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Bi-cultural Marriage: A Filipina´s Standpoint

My husband is Austrian, just like some few hundred Filipinas living in Austria. I took it upon myself to examine some aspects of bi-cultural marriage to bring about an understanding of it and how it works, at least as far as it concerns those who are like me and what I am describing below.Excluded in this point of view, however are those Filipinas who opted for the modern lifestyle, called feminism, -- living either simultaneously or one at a time, with multiple partners or married once or a few times ending in divorce and to give a happy ending to an otherwise happy life, living together permanently , or on and off with another partner, local or kababayan who has either a family here or at home, but pretending it doesn´t exist by looking the other way or simply denying its existence,or accepting this state as a fact that can not be changed.

The first accusation one is confronted with, is that Filipinas like me, suffer from colonial mentality, that´s why we are married to "whites". If possessing colonial mentality applies only to women who were born and raised in a colonized country, then the term is quite incorrect. Newspapers, television programs and video tapes cover comprehensive stories of Russians looking to the west for partners, practically selling themselves in advertisements. I can not imagine that women in a once great Soviet Empire and the world´s once-upon-a-time superpower are suffering from colonial mentality like the small but terrible Filipinas!

Life and drive in a foreign country must have changed all of us, either for the better or for the worse, whichever direction one decides to take. A change for the better entails a lot of tolerance, positive thinking, goodwill and giving, less on taking. There are also a lot to learn if one has an open mind to it, especially in the household because here, one is on her own, without help from a maid, mother or sister which one is used to at home. Seasonal changes also bring varied tasks, with food preparation, activities and manner of dressing. I have acquired skill in stockpiling food (as if there´s a shortage tomorrow, or a threatening war is at the doorstep) during the months when fruits and vegetables are abundantly fresh, so that I have a continuous supply year round, preserving food in form of jams, juice, compote and freezing fruits and vegetables in season. Baking cakes, pastries and bread and cooking Austrian specialties are also part of education to make life pleasant. But these are possible only if one has congenial relations with one´s in-laws and if they are like mine who are very accommodating to my needs and shortcomings. Relations with in-laws can sometimes be a thorny issue but it is far simpler here than most women think. It´s enough to be helpful and to remember certain occasions like Mother´s day, birthdays, namesdays, Christmas and Easter, then everybody is happy and content.

The standard of order, cleanliness and sytem of doing things especially in relation to authorities are quite different and complex and can be mastered only if one thinks and behaves as written down in laws applying to immigration, workplace, schools, insurance, banks and the like.

As an extension of life, bringing up children in Austria opens a whole array of opportunities which seeems formidable in the Philippines.There are different types of schools tailored to suit children´s aptitudes, abilities, interests and talents, like music schools for voice and all kinds of instrument , art schools, sports schools in addition to occupational, technical and academic schools. The only requirement is passing the entrance test, aside from good knowledge of German and a very minimal fee. My daughter, for example, goes to the Gymnasium (AHS) and at the same time to ballet and piano classes. She´ll finish 12 years study in piano (if she perseveres, of course), 8 years of ballet (if she endures the discipline in the Conservatory))while at the same time she´ll finish 8 years of Gymnasium (a necessity in order to be admitted into the university) for a career in one of the professions. But she needs encouragement most of the time and help in doing her homework particularly when she is about to give up on one of the studies.A German diplomat (Tannert 1893) once wrote that Filipinos have talent in the performing arts as evident among the number of Filipino children who have musical and artistic talents. Being here offers them opportunity to develop these talents (assuming they will persevere and don´t give up). But I do not expect my daughter to pursue a career in the performing arts,even if Vienna is the right place for that, because I think the stage is not the right place to rear a family.

Faced with the inevitability of getting old in a foreign land, what options are open to us? There are two possibilities I am considering:

1) retire here and take care of my grandchildren (should my daughter take after me). I´ll include going to operas and concerts occasionally, playing Bridge with some aficionados, and

2) return home as soon as my daughter is old enough to be independent to live on her own.

For old age the first choice is easy, comfortable and unexciting . But the second option gives my husband and me a second chance to do what we used to do together 20 years ago in the Philippines and in Africa, teaching in a technical school. Or develop a modern, high- tech village settlement in our coconut farm in Bicol, but the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program of the government is taking our property and leaving us only five hectares to keep.Or maybe we can open a high-tech business at home, who knows?

Que sera, sera.

Angie R. Banke

A brief note about the writer:

Ms. Banke is a teacher by profession and holds a Master of Arts degree from De La Salle University. She is president of the Association of Filipinos in Austria in 1994. At present she is teaching Philippine History, Language and Culture to Filipino-Austrian children, together with a group of civic-minded and patriotic Filipinos, every second Saturday of the month from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the Pfarre Herz Jesu, Töllergasse 9, Vienna´s 21st district.

