The Philippines Experiment, Track Eight
If you know who I am or have been reading this blog, you are probably aware that I spent two and half years of my life living in the Philippines. Now I’m back, and I’m going to attempt to chronicle the entire experience as best as my vague recollection allows.
I am normally not a sentimental person, and I usually make it a rule to not talk about my love life in this blog. But I’m not going to skip a significant chapter of this retrospection of my Philippines Experiment just because I’m afraid to wear my heart on my sleeve. So to borrow from a Childish Gambino lyric line, it’s about to get so cheesy up in here that your cholesterol levels may be in trouble after reading this post. If you’re the type of person that has a gag reflex for sappy, overly romantic things, then I suggest that you skip this eighth track. No hard feelings.
Anyway, for whatever reason, I found it easier to meet women in the Philippines (*). But contrary to popular belief, that’s not the sole reason why I moved there (not the main motive, at least). Even when I was meeting women during the first six to eight months of my stay there, I didn’t let it develop into something more than a fling. I wanted to make sure that I stay unencumbered so that I have the freedom to chase down goals that I’ve set out to achieve. Also, without a girlfriend, if something came up and I needed to go back to Canada immediately, I can execute an emergency escape strategy without feeling the remorse of leaving someone behind. Having said that, when the universe decided that he wanted to ruin my plans by introducing my future wife to me, I guess I was powerless to do anything about it.
* Top 5 reasons why I found it easier to meet girls in the Philippines, in no particular order: (1) I am more culturally similar to them than to Canadian girls, (2) I am more dimensionally similar to them than to Canadian girls, (3) I seem more impressive to them than to Canadian girls, (4) I go out more in the Philippines than in Canada, and (5) I hung out with people who could introduce me to girls that are more my type in the Philippines than in Canada.
I really want to thank my friends in the Philippines for being so shameless in regards to picking up women, because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have met Ikhari. A group of us guys were hanging out one night at a bar, and one of my friends introduced himself to a girl that belonged to a group at another table. He lured her in by telling her that I will pay for her group’s drinks for the night, the two hit it off, numbers were exchanged, and eventually, the two aggregations of friends merged into this one awesome Venn diagram overlap that partied almost every night. I wasn’t attracted to anyone in that original group, but that widening of my social network still benefited me because one of the girls introduced me to Ikhari a couple of weeks later.
If I recall, our relationship was flirtatious from the very start. At least, I remember that I was trying to pursue her right away and she was too shy to reciprocate, even though I could tell that she wanted to. Knowing how Filipino men operate, I needed to act fast because if I didn’t, I’m certain that one of my friends would have swooped in. Bro code does not exist in the Philippines, more specifically the article which states that you don’t try to steal the girl that your friend is trying to get. Literally all is fair in love and dating. The way they see it, if you lose your girl to a friend, it’s because you’re too slow or too ugly to close the deal.
But as aggressive as I was on my undertaking, I had no intentions of committing to Ikhari when we started, which I know makes me a complete douchebag. In an attempt to reduce the guilt that I was feeling, I was completely upfront with what I wanted from this relationship. She was a little devastated at first, but eventually accepted the fact that we can just have fun with whatever this was. Eventually though, the longer we knew each other, the more often we went out, the harder it is to resist the attraction. At some point — during a Holy Week beach camping trip to be more specific — all those barriers that I was trying to put up between us collapsed, and I finally gave in. She can be very irresistable
Ikhari was definitely the type of girl that I usually fall for: petite, elvish qualities, tiny waist, great fashion sense, looks great in a ponytail. But there are five definitive things that I was truly attracted with when I met her:
i) Her eyelashes go on for kilometers. It’s like God plucked two angel feathers and pasted them on her eyelids when He was making her.
ii) She is tremendously enticing on the dance floor. A girl without rhythm is a deal breaker for me, so likewise I’m easily allured by a girl that can dance like a ribbon in a rhythmic gymnastics routine.
iii) When she laughs really hard, she snorts uncontrollably
iv) She’s very low maintenance. We can have street food on our dates, and she’d be perfectly fine with it. She’ll watch me play basketball for a couple of hours on a hot day without complaints. She drinks any type of beer you put in front of her.
v) I guess in the same vein, whenever we do go somewhere she has never been or do something that she has never done before, she gets really excited. A lot of girls try to suppress their enthusiasm to hide the fact that they don’t “belong”, and fakeness like that irks me a lot.
I also figured out that falling in love is not so much an exponential drop. It’s more a gradual tumble, which I think is the key to a much longer relationship, because even as we speak I’m still falling for her. Love is beyond the flowers, chocolates, candle lights, long walks in the beach. It’s that Monday night, not caring that there’s nothing to do. It’s that quiet mid-day lunch at a fast food joint. It’s the mundane moments that became colossally enjoyable because I was spending it with her and only her.
Of course, relationships are never a perfect fit either. I allowed her to move in pretty early in our love affair because I was starting to get lonely in a big, empty house (**).So we determined very quickly that we have differences that we consistently had issues with. For example, I like getting up early in the morning, and she likes staying up late at night; she likes the dark meat of the chicken, and I prefer white meat; she replays songs she loves over and over again, and I tend to get sick of songs after a few listens. But we both discovered — after a few struggles — that your willingness to endure all of those little differences is the truest indication of being in love with someone. It’s what makes it unconditional. Unconditional love lasts for lifetimes.
** My relatives have told me that they’ve seen paranormal behavior in the house that I was living in. Now I personally don’t believe in ghosts, but your mind can play tricks on you when you’re alone and sleeping in the dark. This is a little embarrassing to admit — and I’ve never told her this before because I didn’t want to freak her out either — but being with Ikha at night made me less scared in that house.
That’s exactly what we were banking on when we, after three years and four months of being together, decided to get married. People have commented to me how lucky Ikhari is that she found me, but they mean it with a negative connotation. Ikhari’s family isn’t exactly well-off, and the Philippines doesn’t usually give less fortunate people chances to improve their own financial status, so people saw me as her one-way ticket out of her situation (***). And it’s true, we both don’t deny the fact that she would go down a different path if it wasn’t for me. But I never sensed any indication that she made me fall in love with her just so that she can head towards greener pastures. There was never a point where I felt that she is loving me because I keep a Canadian passport in my back pocket. Besides, I’m also very lucky that I found someone who is as beautiful, kind, affectionate, and fun to have conversations with as her. The way I look at it, we’re both very fortunate people, and I’m confident that we’re both going to be very happy for the rest of our lives. Even though it’s going to be a struggle trying to bring her over to Canada so that we can finally be together, by the end, it’s all going to be worth it.
*** People think this because it’s a very common practice in the Philippines. Due to the fact that even if you’re the smartest person in your graduating class, or you kill yourself trying to find a decent employment, there is no guarantee that you can pull yourself out of hardship in our country. Some people have determined that the only solution to their financial problem is to look for opportunities abroad, and the laziest, most pain-free way of doing that is to find a foreigner to sponsor them out of the Philippines. It’s that Cinderella mentality of thinking that “someday my prince will come” to rescue me out of this hellhole. It’s why foreign immigration approaches every spouse sponsorship application with skepticism, which ruins it for us who are in genuine relationships. Every case they receive is guilty until proven innocent with photos, emails, phone bills, remittance slips, etc. I tip my hat to those who still marry for love.