The inverse of things between families in the States and the Philippines are nothing but a classic case of cultural idiosyncrasies.
A while back, you will recall of the story I told of Dr. Jean Pajus, a DeSorbonne alumnus, the chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Florida in the late sixties through the seventies, and author of “The Real Japanese California”. As I said in my account, when he invited me to his home for a dinner to meet his wife he told me as we were enjoying the meal his wife prepared, “Quint, no more sir, no more Dr. Just call me Jean. In France, when someone invites a friend to her/his home, that means they have become personal friends.”
That is also true in the U.S., although, to my observation, to a lesser degree.
I use to tell Hail Cesar about the odd couple, the husband a UP alumnus and the wife, an alumna of FEU and a Samarnon. Odd couple because they are at odds against each other on virtually everything in view of Peter (not the read name) being an alum of UP. When Dr. Romy Cruz, who used to be Prof. Cesar’s boss and personal friend at UP, came to San Francisco for a visit from Australia a year after retiring as a UP history professor in 1995, Peter and I had a coin toss as to who will pick up Dr. Cruz and his wife from the San Francisco International Airport. The loser will prepare a BBQ dinner. Well, I won. So, I had to pick up Romy and his wife and Peter will cook BBQ for dinner.
While driving from the airport I told Romy and his wife Tootsie that we were going to have a BBQ dinner because Peter, Romy’s boyhood playmate in Marikina and an undergrad classmate at UP, and his wife Becky (not the real name) were cooking in their place. As per the deal between Peter and me, I drove from the airport directly to Peter and Becky’s home. My wife drove there separately from our house and got there just minutes after we arrived.
Lo and behold, it was around half past 10:00 PM and Peter and Becky simply had done nothing, as though we had no deal for Peter to prepare a BBQ dinner. In fact, it seemed they were expecting nobody at all. Peter whispered to me that Dr. Romy Cruz is too close a friend to be treated to a special dinner in his home and Becky, not being a UP alum, only cared less. We could, if anyone cared, eat outside.
Well, everyone had not eaten yet, and that made everybody really cared. But outside! I whispered back to Peter. Restaurants were already closed except Deney’s Restaurant, and we did not consider going there because of its public record of discriminating against non-whites. At this juncture, I motioned we were eating at my place.
I drove Dr. Cruz and his wife like I did from the airport. My wife had to drive back home separately like the way she came. Peter and Becky also drove separately in order not to be driven back to their place. Meat and other stuff to cook, except rice, were frozen. So, quickly we had to defrost. But in just a little over an hour foods were ready on the table because everyone—Dr. and Mrs. Cruz, Peter and Becky, and my wife and I simply busied in the kitchen. And for six people (my boys were all away in college then), it was not that hard to prepare a home cooked dinner! And there was no delicadeza about formality and culture. If anything, everyone was hungry and that was the controlling factor!
Oh, well, there was of course the element of culture. That is the Filipino bayanihan way of doing something when the occasion presents! We had a sumptuous dinner, however late it was, and homely, friendly, nostalgic stories that lasted virtually the rest of the night.
Now, about your point that in the U.S. the bride pays for the wedding, not the groom. That basically is a European custom. (Well, Angel, if your wife will give you permission to have another spouse, you should seriously consider marrying in the U.S.! How about that? Not in the Philippines! Halala!)
I remember my father telling the story to friends in our banana/nipa shack one day in Catubig. He wooed my mother for over two years “in hard labor”. For one thing, he provided my mother’s household with all the firewood, which he himself gathered and split. All sticks were of the same length. Yes, of course he had to pay for the wedding when they finally married. The irony, however, was that my mother in effect had to pay for the wedding, too, because my father, being poor, had to borrow all the money he spent for the wedding. So, afterward my mother had to help repay the debt.
In Europe and consequently in the U.S. the reverse is true.
Here is a story I love to tell on cultural differences between the East and the West. (Dr. Rolly Danao, who used to be Hail Cesar’s dormmate at UP Diliman and presently a UP professor of Mathematical Economics and Econometrics, is a firsthand witness and can vouch my following account.):
On Friday, January 7, 1966, Victor, a Filipino student at a private university in San Francisco, called Marie, a girl from Zurich, Switzerland, who was studying at UC San Francisco. Victor was attracted to this young Swiss woman whom he a met at the New Year’s party just the previous Saturday (in which Rolly Danao, then a doctoral student in Mathematics at UC Berkeley, and I were also invited). Victor wanted to know if Marie had time to go out for a dinner the following day, Saturday, January 8. Marie confirmed she had.
