Unwary and innocent was I when my tale began, peaceful and contented am I at present. Of my saga I shall now sing. :)
In late October 2007, shortly after my 50th birthday, I was still single and unattached. I was also unemployed, in debt on my credit cards, behind on my house payments, and had no prospects: it turned out that I was on the “bleeding edge” of the current economic slump. Due in part to these concerns I suffered from insomnia.
One morning I awoke early, couldn't fall back to sleep, finally gave up and got up at around 6AM, and went to hang out in IRC chat on the Internet. I was a DJ on, and member of the management team of, an Internet radio station (Party FM, where the FUN never STOPS) and as also one of the channel ops in the station's IRC channel, so I was just hanging out, ready to greet newcomers, answer questions, kick off/ban spammers, and just generally be a good op and represent the radio station well.
Filipina Girls Marry Western Men
A newbie joined the channel and started asking lots of questions, such as “who's Djing?” (no one was: we were replaying a recording of previous live show), and “why isn't there a live DJ?” (because it's oh-dark-thirty in the bloody morning!). Soon the person Pmd me (opened a private chat session with me) and began asking me about myself. Filipina girls are not what I expected, but it turned out to be female, from the Philippines, 27, single but with a boyfriend (her first) in four year old on-again-off-again relationship. She decided that I was nice for some reason and continued to join chat and PM me from then on.
We became friends over time, and as she got to know me she began “nagging” me (as I called it) about taking better care of my health, mostly: things like not going out in the rain (as if that was possible in Seattle), standing for at least 30 minutes after eating to digest my food, and so on. Gradually I realized that she would be a good person to settle down with.
I wasn't getting any younger, had no other prospects, and I decided that it would be good to have someone to say “good morning” to when I woke up and to call 911 for me if I fell in the shower or something. In short, I began falling in love. Me, at my time of life, and with someone so young not to mention in another hemisphere, for crying out loud! Oh my God...Filipina girls!
I was completely open and honest with her right from the get-go, as she was with me. I told her my age. She said that didn't matter to her as long as I was myself. Finally, in the summer of 2008, I said the L-word to her and she reciprocated albeit somewhat guiltily as she was still seeing her boyfriend from time to time. Meanwhile other things had been happening in our lives: my credit cards were all maxed out, my savings had dwindled to practically nothing, I was still unemployed, and was reduced to scrounging around my house for loose change to buy ramen noodles and to visiting a food bank. Karen was supportive through all of this period, and even attempted to send me money via PayPal! The attempt failed as PayPal doesn't support Philippine bank accounts, but the thought was there. This is a far cry from the stories you hear about Filipina girls who are scam artists pretending to be in love with several foreign guys at once, getting them to send her money for so-called family emergencies and things, or getting some guy to marry her just so she can get her green card and move to the US as I feared at first might be the case with Karen until I got to know her better. That was accomplished by IRC private chats, Yahoo IM chats, webcam and voice-chat sessions.
In October 2008 her boyfriend, who was working in Florida at the time, stopped contacting her for several days. At first he made excuses: he'd lost his cell phone, he was really busy with work, etc. Finally the truth came out: he'd been seeing another woman. That put an end to that relationship: Karen was finally able to say “I love you” to me without feeling guilty. Not long after that she told me out of the blue that if I was to come to Cebu, Philippines and marry her, she “wouldn't mind”. :) I thought about it for a few minutes, decided that if I let this one get away I'd regret it later, and said “OK”. We were engaged on November 6th 2008.
Originally we'd planned for her to come to the US and live with me. She has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and experience at property management so we figured she could easily get a job here.
Meanwhile my house had been foreclosed upon and almost went up for auction in August of that year, being saved at the eleventh hour by my neighbor who offered to buy it from me at a decent price, paying off my arrears as part of the down payment, the rest of which allowed me to pay off my credit cards, get out of debt, and have money to live on again. I had an income of over $1,000 per month and had until the end of the year in which to find a new place to live, being allowed to stay in the house rent-free thanks to the kindness of my neighbor. And Karen had quit the Roman Catholic church and been baptized as a Born-Again Christian, having joined an evangelical group for Filipina girls, which promised to make life interesting as I didn't consider myself to even be a Christian. There were hurdles when well-meaning but meddlesome Christian friends quoted from the Bible about how marriages by couples who were “unequally yoked” in their religious beliefs were frowned upon. In my opinion the devil (if there is such a being) is never happier than when Christians are doing his work!
As we know, it turned out that my situation was far from unique: houses all over the place were in foreclosure, unemployment soared to the highest levels since 1992, and the economy was in terrible shape. I never could find a place: I looked at rentals and mobile homes that were offered for sale, but the latter depended upon rental of a space in mobile home parks and all of these options were closed to me as my credit rating was shot due to the foreclosure. Even though I had plenty of money in the bank as well as a guaranteed income for ten years from the house payments, all rentals and trailer spaces I found required that I pass a credit check. Additionally, I smoke and almost all rentals specify “no smokers allowed”, even though I'm in the habit of going outside to smoke and not dropping my butts on the ground.
