Your Filipina Pen Pal!

But seriously, folks: it's all about dialogue...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Here is another perspective on international/interracial/interethnic couples. It is not a dating service but it looks like an attempt to create a cybercommunity of international couples. I went to the Germany country site and didn't find a lot of Filipina-German couples. Then I went to the Philippine site; while it looks like there's quite a few penpal marriages, there seem to be equal number of couples who met under different circumstances than penpal (does IM count as penpal?)

What say you?


  • At 3/01/2006 12:35 AM, Blogger Miss F said…

    It's very nice and it makes me feel good reading about their partnerships! Thank you for sharing this!

    I think the perfect website would show the good happy and the sob stories at the same time. Perhaps in another page (or link to another page) people can also read about the sad predicaments of other couples, from the simple irreconcilable cultural differences to the sordid and hard-core melodramatic ones. That way, a person can weigh the pros and cons and know what he or she is getting into.

  • At 3/01/2006 11:28 AM, Blogger EILEEN said…

    Well, some relationships will succeed and some relationships will fail. On that level, relationships began through pen pals or mail order bride structures aren't that different in terms of how they may or may not succeed and that's something that one can't necessarily know at the start of a relationship). But what is insidious, as the experience of the lady in the Netherlands (prior post) indicates, is that when a relationship fails, there can be an extra layer of concern regarding how some Filipinas may stick it out to prove that they weren't in it just for the money.

    If the relationship begins in mutual respect, there's nothing to prevent the couple from discussing this aspect at the start of their courtship. I mean, I had a thought this morning that this site could be used as a means for people in these pen pal/M.O.B. situations to address the implications of how they meet.

    But let's face it, when one is looking for a way out of poverty, one is more likely to present one's self as an attractive catch and discussions like these can't be "afforded" by everyone.

    But I'm hoping that people in the same situation as the lady in the Netherlands can come to understand that they shouldn't be sacrificing themselves for the idea of honor and pride. One should also learn to respect and honor one's self enough not to allow one's self to be abused. I hope, anyway...

  • At 3/01/2006 12:27 PM, Blogger rcloenen-ruiz said…

    Sadly, she still is in this relationship, sticking it out because of the false concept of abuse...which to her interprets as if he doesn't hit me, it's not abuse.

    Recently, a colleague told me of a video showing two Dutchmen in their late fifties. These Dutchmen were brought to the Philippines by a "penpal" agency.

    One of these men was living on welfare - something the "agency" neglects to tell the ladies involved.

    (Welfare means these ladies will have to find a job and be forced not only to support themselves and their families back home, but they will also be forced to support the welfare partner. Not necessarily a bad thing -- except the welfare partner will expect the girl to be grateful to him for giving her the opportunity to go abroad.)

    Anyway, these two men were welcomed by a group of ladies...all about half the age of the Dutchmen.

    When asked about how they felt to be paired with someone twice their age, they said : Love can be learned.

    How little these women know about the truth is scary.

    The bad thing about this is that men like these imagine we are all the same. They actually believe every Filipina has a price tag.

    In my opinion it is a crime to allow "Penpal" agencies to present our Filipina girls in this a menu at a restaurant, choose whom you want.

    On a positive note...most marriages that do succeed are marriages where both men and women are on equal standing (when I say equal standing, I am not merely referring to economics.)

    And a majority of successful marriages, the women are empowered babes ;)

  • At 3/01/2006 12:40 PM, Blogger rcloenen-ruiz said…

    Basically, I think it's a woman's sense of personal worth that empowers her.

    The question is how to impart a sense of personal worth when it is upon these very women whom the burden of poverty and rising out of poverty is laid.

    A saying I've often heard is:

    You have to sacrifice para makaahon naman tayo.

    Isn't this so like the mentality of the Philippine government when it comes to the massa? Who do they mean when they say "tayo"?

  • At 3/01/2006 11:13 PM, Blogger Gura said…

    I found this quote from Lilynn (U.S.A.) and J.S. (Philippines) interesting:
    "We are very much in love, but find difficulty in relating to each because of our cultural differences.
    I found this website because I am in search of resources/advice on interracial relationships,
    especially those between a Caucasian woman and an Asian man."

