifted from political to personal. You have to see society as your child. You want it to grow. As a parent, you put cups in the sink, toilet-train and dress them until they become independent, then be happy when they do grow up.”
Incidentally, the four couples can be considered related: Salvor is the younger brother of Greg, who in turn has Bong for a business partner. They met Reyvi in a Filipino support group in Australia, where all of their families are currently active. (Bulatlat.com)