Finally my time ran out and I had to leave. My sister and brother-in-law lived in the small town of Enumclaw, WA. And though their house wasn't big enough to share with me unless I slept on the couch, they had a 27 foot motor home I could use until I could find my own place. Conditions there were rather primitive: the plumbing, gas pipes and refrigerator all needed work so I used the 'fridge as an icebox, hauled water from the house, flushed the toilet via a 5-gallon bucket, cooked on a camp stove and heated with a couple of portable propane heaters. I had a bed, electricity, a microwave oven and wifi Internet. It was better than sleeping in a doorway somewhere.
I stayed there from early January 2009 to the end of April. I really believe that God, or Someone, was setting me up and training me to move to Cebu and live there, as I finally decided to do: the small quarters, hauling my drinking water from the house, cooking on a small gas stove. I'd planned to visit Karen anyway, as a US fiancee or spousal visa requires that we have proof (photos of us together, airplane ticket stubs, hotel receipts, etc.) that we've met in person within 18 months of applying. We discussed it at length and decided that my limited income goes a lot farther here than in the US, plus she can still be close to her family and watch her little sister grow up, so we changed plans. I miss my sister and brother-in-law but they're the only family I have on my side while Karen, as most Filipina girls do, has an extended family here (which are now mine, too).
I got my passport in March, booked my flight in April, sold or gave away the majority of my belongings, and arrived in Cebu City on April 29th. I'd wired some money to Karen weeks before and she'd rented us a cute little 2-bedroom apartment near where she works and began buying a few furniture and houseware items, so I had a place to stay when I arrived. The apartment is a definite step up from the motor home: there's water, it's way bigger, the toilet flushes, I can take showers (tepid ones: there are no water heaters here, but those feel OK in the hot climate) without having to go into my sister's house, we have our own refrigerator/freezer.
Meanwhile, all through April we'd both been acquiring all of the documentation needed to get married. These included a clearance for Filipina girls from her barangay, Cabanclan in Mandaue City, saying that she was an adult of good moral character and they knew of no reason why she couldn't marry; a Certificate of No Marriage (CENOMAR) issued by the Philippines National Statistics Office, or NSO, declaring that she wasn't already married; and a CENOMAR for me certifying that there was no record of me being married here in the Phils. Also required were our passports and original or certified copies of our birth certificates. Since she was 29 by then we weren't required to attend a counseling session as those Filipina girls under 25 are nor have signed parental permission as do those under 21. As she's no longer Catholic there was no reading of bans required, and we'd decided on a simple civil ceremony so there was no church or pastor to arrange for.
The following morning we visited the US Consulate in Cebu City where I got my Affidavit In Lieu Of a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (basically a sworn statement, signed and sealed by the US Consul, saying that I wasn't already married) for US$30 (or the equivalent in Philippine pesos) then went to the Bureau of Immigration (BOI) to get my 21-day tourist visa extended for 30 days. The following days, and weeks, were busy ones. We shopped for and purchased furniture, a small refrigerator, clothes, and the rings. I saw a doctor about a sore knee and started undergoing treatment for osteoarthritis: growing older sucks! We applied for our license, waited the required ten-day period for any objections to be made, got our license, arranged for a judge to do the ceremony and for two witnesses, and were finally married on May 19th. We held a reception and dinner on May 20th at a local buffet restaurant.
On Wednesday June 3rd, our marriage certificate was registered meaning that Karen can have her name changed in all records; can add me as a dependent to her health insurance and can apply for a 13A Permanent Resident/Non-Quota Immigrant visa and ACR card (the Philippine equivalent or a green card) allowing me to live here permanently, travel freely, work here, and basically do anything a Filipino citizen can do except vote, own property in my name, or own a controlling interest in a business.
Meanwhile we've been looking at houses and lots for sale, dreaming of owning our own home and planning for our children's future should there be any kids coming along, and watching our budget to the best of our ability.
Sometimes I get a bit homesick, sometimes I miss American food, sometimes I feel left out when everyone around me is speaking Cebuano which I have yet to learn, but overall I'm quite happy here. In terms of Filipina girls, I have an attractive, loving wife who dotes on me and pampers me, relatives-in-law who like me, a decent place to live, enough money to easily live on for the foreseeable future, enough in the bank that home ownership is again within the realm of possibility and probably enough to pay for a child's education through college if we watch our spending and save as much as we can. Overall, life is good!
Total time from decision to move to Cebu: approximately 3 months
Total cost of moving and wedding: $4,480 + (P30,450 or $647) = $5,127.
Contributed by Schumar