    Marriage and love are two different things, and I think often we mix the two as one in the same. Love is not an institution, a social structure. Marriage is more than love. If a women ends up with a man she does not love, there is need, there is shared experience, there is dependency, but that's not love.

    And the woman sticking around an abusive marriage to prove she's not a "golddigger", well that's staying in a marriage out of spite.

    But it's like my teacher says, people often don't change a bad situation because the pain is not great enough. If people feel like they can tolerate the pain, they'll tolerate rather than go through the "pain" of healing themselves of it. One of woman's greatest strengths is the ability to endure to ignore the pain, but it's also our greatest weakness.

    Which would mean that the only way to turn the MOB in the Netherlands and others like her, is to find a way for her to really feel. Because if you are numbing yourself from feeling pain, you're also numbing yourself from feeling joy and happiness. If you can get these women to feel real joy, real happiness, then conceivably they would feel real pain and then do something about it. Part of the psychology of taking abuse is the need to be abused more in order to feel anything or feeling the "joy" of the temporary relief of the abuse. I can't feel emotionally, so I need someone to hit me physically, which causes me to endure more and feel less, and it just spirals from there.

    What I'm also realizing that although all these women say I'm marrying to get out of poverty, what they've only done is exchange financial poverty with an emotional and possibly physical poverty.

    The irony about the woman who stays for pride and honor is that she deals with a man who does not value either of those things, thus those things will never "hurt" him. If she really wanted to "get him back" then she should try to go make her own money some other way to show she doesn't need his money at all. Financial empowerment.

    I also think she doesn't leave the verbal abuse because verbal abuse in a foreign language is never as cutting to Filipinos as being abused in their own language. The way Philippine movie sensors tolerate all sorts of cussing in English, but start cussing in Tagalog, it'll get slapped so hard it may not make it to the theaters. What if we went to the woman and "translated" what the guy said into her language, translating the effective meaning, would she feel differently about the verbal abuse then?

  • At 3/02/2006 8:01 AM, Blogger EILEEN said…

    You'll have to forgive me for repeating the point of a Comment I mentioned below in an earlier post. But partly as a result of GMA's recent declaration of State of Emergency I've decided that whenever "we" comment on poverty -- and here I refer to Gura's comment about exchanging financial poverty for emotional poverty -- I want to remind people of the implicated role of Filipino politicians.

    I agree with Gura and other's points on this matter, but I personally want to make sure that this point doesn't dilute the fact how poverty is being institutionalized irresponsibly by those who are supposed to serve and protect their constituency (e.g. elected government officials)....thus leading to a situation like the pen pal and/or mail order bride situations.

    Like, an elected official is not supposed to rip off IMF money for their private coffers. An elected official is supposed to pass laws that prevent pedophilia rather than use such as a tourist attraction. An elected official is supposed to help promote domestic economic development efforts (by that, I include eliminating corrupt bureaucracies) to allow people to make an honest living.

    Money doesn't solve everything...but poverty causes a lot of problems.

    Having said that, Gura's discussion on the facets of abuse is very relevant and thanks to her for that comment and raising that dimension.

    We could extrapolate from this -- how the population is "abused" by its political leadership (or lack thereof), e.g. that young boy I met during a touristy trip to a Palawan resort who saw nothing wrong with being a British tourist's temporary boy toy (in exchange for jeans, I overheard at a lunch table) -- his own perception of the world is a result of abuse by politicians...

  • At 3/02/2006 12:25 PM, Blogger bino said…

    i don't last very long looking at/reading through these websites. i'm really grateful to all of you for putting things in perspective. i have a lot of thoughts on this, but i need to look at these websites and read critically. just one of those things i have no stomach for, unfortunately.

  • At 3/03/2006 10:48 PM, Blogger Leny said…

    Trying to untangle this issue, I came up with these ideas from all the comments to the latest post (thanks!).
    1. I sense that when a Filipina decides to sign up with a penpal agency, it is not a simple choice she's making (e.g. to get out of poverty). Most likely, there is also a sense of romance, adventure, naivete, sacrifice, hopefulness, a surrender to fate, a desire to escape.

