Note: I have decided to re-run this article from last year. We have a lot of new readers, and also there has been some talk in the comments lately about the adjustment of a returning Filipino. I think that this column will answer a few questions on that topic.
A while back, Feyma wrote an entry here about her struggle to adjust to her family. I wanted to comment on that, because it was a really important part of her life after moving here to live.
Actually, it all started even before we moved here, so let me go back to the beginning. When we got married, Feyma was young, just 21 years old. In addition to being young, she was not a worldly person, having grown up her whole life in the Philippines. After we got married, it took about 4 months to get her Visa to come and live with me in the States. She arrived in January, 1991. By December, we had our first child (Chris). In May of 1992 we took a trip back to the Philippines to visit her family, and let them meet Chris. Between 1992 and 1995 we made several trips back to the Philippines, but after that we did not return for several years.
Starting when Feyma arrived in the States in 1991, she really started growing up and maturing, if you know what I mean. I am not saying this in a mean way, its just that she had a lot of things to learn about, and being exposed to an entirely new life, she was becoming a more sophisticated and worldly person. She was more educated – even though she had not attended further schooling (she already had a college degree in the Philippines), she was becoming more educated just by living life, and seeing new things.
The next time we returned to the Philippines, it was 1999. Feyma was, in my opinion quite an intelligent woman, and one who was quite worldly. I was quite proud of the woman she had become, from the girl that I married in 1990. The last time we had been to the Philippines, in 1995, she was moving in this direction, but was still not that much different than she had been when we married. I was kind of excited for her family to see her and see the woman that she had grown into. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
Once we arrived in General Santos City in July 1999, and spent some time with my in-laws, it was kind of obvious that they didn’t quite know what to think about Feyma. They were confused, because Feyma was not the same girl that they knew from 9 years before. After a few days in town, I had an opportunity to go to the airport to meet a friend who was coming to visit me. I brought along my wife’s closest sister. They were only a couple years apart, and during their childhood and young adulthood, they had been the closest of friends. As we sat at the airport waiting for my friend to arrive, I asked my sister-in-law – “What do you think of Feyma?” I didn’t know what answer to expect. Given the personal growth and development that Feyma had undergone, it really surprised me when her sister responded – “She’s fat.” I was shocked! Feyma was certainly not fat. Over the years since we married, she had given birth to two children, so of course she weighed a little more than when we married! Really, how many 30 year olds weigh the same as they did at 21 anyway? I mean, I don’t think she had gained more than 10 pounds, and she was too thin when we married anyway.
It just hit me, though, when my sister-in-law said that. She and Feyma had been best friends and sisters all of their lives, and the only thing she could say about Feyma was that she was fat? I didn’t even know what to say. I asked her, though, if she didn’t notice that Feyma had matured a lot, learned how to speak for herself, etc? She said that yes, she noticed that too, which she didn’t like too much. Oh well… I was happy with Feyma and her growth, and Feyma was happy with the woman she had become too, so that’s what mattered.
We moved here to live about a year after that conversation. The attitude had not changed, Feyma was not the girl that the family had known. They didn’t know how to react to her. After some time, they came to accept who she was, although to this day, I don’t think they really like it.