Young FilAms dish on the Dating Culture: ‘My parents are heavily pushing Catholicism on my boyfriend’

‘Scared of letting my parents down.’ Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Gulan Bollsay

‘Scared of letting my parents down.’ Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Gulan Bollsay

By Christian Catiis

One wonders. How do Filipino American millennials date? With the integration of Filipino tradition and American culture, are there parallels between our parents’ idea of sex and romance and ours?

My dad, being Mr. Suave, used to send my mom hundreds of handwritten love letters across the sea when she lived here in the U.S. But what are today’s Piolo Pascuals and Sam Milbys up to? So I went to three Filipinas to find out. To ensure their privacy we are using only their first names.

What I noted was an apparent double standard. While the men were high-fived for their busy dating lives, the women were looked down on and sometimes shamed for being romantically or sexually active. So I asked the following questions:

When did your parents come to the U.S?

Calli: My mom moved to the U.S in 1984 while my dad followed in the ‘90s. During that time, they were already together.

Brianna: Both parents moved to the U.S. around the early ‘90s. They didn’t have me yet, but I know they were already married.

Diana: My dad was only 5 years old when he emigrated to the U.S, but frequently traveled back and forth to keep in touch with my mom, until she moved here when she was 21.

What do you think are your parents’ idea or perception of dating?

Calli: I can’t tell whether if it’s more of a cultural thing or just how my parents were. See, when my parents began dating, it was mostly through letters and over the phone because it was such a long distance relationship considering both my parents lived in separate countries. So, when it came to dating, I want to say it was geared more towards marriage since they never dated anyone else. From my mom’s experience in school, girls would drop out of classes just to be with their boyfriends, so she was always skeptical about me dating.

Brianna: My dad never really had an opinion, while my mom never saw dating in America like actual dating, but more like close friendship. She was fine for me getting to know people, but she always made me put school first. There was this unspoken rule that I could date when I was older, but only after high school.

Diana: My dad was definitely more lenient since he was raised here in the U.S., but my mom definitely was strict and more conservative.

How was it when you first started dating? Could you describe your first boyfriend and your parents’ reaction?

Calli: I was 18, we met in college, and he was Filipino as well. When we got together, I initially didn’t tell them, but I wanted to, however I waited until the semester was over so I could prove to them that I could do well in school and still have a boyfriend. I told my dad first because he is more lenient in comparison to my mom and I wanted to keep that trusting relationship with my father. All he told me was to not make it too serious nor to let him distract me from my studies. But when I told my mother, she went on the complete defensive and ultimately said, “If you decide to date, we won’t let you live on campus.” In her eyes, the only way I could make her happy again was if I stopped seeing him.

Brianna: I got together with my first boyfriend right before senior year in high school. He was Egyptian and Muslim and we were in an interfaith relationship just like my parents. My father is Muslim while my mother is Catholic. I didn’t tell her until after three weeks of dating him but when I did, she didn’t take it seriously because again, she never saw dating as romantically linked, just getting to know the person one on one. But as the relationship progressed, she raised the issue regarding that if I were to have children, we would argue about how to raise our children when it came to religion, values, etc.

Diana: My first boyfriend was when I was 14, and they were not accepting at all for many reasons. They thought I was too young, even though my older sister had a boyfriend when she was 14 too, and because he was two years older than me. They also didn’t like how he was mixed, as they would have preferred me to be with someone fully Filipino.

When did they eventually come around and accept that you were dating?

Calli: Even though I am now currently beginning my third year of college, they are still not okay with me and my current boyfriend. Ever since I told my parents, they have not acknowledged him nor even talked to me about our relationship since.

Brianna: After getting to know my current boyfriend for nearly two years, they became more accepting of him in my life. For the first couple of months, my mom gave him the cold shoulder and did not want to do anything with him, but they now have a great relationship with each other. My boyfriend has had my dad’s blessing a long time ago.

