The expat forums consistently offer the same three tips to men looking for serious relationships with Filpinas. One of them is “Find a simple girl from the provinces”. ‘The Provinces’ refers to the rural areas and as for ‘simple’, well, I’m nowhere near qualified to explain that. It contains components of not materialistic and not worldly but to I think to characterize it that simply would be ineffective and incomplete.
I met a girl from the provinces. She had been working in Cebu for a year but had to leave because she was laid off as part of the falling exports due to the global recession. She was back in Cebu for a week to hunt for a job before returning to her province.
She reminded me of the daughter of friend. Her family took weekend trips with my girlfriend and I so I had plenty of time to observe the daughter as she grew up. There was a brief time in her early teens when the daughter would start speaking in a conversation as a girl and would transform into young woman at the turn of a sentence. It was just as delightful to watch when she reverted back to being girlish. I experienced the 23 year old Filipina dance between young woman, girl and inner child, sliding effortlessly and unselfconsciously between the roles.
We met for coffee. When I got up to leave she asked if she could take the unused sugar and creamer packets. When we met the second time I brought her the unused packets from my morning coffee and asked if she wanted them. My wordsmith skills are inadequate to describe her reaction, it was some combination of pleased, touched and grateful. It’s the grateful component that tugs at my heart, the poverty most of these people endure can be heartbreaking at times. It is almost essential to ignore it when dealing with strangers, it’s almost impossible to ignore it when dealing one on one.
After coffee I took her for a meal. It was at a restaurant that catered to foreigners and the well off Filipinos so the portion size was double that of what is served at ones aimed at the average Filipino. She ate as much as I did. Later it dawned on me that she did so so she wouldn’t have to eat dinner that day.
One dish was grilled whole squid. The squid was served whole, but had been slashed to make it easier to cut into individual sized pieces. After it was served she picked up a knife and fork and cut it up while not missing a beat in the conversation. The culture says that a Filipina is to take care of her man. I suspect it would not be easy to explain to her why the last woman to cut up food for me at the table was my mother.
While ordering the meal it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t checked if I had enough cash to pay for what we had planned. I explained to her and the waiter that I had to do some quick math. Gently but firmly she asked for my ever present pen and notepad to do the math herself. When she was finished she proudly presented the correct sum (I’d silently double checked as she did the arithmetic).
There is no Jr. High (aka Middle School) here, K through 12 is actually K through 10. I think I understand the additional pride she showed when the check came and her sum was spot on. It came from the same place as the almost fearless confidence she showed with her English. I can’t comprehend being that confident in my 4th and least known language. I can comprehend the pride of having taken full advantage of the educational opportunities open to oneself.
The second of the three most common tips about relationships with Filipinas is to not fall for the first one who by her very being applies salve to one’s wounded western heart. My understanding of girls from the provinces may be rudimentary but after spending three hours with one I fully understand how important this warning is.