I was born and raised in the Philippines, a small country in the shape of an upside down “Y” in Southeast Asia. I moved to New York when I was 14 and desperately tried to find a balance between my culture and the new unfamiliar Western culture.
Part of that American assimilation included dating. Most Filipinas (female of “Filipino”), such as myself, tend to wait until our late teens or early 20s to start dating because we’ve been raised with the belief that family and our studies come first. (It helped that I attended an All Girls Catholic High School so there was very little temptation.) But when I finally started dating my non-Filipino boyfriend, there were a few things he needed to know:
1. We love our family to pieces.
One cultural value that Filipinos pride themselves on is “close family ties.” Filipino families — and generally speaking, most Asian families — are very close. Everyone pitches in to raise a child from grandparents to godparents to the next door neighbor. In fact, historically, Filipino courtship involves the guy doing service for the girl’s family (fetching water, fixing a broken roof, etc.) as physical proof of your devotion to her and the family.
Family is the most important thing to us — sometimes even more important to us than you. (Sorry!) So, as the Spice Girls say: If you wanna be her lover, you gotta get with her friends … and family. And never, ever, ever insult a family member. We Filipinos also have a saying: “If you wanna court the girl, court the mother.” Trust me. It works.
2. We’re religious.
As soon as I became old enough to date, my mother told me, “We don’t care what ethnicity he is, as long as he’s Catholic.” Because we’re from a strict and conservative Roman Catholic country, most Filipinas you meet most likely observe Catholic holidays, are active in church, and wear religious paraphernalia; a cross necklace, for instance. At the same time, I know some Filipinas who don’t mind if their significant other is of another religion or don’t identify with a religion. But be warned that even if they don’t care, their family might, so tread carefully.
3. We have enough food to feed a village.
You’re at her house for the first time for dinner and you’re confused —about the mountain of food in front of you. Are there more people coming? Nope, that’s just how we eat. When my cousins in interracial relationships bring their significant others to our home for the first time, they’re always overwhelmed by the amount of food my mother manages to prepare in a two-day period (Yes, two. Food is important).
4. We love, love, LOVE karaoke.
You can’t escape the karaoke machine. A Filipino family is bound to own at least one (because different ones have different songs, duh). So if you get invited to a party and everyone is drunk and singing, I’m sorry, but you cannot escape the mic. We will force you to sing.
5. We tend to be conservative when it comes to sex.
Guys who showed interest in dating me saw it a challenge when they found out I’m saving myself for marriage. They think they can slowly pressure me and break me down, but Filipinas are raised to believe sex is for someone you intend to spend the rest of your lives with. (Our Catholic religion plays a part in that, too.) Of course, some Filipinas tend to be less sexually conservative than others, but even then, they probably prefer not to talk openly about their sexual experiences.