Diana: They finally came to terms with it when I was around 16/17 years old. They weren’t initially accepting of my current boyfriend not because he was white or anything, but because of his career choice. I feel like most Filipinos gear towards becoming doctors or nurses or something within the medical field, but my boyfriend is interested in a career in the arts. They finally accepted him when my family met his, and even though his family comes from a different religion and nationality, once they saw their family values was similar to ours, they were more okay.

Have you ever had to hide your boyfriend?

Calli: Ever since my mom completely lashed out at me, I am still waiting for her to come to terms with me dating. I am actually still hiding being with him, which sucks, seeing my friends with their significant others on Facebook, and their parents being so supportive of them.

Brianna: I hid my current boyfriend for the first five months, a little over year after I ended it with my ex. In her mind, dating again after a year was still too soon, so I didn’t want to tell her just yet.

Diana: So my first boyfriend and I went out for two and a half years, and we hid it for the first year. I feel like Filipinos have a very strict and narrow expectation of what they want your significant other to be and you’re just scared of letting them down.

What do you consider romantic? And when it comes to family life, such as marriage and kids, what do your parents expect from you?

Calli: Well since my current boyfriend is my first, I’m pretty cliché when it comes to being romantic. Like candlelight dinners, remembering small facts about me when I don’t expect him to, and just overall putting thought into me. Even though he’s not the most creative, I appreciate whatever he attempts. When it comes to family life, they just want me to be with someone who is my equal, whether it comes to responsibilities with the kids or finances stability. They want my marriage to be a partnership, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Brianna: I don’t go for the big gestures; I appreciate the little things. Even though my current boyfriend asked me out over Facebook, he made it up with date in the city. Out of nowhere, he’ll ask me to check my mailbox and I’ll find a letter or a little gift from him. I also really appreciate how he asks my mom to take me out first. Respect and tradition is such a big part of the Filipino culture and they appreciate it when the guy asks the girl. Although my mom would prefer for me to have a Catholic family, at the end of the day, they just want me to be happy.

Diana: A nice dinner or a walk in the park. From city dates to just staying in the house watching movies, as long as I’m with him, I don’t mind. But considering my current boyfriend is neither Catholic nor Filipino, I don’t know how they expect me to raise my children, if I were to even have any, to be raised in a “typical” Filipino household. I’m not really religious, but ever since I’ve been with him, I can feel them heavily pushing Catholicism on to me and my boyfriend.

 ‘My mom is probably assuming the worst, even though I haven’t doing anything.’

‘My mom is probably assuming the worst, even though I haven’t doing anything.’

Do your parents know you’re sexually active?

Calli: My mom is probably assuming the worst, even though I haven’t doing anything.

Brianna: Not at all. They are okay with me kissing and hugging.

Diana: Yes, but they are totally in denial. I am 20, but since I am the youngest, it definitely plays a factor because they want to keep me as a child as long as they can. They do know but, I don’t know, I guess they don’t want to come to terms with it. They still see me as really innocent and they still want to keep me as their little girl.

From your own experiences, what advice can you give to FilAms who are beginning to date?

Calli: To be honest, I could use some advice as well. There is a degree where you want to hide it, but you have to let them know. Maintain that level of trust, because it is going to be harder if they expect the worst from you. I’m not saying to tell them everything, but once they’ve find out you’ve been hiding, you’re now just seen as a liar.

Brianna: No matter how you feel about your significant other, you need to keep it under the radar. When you’re young and you’re overly expressive, your parents will always bring back school, especially if you are a girl. You have to keep your grades up because the minute they go down, they are going to blame it on your boyfriend.

Diana: Just don’t try to hide it. It never turns out well and once they’ve find out, they will just be more upset with not just the fact you’re dating, but the fact you’ve betrayed their trust.

Many FilAms share similar stories. Dating does appear to be a taboo topic in some Filipino American families. But being both Filipino and American, we adopt values from both cultures. However, when it comes to American dating, my generation’s sense of romanticism seems to be too rushed in comparison to our parents.’ Will the definition of love and dating be changed with the next generation? Only time will tell.

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