Chinese-Filipina intercultural marriage – building Business Empire through love and trust

in Couple Profile, Intercultural Marriage


Chinese-Filipina intercultural marriageSome stories seem to exist only in novels and it’s inspiring to know they’re happening even in real life. If you’re single and pregnant, would you marry the man who fathered your child even if you don’t love him all for the sake of your baby? What about living with him first, without marriage, to test the waters?

Chinese people are everywhere and they marry local women in order to set up businesses. That’s a stereotype, yes, but not all Chinese men are the same. Maybe some do marry local women and treat them with less respect, but there are also those who would trade his society and business partners for the woman that he loves.

The offbeat couple

Mercy is a bubbly used to be easy-go-lucky who discovered her killer business skills after marrying Zho, a Chinese business man who would give up everything and anything he got just to stay married with the woman that he loves. She gave him a son, the first male grandchild in his father’s clan. They’ve been together for about five years.

What makes your marriage offbeat?

I’m a Filipina, born and raised in the Philippines while my husband is a Chinese who traveled and moved to the Philippines for business reasons. I’m Catholic and he is Buddhist. We have an intercultural and interfaith marriage.

What made you end up in an interracial/interfaith marriage? What was your motivation in deciding to marry someone of different culture or faith?

I met my husband when I was still in university while he was working in my friend’s rice mill business. At first I wasn’t attracted at him because I used to hate men of his kind having had the stereotype that Chinese men in the Philippines are using Filipinas only as means to put up businesses in the country, treating them like maids and giving them only an allowance which is akin to house keeping salary. Sadly, a lot of Filipinas agree to such set-up because of poverty and their desire to help their family.

We were not in a relationship when he got me pregnant. We both were drunk when it happened. I was depressed and frustrated with my former relationship and I used liquor to bury my pains. When I learned that I was 2 months and 11 days pregnant, we agreed that after I deliver the baby, he’ll have it and I’ll go away. But shortly before my pregnancy turned 4 months, he came to our house to seek my mom’s permission to marry me because he didn’t want the scandal that our impending plan will bring. But for me marriage is a life time commitment; I didn’t want to agree to get married just because I was pregnant and without love.

After I had the baby we decided to live together for the baby and to give it a try if we could make it as a couple. When our baby turned one year, we realized that we already learned to love each other. We had the wedding together with the baby’s christening.

Tell us about the wedding. Did your different religious and cultural background affect how you planned the wedding?

There’s a big difference between the Catholic church wedding and the Buddhist wedding. But I was glad that he wanted to have a Filipino wedding. He did what we call “pamanhikan” – a culture which requires the man, along with his parents, to formally ask the bride’s parents’ blessings. He was alone in the country so he did the pamanhikan alone. My family agreed to have a simple civil wedding which he did not agree. He wanted a Catholic Church wedding. We spoke to our town priest and he agreed to wed us. We had a very successful big wedding and that’s thanks to my high school teachers who organized it.

What are your biggest challenges (as an interracial couple) and how do you solve them?

One of our challenges is the language. He doesn’t speak Tagalog and I don’t speak Mandarin either. We oftentimes have disagreements related to the country’s system. I have to explain to him that the Philippines way of life as well as its political system is very different than that of his country so he must adjust. Eventually we’re learning to understand each other’s cultural differences

Another challenge is the criticisms that other Chinese people throw against me because I come from a poor family. They don’t think that marrying me was a good thing for my husband because I know nothing about business. It’s also important to note that Chinese people prefer their young to marry someone of the same race.

Are there any marital issues that come up due to different religious background? How do you address them?

For us, religion isn’t an issue. When I visited his family in China, I observed that they’re very religious. I go with them to their temple and respect their practices and beliefs. My husband is the same with me. We give way to each other’s religious beliefs.

Did you ever encounter people who frown upon interracial marriage? How did you deal with them?

Chinese people help each other succeed in business once they’re in a foreign country. Because the Chinese society thought that I would be a hindrance to my husband’s financial success, they tried to separate us. They convinced my husband to leave the country; they will take care of everything, his business and his escape just to be able to get away from me and my son and establish himself somewhere else. But my husband refused to do so. He politely informed them that it’s okay if they stop supporting him in building his businesses in the Philippines because he believes in his wife to help him succeed.

Because of it I and my husband worked harder to improve our business. We started with a general merchandising store in our town and expanded it. We saved and raised money to open a bigger store in the city.

Now, my husband manages our original store, the one in our town, while I manage the new store in the city. We’re two-hour-travel apart and we oftentimes commute to spend time together.

On my side, a lot of people are telling me that I should be wise and secretly must keep money for myself because I would never know when my husband leaves me for someone else or for better opportunities. Again, Chinese stereotype. But I trust my husband completely and I believe he will never do it to me. I’m pretty assured I don’t have to lie and keep money from him.

How did your in-laws and extended families from each side react to your interracial marriage?

I’m really lucky because my parents in law are very supportive of our marriage. I feel that they truly accepted me in their family. When I visited them in China, I was completely welcome as a new member of the family. My parents are the same towards my husband. They treat him like their real son.

What are the benefits of an interracial marriage?

There are always surprises and new things to learn everyday. It’s amazing how two people can express love and care even with different culture, background and religion.

What compromises are required in order to make your marriage work?

We had to trust that our love is strong enough to make our marriage work. We also had to support each and believe that we can succeed in business by working hard together even without the help of friends who do not believe in our marriage. We had to be deaf to what other people are saying about us that we couldn’t make it. We trusted our instinct, we trusted each other.

Does cultural difference affect how you raise and discipline your child? In what way?

We want to expose our child to both culture and religion. We want him to learn both of our languages. If our baby speaks to his father, they’ll speak in Chinese language. If he speaks to me, we’ll speak in tagalong. He will be going to go school in China as well as here in the Philippines.

What’s your favorite way of spending time together?

We love to go out together with his friends. Sometimes we date in restaurants or have holiday vacation with our son.

What are your secrets in keeping the romance alive?

He always pampers and surprises me with gifts. I’m always tender on him.

What advice would you give to those who are planning for or are new to an interracial/interfaith marriage?

Regardless of culture, background and religion, trust is the most important thing. It proved essential for us in overcoming life’s hurdles, discrimination and differences.

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Rolade Berthier

As you’ve demonstrated in your article, there are specific issues related to intercultural relationships, and I’m sure readers would be interested to know the religion and native language “mother tongue” of your son. Every intercultural marriage is different and its success is intervened by gender (e.g.who’s the foreign spouse), economic and political dynamics involving the countries of origins of the couple and place of residence, and individual personality.

Dr. Rolade Berthier
Author, Cross-cultural Liaison: An Inconvenient Love?

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