Real Life Story

Three Stories of Filipinos Finding Love Abroad

Topics: Inter-racial,Same-Sex,Dating,Getting Serious,Parting Ways

People crave love and travel. Here’s what it’s like when those two come together.

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Two years in community quarantine has left Filipinos craving two things—travel and love. Many people would be happy with just one. But for a chosen few, the two have coincided.

It sounds like the stuff of fairytales: finding love while getting lost in a new city, or getting swept away on some magical adventure with a handsome foreigner.

But of course, it’s not always clear skies and smooth flying. Things like differences in culture and changes in priorities can lead to some turbulence and missed connections, too. We talked to three Filipinos about what it was like finding, and sometimes losing, love overseas, and whether falling in love with a foreigner is all it’s cracked up to be.

Zid (right) met his partner Andres (left) on his first trip out of his home country. Photo: Courtesy of Zid Floro

Zid Floro, 24, and Andres Jara, 29
Hanoi, Vietnam

Filipino Zid Floro met his Ecuadorian partner Andres Jara in Hanoi, Vietnam. They are now both based in Quito, Ecuador.

Why were you abroad when you met your partner?

Zid: I went to Vietnam in 2019 with my friends to visit another friend who was living there. It was my first out-of-the-country trip, too. I wasn’t expecting to meet someone there, but I wouldn’t say I wasn’t actively looking either. Whatever happened would have been cool.

How did you and your partner meet?

My friend and I arrived at a bar and I saw Andres for the first time. He was with another guy, so I thought he was probably taken and paid no more attention to him. But later on in the night, my friend from Vietnam introduced me to him. Apparently the other guy was Andres’ best friend, not his partner. We talked after that, and something clicked. Now, he’s my fiancé.

I didn’t expect to meet my soon-to-be-husband in a club during my first time out of the country. What are the chances?

We continued talking every single day even after I returned to the Philippines. Whether it was through chat or FaceTime, we loved talking to each other and just being there. From something casual, we really grew to genuinely care for each other.

Were there any challenges to your relationship?

The distance was the biggest struggle, but we’re both pretty good at communicating what we want and what we were looking for in a relationship. Of course, the idea of being in love is euphoric, escapist, and makes you feel like everything is going to be OK. But we really knew we had to put in the work to make the relationship happen.

What have you learned from your relationship?

We’re both from third-world countries. A lot of things [that have to do with travel and logistics] are against us. But we don’t go against things. We work around it. If we have problems to solve, we both know that’s not going to come between us. It’s more like something we have to solve together.

Rod ended his relationship because he couldn’t imagine continuing it overseas. Photo: Courtesy of Rod Arceo III

Rod Arceo III, 26
Tokyo, Japan

While in Japan for work, one online-dating app match turned into a relationship for Filipino Rod Arceo III. But he wasn’t sure it could last when it was time for him to go back home.

Why were you abroad at the time you met your partner?

Rod: I was in Japan for work. I was assigned there by my company for a two-year program. I was not looking for a relationship, because I knew I would only be there for two years. But I was on online dating apps looking for flings.

How did you and your then-partner meet?

We met on a dating app. She was the second or third person I met from the app. We went out to go ice skating. I didn’t even think that we’d meet again, but we did soon after, and again after that.

We got together during the height of lockdown, so it was a win-win for us because it gave us someone to talk to and be with.

Were there any challenges to your relationship?

The thing about Japanese culture, I would say, is that people get married fast and often, because divorce is legal in Japan [whereas it’s not in the Philippines]. Given that they have that option, a lot of people tend to get married quickly. I’ve heard of people who got married after only a year of dating. In the Philippines, it takes a much longer time. Maybe five to seven years, at least.

She was two years older than I was, and her peers were getting married and having children. So the biggest challenge was figuring out where the relationship would go—if it would lead to marriage. That’s something we started discussing as early as three months into the relationship, which was a shock to me.

Why did the relationship end?

I broke it off because I knew I was coming home and I couldn’t do a long-distance relationship. I’ve never experienced it, and the fact that she was already asking about marriage as early as three months in added a lot of pressure.

I learned that if you’re going to date someone from abroad, be sure you can handle a long-distance relationship if you ever have to leave that country. For me, that was the number one thing. I really couldn’t imagine myself in a long-distance relationship.

Nica met her partner Hiro at work, after two failed interviews. Photo: Courtesy of Nica C. Tanaka

Nica C. Tanaka and Hiro Tanaka
California, USA

Filipino Nica C. Tanaka was determined to land a job in California. After three attempts, she not only got a job, but met her now-husband, too.

Why were you abroad at the time you met your partner?

Nica: In 2008, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from Manila for college. I wasn’t doing much, I did not have any friends, so to keep myself occupied I decided to look for a job. I applied to work as a barista in my neighborhood Starbucks but unfortunately, I did not get hired.

A voice deep within me said I had to work at that Starbucks no matter what. I applied twice more and on my third try the manager gave up. She called me one afternoon to say I start at the end of October.

How did you and your partner meet?

I first met Hiro on my first day of work as a barista. I was in the backroom memorizing beverage recipes on glossy flashcards when the door swung open, surprising me. A tall, very fast-walking Asian guy came in. He opened the large refrigerator, lowered to his knees, and reached for the bottom shelf to grab the milks inside. I knew this boy would be my coworker so I interrupted his busy work and introduced myself.

“Hello, what’s your name?”
“Hiro.”
“What?”
“Hiro.”
“Hiro? My name is Nica.”

When I finally said his name correctly he got up from his knees. On each hand, he carried three gallons of milk. What a strong guy. He kicked the refrigerator door closed and left me alone in the backroom again with my flashcards.

And that is how I met Hiro. No, it was not love at first sight, but by the way he moved, his hair curled, and the number of milks he can carry on each hand, I could tell he was special.

Hiro and I remained co-workers for five years at Starbucks. Throughout my barista years, he was my happy crush. A happy crush is someone you admire but can’t fall in love with because it’s an impossible kind of love. At the time it was impossible because we were in separate relationships but, soon enough, we found ourselves single and stargazing together in 2013.

Were there any challenges to your relationship at the start (maybe to do with language, culture, time, etc.)?

Yes, there were quirks. Hiro and I had only known each other as coworkers but we did not know much about each other. He knew I was Filipina but he didn’t know a lot about the Philippines, my family, or Filipino food. I knew he was Japanese, but didn’t know his background or what he liked to eat outside of Japanese food.

I remember, during our first meals together, I would be nervous of ordering something “wrong” from the menu. He struck me as a bit of a food snob because when I told him about my love for Filipino barbecue he said he tried it once and the texture felt like rubber. I was taken aback by his comment so for our next date I took him to a Filipino barbecue joint in Daly City near San Francisco. When he got there he pointed at the squeeze bottle and asked me what was inside.

“It’s vinegar!” I laughed because he didn’t know. I also had to explain that Filipinos eat with a spoon and fork. When the barbecue came, he enjoyed it and, no, it did not taste like rubber.

Over the years, Hiro and I got to know each other by sharing our meals together. Nowadays as a married couple we like to cook at home, try new eateries, and return to our favorite restaurants.

I like telling our story because it's about an impossible love, a happy crush, that became an ultimate and forever love. Looking back, I now understand the inner voice that spoke to me so strongly when I was new to California and kept me reapplying to Starbucks. My voice, though unheard by others at the time, I listened to and trusted. It wanted me to be at Starbucks because Hiro was there, too.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Source: Romano Santos, VICE

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