    2. Globalization and all that it enables (emails, IM, cheap air fare, etc) reinforces this desire as well. When a Filipina leaves for another country to marry, she can be thinking that she still has a support network via these communication technologies. Mail order brides also usually find each other in communities and form support groups.

    3. It is right to implicate politicians and failure of governance. It is said that the Philippines have legislations for everything including laws against human trafficking, pedophilia, sexual abuse, drug abuse, etc. But if half the national budget goes to the payment of WB/IMF interest on loans, there is no money for social services, law enforcement, education, etc.

    4. Back to "gotta do what one has to do"...

    5. I'm struggling here with my feelings. It is so easy for me to slip into prescriptions and analysis through the lens I've acquired from western academia. This awareness makes me think it's too facile to say that the lack of self-worth (therefore, lack of empowerment) is the problem...or that financial empowerment is the key.

    6. Calling for individual healing and empowerment is as important as the need to criticize the structures that dehumanize. Future discussions about the violence of patriarchy and modernity should be next on our agenda.

  • At 3/04/2006 9:01 AM, Blogger EILEEN said…

    Hi Leny,
    And by the way, yes, I certainly would consider IM a form of penpalship (technology races so briskly, yah?).

    So, yes, there are many ways to approach the issues we're raising and I look forward to all that. I don't think focusing on any one (or two) cancels out the relevance of other approaches -- not that I'm suggesting this is what you're saying but this is certainly not what I've been advocating.

    In grappling with my own feelings on this, I have been trying to separate some of the "general" from the "specific". So, for example, we all have (or may have) the *general* desires for romance, escape, wish for excitement, etc. The violence of patriarchy and modernity are also "general" factors that cut across many aspects of living. To me, these are "general" in that all humans have these in common.

    What seems specific, though, to the penpal/M.O.B. experience is (among other things) the failure of Philippine political leadership and the resulting institutionalized poverty of the population. So that's why I focused on it -- it is not "facile" at all. It is, in my humble opinion, mayhap more directly to the point than other facets that we discuss (and sure should discuss).

    In fact, Rochita's latest post that compares the M.O.B. situation in the Philippines vs European countries ( is a great example of general vs specific issue to me. Same MOB issue, but a different application (standard) in the Philippines.

    Of course, everything is interconnected and I'm not really meaning to privilege one point of view over another so much as frankly allowing my impatience with the POV of healing the psyches of people like "Rik" when right there in Manila you got a government obviously invested in other things than promoting healthy development plans for the country.

    Anyway, in fact, I do agree that healing the psyche is important. But to also get to something specific to me -- there is a long-time structural problem in Philippine politics stemming from the aftermath of colonialism. The people who hold political power are the same people who hold economic power; it has been proven difficult (so far impossible) for people to implement healthy development policies if it means affecting their own family purses (see how our beloved Cory gave up on land reform). (Actually, I did my undergraduate political science thesis on this back in 1982 -- and yet Imee Marcos was in the news recently admitting this same ol' s___).

    So I would like to throw that in the mix as well, along with other discussions.

    I look forward to the linking of this issue with "modernity" since I still don't know what that means. In fact, color me a yellow book cover as I'd appreciate a "Modernity for Dummies" definition as I need it.

  • At 3/04/2006 11:18 PM, Blogger Miss F said…

    I agree with all your posts. Like Eileen, I’m concerned about the grave risks I and many other Filipinas face when we present ourselves as a “good catch” to foreigners. I would like to give a specific example.

    1. My friend (pretty and not very poor, she is dissatisfied with her 11k/month salary) might marry a 45-yo man from the US soon though they’ve seen each other only in webcams. That’s cuz it will be be hard for her to get a visa otherwise. I advised her to work an arrangement where she could leave him if she finds out that they’re not a good match, since they can’t have the luxury of a normal dating pattern. Like for example, pay him back the money he spent on her later on, should they find out that they don’t love each other. Or find out how to get a divorce easily.

    But she insists that this is unromantic and she is not an “ungrateful” person and that the guy reassured her that their marriage will be “for life”. So, in order to show herself as a “desirable lady who will stay devoted” she does not even discuss these all-important things with the guy! (she is afriad the guy might think, "why is she discussing divorce? maybe she's really just in this for the money and not for love!") It is as though she is deciding to do this because she thinks he is “her destiny”!


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