They met in mid-afternoon in the old San Francisco Public Library at the Civic Center. Thereafter, on Marie’s suggestion, they decided to see Dr. Shivago, then fairly newly released and which both of them had not seen, at Fox Warfield Theatre, some five blocks away at the foot of Golden Gate Avenue and Market Street and therefore for young people just a walking distance from the library. Being mere students, they did not have cars and neither drove. Upon emerging out of the library complex, Victor hailed a cabby parked at the curbside. When Victor motioned for Marie to get in, Marie refused. She countered that they just walk. “Five blocks is merely a short distance to take a cab,” she explained. And walked they did. When Victor bought tickets for two, he was surprised that Marie gave him the money immediately for her share. Not used to not paying for his earlier dates, who had been all Filipino girls, Victor was extremely embarrassed.
After the movie, Victor suggested having dinner at the Impress of China in Chinatown and one of the fanciest Chinese restaurants in San Francisco. Marie agreed to the dinner, but not at the Impress of China pointing out that the place is too expensive for students. On Marie’s insistence, they settled to have dinner at a buffet Chinese restaurant on Powell Street, close to Market Street some three blocks from Fox Warfield. After picking his food, Victor approached the cashier while carrying his tray and paid for Marie’s in addition to his tray. Marie, who was immediately following Victor, did not say anything. However, the moment they were seated Marie instantaneously gave Victor her share that Victor paid.
While eating, Victor inquired why Marie was always paying her share to his embarrassment. Marie countered that she is very much aware of the Oriental custom. She had spent two semesters at the University of Bombay two years earlier and when invited by friends, especially the males, they always wanted to pay. And for the males there is an added dimension. Males want to show off.
However, in Europe and consequently, in the U.S., the woman pays. “In any culture,” Marie emphasized, “it is untowardly for a woman to ask a man to take her out or to ask a man that she would like to take him out. It is already a privilege then for a woman to be asked a date. And for a woman to let the man, after he had given her the privilege, spend for her is tantamount to abuse and exploitation on the part of the woman.
“The same is true as well when it comes to marriage,” Marie expanded. “In Europe and elsewhere, as far as I know, a woman cannot propose marriage or she will be looked down by society. So, for a woman to get marriage proposal is indeed a great privilege. Hence, in gratitude she offers to pay for the wedding, that is of course when she likes the man and has accepted his proposal. That is a custom that is going to last for the foreseeable future in Europe and the U.S.,” Marie concluded.
Then Marie touched on the dowry. She remarked, “Also, in Europe it is customary for the parents of the woman or the woman herself to offer a dowry to the new union. This is due to the fact that traditionally, in any marital union, the man is the main breadwinner. So, the woman or her family puts up the dowry as the bride’s start-up financial contribution to the new union. This is in addition to the wedding gifts, which all belong to the newly weds.”
The date ended on that note.
But they continued dating while they both were studying. Handsome and brilliant, Victor was an immediate attraction to Marie. In time Marie found herself deeply in love with Victor. They became steady. And Marie, expecting Victor will propose, intimated, without being too obvious, the property (yes, dowry) she, together with her family in Switzerland, would bring in when she marries. In due time Marie finished her studies and became a nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco.
Victor finished his law studies too and was admitted to the California Bar as an aftermath of the liberalized Immigration and Nationality Act of 1966. Then he moved to Dallas to join a law firm as a staff attorney on invitation of a Filipino lawyer who worked in the firm. But he frequented San Francisco to visit Marie, as well as Marie frequenting Dallas to visit Victor. However, before a year’s time in Dallas Victor moved to Singapore to teach International Law at the University of Singapore.
Suspecting that Victor was not going to propose, Marie went home to Zurich for the summer of 1968. She invited Victor but he declined to come on the pretext of his heavy teaching load. While in Zurich, Marie met a Jewish lawyer practicing law in Switzerland after getting his law degree from the University of Manchester in England two years earlier. Francis Friedemann (not the real name) proposed marriage before Marie returned to San Francisco. Nonetheless, still deeply in love with Victor and still hoping Victor will assure her marriage, she told Francis that if he could wait he will hear from her from Francisco in a month’s time.
Between San Francisco and Singapore Marie and Victor kept the phone lines burning. But no promise of marriage or proposal came from Victor. Ever becoming hopeless Marie wrote Francis in Zurich accepting his proposal. Insisting that they wed in San Francisco, Marie bought Francis his airfare. When Francis arrived, Marie presented him a brand-new Cadillac DeVille as her part of the family dowry, in addition to her parents’s. Additionally, she of course paid for the wedding with reception at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, the swankiest hotel in the eastside of the San Francisco Bay, and their honeymoon at Catalina Island in southern California.
