Maggie is a survivor and alumni of My Refuge House. She graduated college with a degree in Social work and is sharing stories from her life as a young woman who continues to work to overcome the disadvantages of her youth. Previously, she shared her experiences during Typhoon Odette. Here, she shares her progress on another of life’s challenges: building healthy romantic relationships.
Editors note: Successful bonding and integration into a family is hugely important to romantic relationships in the Philippinx culture. Maggie emphasizes the emotional attachment and monetary generosity she gives to Jack's family to illustrate how important he is in her life. Her mentions of cost and salary also demonstrate how much responsibility they each hold to take care of their families, especially with prices put on activities like accessing public land. The relationships formed with Jack’s family also contrast with her less harmonious past experience of family.
Solidified by their move-in, Maggie and Jack are in love, and do see a future together. She describes Jack as a good guy who is fun and reliable, and says marriage is a possibility down the road. However, with divorce being illegal in the Philippines, it’s not a decision most people there rush into. There is plenty of time for the couple to bond as a family before the next stage of their relationship.
On a Wednesday afternoon, My boyfriend and I packed up for a one-week trip to his hometown in Catarman, Northern Samar. After graduating from college, I have been busy supporting my family, so I knew this could be my only chance to relax and enjoy free time this year. Since my boyfriend works for the government as a soldier in the Philippine Navy, he was able to pay for almost everything during our trip, covering food, gas, and other expenses. I only paid for my fare going there and back home. From boarding the ship at the pier, it took us almost 16 hours to get to his hometown. When we finally made it, I was able to meet his entire family who welcomed me very warmly and were so happy to see us, especially my boyfriend since they hadn't seen him for quite some time. After eating lunch together, we took our rest and decided to go on a beach trip the next day.
Jack and I had been together for over a year at this point. We started our relationship last year in 2021 and after 6 months together he told me that he wanted us to live together and I agreed. Since I was renting, he was always at my place during those first 6 months. It was more convenient to live together since we could split all the bills and have our dates just watching movies and eating together in our own place. It costs a lot when we go out to spend time together.
Ever since last year, Jack had been telling me that he wanted to bring me to his hometown to meet his family and see where he grew up. I had also been wanting to meet his family since I had been talking to his mom through messenger. Since we were already living together it was important for me to get to know his family and relatives. Also, I always wanted to go on a trip outside my hometown and I had not been to Samar. This trip was not my first time being outside Cebu, but I was still a kid when my family went to Surigao and Bohol in my parents hometown.
After our beach trip together, we both decided to treat his whole family for another swim since we were there in May, the birth month of four in his family. Eleven of us went to the swimming pool. We all had fun and I was able to get to know his family and bond with them as we celebrated their birthdays together. The entrance fee for each person was 100 ($2 USD) pesos and we also paid 300 ($6 USD) pesos for the table and corkage for the food we brought was 500 pesos ($10 USD).
The next day, I wanted to go to a waterfall. We went together with his younger brother and the three of us had fun. We laughed the entire time, especially at one point when I slipped through the rocks into the water while holding my phone. I was shouting, and holding my phone above my head, and we laughed every time we remembered it. We also went to a different public beach after the waterfalls with no entrance fee.
The following day, I wanted to treat his two younger siblings to Jollibee. It is one of the best fast food chains in the Philippines. We went to a nearby mall and ate together. We also let his siblings play mini basketball there to bond with them. I wanted my boyfriend to spend time with them because we were almost done with our vacation. He is very close to his family and always talks about how he misses them.
In the succeeding days, we just stayed at home and tried to spend time with his family as much as we could. I was also able to meet Jack’s high school friends. I talked to his mom about my family. I also have a big family like Jack, and I am also the breadwinner of my family.
I always think the worst so I thought that Jack’s mom might not like me in person but I know now that she is kind and understanding. Since the trip, every time we talk in messenger she asks me about how we are doing and also reminds us to eat on time, not drink too much alcohol, and to take care. She also asks about how Jack is doing in Cebu since they barely talk in messenger. I told her that Jack is doing good in his job but it is always demanding of his time, which is why he can't call or message her often. We get along so well, although sometimes I struggle to communicate because their dialect is Waray, one of the major dialects in the Philippines. The major dialects include Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), Ilocano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Tagalog, and Waray. Although there are some similar words with my dialect Bisaya, Waray is still very different, so the only way for us to communicate is in Tagalog. Though Tagalog is the national language in the Philippines, I feel awkward speaking it since my dialect is Bisaya or Cebuano from Cebu. We ate together for every lunch and dinner. We also did karaoke and drank beers with his family. I was very surprised that they welcomed me wholeheartedly because my boyfriend had a relationship for 5 years before we were together. They were very close with his ex-girlfriend so I thought that they would not be happy to meet me, but I was wrong. I never felt out of place there. I felt close to them since I also came from a big family and can understand their family dynamics.