PHITSANULOK, THAILAND—Love is the universal language. Filipinos in various parts of the world prove this again and again when they fall in love with foreigners despite language and cultural barriers.
Here in Thailand, businessman Reynold Sioson found love in the sprawling Chatuchak Market, the world’s largest weekend flea market. He says he knew it the moment he saw her selling souvenirs at one of the market shops, even though they had initial difficulties communicating.
“It was a hot December day in Bangkok in 2010. I remember she sold me an overpriced Buddha statuette because I told her she was pretty,” says 35-year-old Reynold, a native of Bulacan, fondly recalling his first meeting with Pim.
After that meeting, Reynold visited Bangkok many more times—not to buy souvenirs, but to win Pim’s heart.
Eventually, “we had this mutual understanding that we would spend each moment of my stay together. I would just help her tend to her shop or we would drive out of the city for a few days.
Pim, 33, found ways of letting Reynold know that the feeling was mutual. They were married in 2011.
Filipina Anje Lou Barcelona, on the other hand, fell in love with a Thai man.
Anje Lou, 29, was an overseas worker in Taiwan in 2008, when she met 33-year-old Naruecha Mongcon Sawangwong, also an overseas worker from Thailand.
“We were best of friends, in spite of the language barrier. We used to communicate in Chinese. After his contract expired, he decided to go home. I decided to follow him to Thailand because I couldn’t imagine myself living without him,” Anje says.
Anje is now a teacher in Phitsanulok, while Naruecha takes care of a farm.
Marrying a Thai woman could be expensive because of the customary dowry.
But in Reynold and Pim’s case, the modern couple did away with the practice. They were married in 2011 in a simple civil ceremony.
Anje was given a dowry even though she is a foreigner. She and Naruecha were married in a civil ceremony in April last year.
“We are planning to have a Church wedding in the future,” she says.
With different cultural backgrounds, in addition to the language barrier, Reynold and Pim encounter “misinterpretations.” But for Reynold, the usual give and take, kiss and make up, are always the solutions.
Love can also overcome religious differences. Reynold and Pim believe that religion should not define them as persons and should not be something that would keep them estranged.
“We’re both free to practice our own faith, it was a mutual understanding. Sometimes at night, you’ll find us both kneeling back to back, praying; I find it bittersweet and amusing,” says Reynold.
Anje says, “as much as possible, I try to understand Buddhism, and then I introduce my Christian faith to him… slowly but heartily, and it
Raising Thai-Filipino kids
Anje and Nareucha’s 1-year-old son, Nathapoom or Johnny, is not only exposed to Thai culture. The growing Filipino community in Phitsanulok is helping to shape his identity as a multicultural person.
“Although we live in Thailand and Nareucha and my son haven’t been to the Philippines, my husband does not deny him his other side—his being a Filipino. We always socialize with our Filipino friends and host gatherings. It is important for Johnny to learn my Filipino culture, so he will not grow up ignorant,” explains Anje.
“No matter if we continue living here in the Philippines or settle in Thailand or migrate somewhere else, my son, who will be born on May, will not be deprived of his Filipino heritage,” Reynold affirms.
Anje believes that in any marriage, giving 100% in a relationship can make it work.
“If you have doubts don’t marry,” she says.
She adds, “Thai men are the best lovers, always giving 100% if they really love you,” she says.
Reynold and Pim say that nationalities are just words stamped on our passports for political reasons.
On love in a globalized world, Reynold has to this to say:
“Firstly, love and appreciation are universal; you can never go wrong with these two.
“Secondly, no barrier is too wide or impenetrable; there’s always a way to get through but you will have to find it “as a couple.”