Marie’s parents, together with Marie’s two siblings, a brother and a sister, of course attended the wedding. And before returning to Switzerland they purchased for Marie a four-bedroom house (the family’s dowry) in Piedmont, a classy town just east of Oakland.
Marie is now the director of nursing at a Medical Center in Oakland, in addition to teaching nursing at the College of Alameda, and Francis is now a principal or partner of a law firm in Oakland in addition to teaching law at Boalt Hall in UC Berkeley. They have two children, all boys. Eric, the elder, a lawyer, obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia Law School and Justin, the younger, an MD, finished his medical studies at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.
Back to Victor, he now works—and with his own family lives—in Dallas.
A Samarnon, Victor decided to marry his college girlfriend in the Philippines who is also from Samar. He had developed inferiority complex, among other reasons. So he could not seriously consider marrying Marie. The irony was: Before proposing marriage to Tina which he did on the phone and by mail from Singapore and which Tina readily accepted, he had not met Tina’s parents who always resided in Samar. He simply thought that his future wife and he, being both Samarnons, would have an ideal union—cultural compatibility, if you will.
In time, while he was still in Singapore, Victor agreed to Tina’s suggestion that he could simply come home for the wedding, which would take place in Manila, with reception in a five-star hotel. All Victor had to do was to send the money based on a budget that Tina herself would prepare and submit to him.
Tina submitted an initial budget with a price tag of $4,200 (U.S.), adding, “Dear, you should of course anticipate hidden costs before flying home for the wedding.”
Victor immediately wired the entire amount. Four months later, on his way to the wedding he flew first to the U.S. to re-establish presence as required of green-card holders by the U.S. immigration law. After just over a month in the Dallas, Victor flew to Manila for the wedding.
Victor arrived in Manila for the wedding on Saturday, June 15, 1968. Tina, the moment she had a chance to be alone with Victor, immediately told her groom-to-be that the wedding would take place in Braxton Hills in Quezon City, as they had planned. However, she made a reservation for (only) 50 guests for the reception which was to be held not in a hotel but at Wah Nam, a Chinese restaurant in the vicinity of Plaza Santa Cruz in Manila.
Tina, somewhat mincing words, said that her mother took $3,500 from the total amount Victor had sent. This $3,500, Tina explained, was not even enough, in her mother’s perspective, for having raised her and for sending her to college in Manila. Additionally, Tina mentioned that her parents expect from Victor a dowry in the form of cash or in kind, say, a combination of chattel and real estate, for her family in the amount of at least $8,000 (U.S). Concluding, Tina pointed out, “I hope you brought extra funds for the ‘hidden costs’ I told you to anticipate. Of the $700 balance from what my mother took, I have used roughly $300 in conjunction with the wedding preparation. And the $400 I am holding may not even be enough for the reception at Wah Nam.”
Victor was dumfounded. Devastated, he was speechless. He was hurting. He left Tina in her uncle’s house only mutely bidding her to excuse him for the rest of the day, but without telling her where he was going. However, he retired for the day to his hotel reflecting on his unexpected problem. Both his parents were already deceased and he even had not invited his two sisters and a brother who were all living in Samar. He seriously considered flying to Hongkong, as was his plan for the honeymoon after the wedding. From Hongkong he wanted to return to Singapore, without going through the wedding.
But the Christian value in him prevailed. He decided he could handle the situation, or so he thought, by positive attitude. He would wed Tina, after all he loved her, only on condition that he was not going to give a "dowry” to her parents. Tina reluctantly agreed, just keeping to herself Victor’s imposed condition of no additional dowry to her parents. Victor brought with him extra funds in the amount of $3,800 (U.S.) plus credit cards just in case, but after learning what Tina’s mother did, he did not reveal the exact amount to Tina, not even after the wedding. And he hardly entrusted Tina an amount greater than $100 while he was in Manila.
At the reception, the guests generously showered the newlyweds with gifts—China, silverware, etc. Tina’s family took all and shipped them to Samar, notwithstanding Tina’s objection in deference to the fact that her groom is already upset of her mother’s earlier action of taking much of the money Victor had sent intended solely for the wedding.
Victor returned to Singapore a week after the wedding without the honeymoon in Hongkong he had planned. After a month Tina followed her groom to Singapore. But before she left her mother extracted from her a (secret) promise, something absolutely to be kept from Victor, to support her elder sister, who had no job, and to let a younger brother finish college, as well as support him also even after graduation if he could not land an employment.
After eight more months of teaching in Singapore, Victor, with his wife of course, resigned his law-teaching job and moved to the U.S. and established home in Dallas. The University of Singapore wanted Victor to stay another term. But Tina was getting heavy with a child that was due before the term would have been over. And Victor and Tina wanted the baby to be born a natural U.S. citizen.
Victor and Tina have been married for almost thirty-five years now. They have two children, a boy and a girl. The first, Willie or Billy, 33 and married, has only a community-college (two-year college) education and is a postal employee in Dallas. The second child, Marianne, 30 and divorced three times with three children, got pregnant before finishing high school and did not qualify for a high school diploma. She now works as manicurist and part-time masseuse in Dallas.
Today, still working at the Dallas law firm that hired him in 1968, Victor has a handsome income. Yet he confides himself to close friends as a failure. He cites his children as the testimonials. His wife works also as a girl Friday in a bank, in addition to being a manicurist and masseuse. But until now, in keeping with her promise to her mother, Tina still supports in Samar her elder sister who never attempted to get a gainful employment after learning from her mother, now deceased, that Tina will support her for as long as she or Tina lives. Tina also supported her younger brother, who was kicked out by the UP for sub-marginal academic performance, for ten years before his death of a strange illness.
Tina until now has not told Victor of her secret promise to her mother. But Victor, being a lawyer, had discovered it early on in their marriage. During the first five years of their marriage, Victor seriously considered divorcing Tina. He even went into the motion of enlisting the advices of a social worker and a marriage counselor in preparation for the divorce. But in the end, for the sake of the children, he decided not to—simply adjusting to the unfortunate situation however painful it emotionally hurts him. But naturally, under the situation, there was frequent turbulence in their marriage.
Their initial plan was to have three children and to not let Tina work for the first 15 years of their marriage so that the children will have always a parent with them during the day in the course of the critical period of their growing-up years. But he finally allowed Tina to work to relieve her of a nagging guilt for concealing from him the amount she was sending to her elder sister in Samar. Fortunately for Tina and Victor, Tina’s sister in Samar has no children, just a husband who also never tried seriously to get any gainful employment in view of the continuing allowance his wife is getting from her younger sister.
It was Tina’s initial idea to have three children, which Victor enthusiastically acceded to. Yet, sensing that a third child or more may finally impair the already-delicate balance of the family finances, Victor submitted to a vasectomy without the knowledge of Tina. He felt justified in not letting Tina know. After all what he did was reversible and a mere corollary, in his perspective, of the more serious secret Tina is keeping from him. Further, Victor does not have absolute trust on his wife considering the secret if unwritten codicil she entered into with her mother. So, the vasectomy serves a second purpose, a trap. Should Tina get pregnant with another child that means she has another secret.
Angel, the foregoing are true stories with slight alterations because the real identities of characters must remain protected. I took the pain in detailing the accounts so that you will be able to tell for yourself the differences in cultures between Europeans and Samarnons. I have not attempted to grossly accuse my fellow Samarnons. After all there are decent elements among us. But they are the exceptions, rather than rule. Now that the accounts are written, I will rewrite them later with a plot to convert them into a full-blown short story.
More later. In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s to you and your family. –Quint
P.S.: In my next email I will write about the two neighbors in Samar who each sent a son to study in Manila.
Quintin L. Doroquez, Fremont CA
[The writer, Q. Lambino Doroquez who also writes under the name of Quintin L. Doroquez, is a native of the towns of Catubig and Las Navas in the Catubig Valley, Northern Samar, where he grew up. He graduated valedictorian from high school and went to college with scholarships, while working at the same time. Immediately after college he left for the U.S. to attend graduate school and earned an MBA in accounting and finance. In college, he was editor-in-chief of his school newspaper and became a member of the foremost student association of the Philippines, the College Editors' Guild of the Philippines. He worked for and retired from the University of California (UC) System. Thus far he is the only Filipino to attain a management level position in the Office of the President of the University, where his primary responsibilities were editing the four-volume University of California System Accounting Manual and the formulation and development of policies pertaining to the business and financial affairs of the University. He taught college for two years, but abandoned this pursuit—even after being encouraged by the chairman of his department to pursue tenure—in order to focus in earnest on his management career. While working for the UC, he was selected to attend a four-summer management program at the University’s expense and obtained an advanced certificate on college and university financial administration. He won three outstanding performance awards at different times—including the coveted Management Incentive Award in the Office of the President of the University, which qualified him to be admitted to the English department at Oxford University in England where he earned a certificate in creative writing. Mr. Doroquez is enjoying presently his retirement by writing short stories, articles, essays, poetry, humor, etc. He is currently working on a novel entitled, ‘Widowed Young’]