In Search of a Husband: A Contemporary Filipina Phenomenon by Angelina R. Banke

Not so long ago one would never find Filipinas advertising themselves looking for mates, partners, companions, husbands or whatever comes along the way. Now it is common to see newspaper advertisements of Filipinas in search of mates. What have become of us, Filipinas? Have we lost our "hiya" and our sense of decency? Is advertisement really the right way (morally speaking) of getting a husband? Somewhere in the process the kind of men some advertised women stumbled into was shown to us by the Austrian TV show, "The Last Austrian Men". The Philippine Embassy joined hands with the Filipino community protesting against such program at prime time by "An Appeal for Prudence" which seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. Ironically the program was shown again due to insistent public demand! That was an outrageous, despicable portrayal of Filipinas from the bottom line of society, the lowest of the low.

In this age and time everything seems to have its price, its commercial value and its acceptance (although frowned upon) as a way of life. Here in Europe you can buy almost anything either by mail or telephone, including a bride (but not a groom except to have fun with the Chippendales), delivered at your doorstep after paying with a credit card or cash as the case maybe. The purchase arrangement just like in a catalogue implies that if a purchaser is not happy with what he gets, he can return her anytime within the first 30 days and refund is guaranteed. Is this practice acceptable to women in human terms as a way of finding a mate? Is this how, we, as mothers want our daughters to be married off to suitable husbands? This is deplorable, inhuman and derogatory, trading women like a piece of commodity. Are women not also human beings who have dignity and should be treated with deference?

To this contemporary Filipino woman’s problem, let’s look at our past to find some answers which we have taken for granted.

Filipino men in general marry for reasons different from women’s, but both agree that extension of life is one of them. Towards this end men look for social status (wealth), beauty and intelligence (maybe not in this order) as reasons for marrying, whereas women may think of personal attraction (beauty), social status and intelligence (in any order) more important than other human qualities like good moral character, maturity, emotional stability, education and the like. Filipino parents like to think that being experienced in matters of love and marriage, having gone through these themselves, they should be able to help sons and daughters in their choice of finding appropriate life partners. This is particularly true with wealthy, influential and socially conscious families. Some would even go to the extent of marrying relatives just to keep their wealth within the family. Another common arrangement employed by parents and siblings is scouting for suitable candidate among peers by way of social gatherings like, debutante’s ball, wedding anniversary, New Year’s ball and scores of social events , inviting prospective candidates among families they like to inter-marry with. After this brief introduction into adult life usually follows a period of acquaintance, then dating with chaperone or in groups, going to movies, parties, picnics and then in a year or two if all goes well such a relationshipis approved and may end in marriage. Sometimes it takes longer but never shorter except when courtship ends up in a shotgun marriage, which is a case of life or honor.

The fast pace of life particularly in the urban area has changed also some aspects of life, just as living abroad not only improved life materially but also worsened the social life of working Filipinas. The common saying that "when in Rome, do what the Romans do" sometimes drive us not only to do what the locals are doing, sometimes to the point of overdoing, even worse than the natives. Here is when we forget where we come from and what kind of people we are. It is not in our culture to advertise ourselves and pay exorbitant fees on top of that in order to find a husband. Nature will take care of that provided one is creative, ingenious, well- organized and attuned to the ways of the birds and the bees. The right man will come along if you, too are the right woman for him. And where there’s a will, there’s a way, then it is enough affirmation of hope and self-reliance in finding your man this way.


(Alliance for Migrant Concerns-Asia-Pacific & Middle East)

Resolution on the Issue of Trafficking of Filipina Women

NOTING that the deepening socio-economic crisis has pushed more women into desperate acts of leaving their families and communities to seek for jobs abroad;

AWARE that most jobs opened to Filipina migrant workers are those that expose them to the danger of abuse and exploitation through sex trafficking, such as cultural entertainment and domestic help;

UNDERSTANDING that these women should be given in-country and cross-country assistance to lessen the danger of sexual abuse that they are exposed to;

BELIEVING that every worker, woman or man, has the right to demand and avail of services to protect their rights and welfare as overseas contract workers and which the government should provide;

BELIEVING that the traffic in women is a violation of women's human rights. It is a violation of Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments prohibiting slavery;

KNOWING that the government has made official statements to protect the rights and welfare, particularly of women overseas contract workers;

The alliance for Migrant Concerns in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East Regions (MIGRANTE)-Philippine Chapter, resolves to demand that the Ramos government, through its agencies:

1. Enforce an in-countray and cross-country strict regulation and monitoring scheme to curb the practice and trade of illegal recruiters that victimize women overseas contract workers. The inter-government agency task force created to monitor the operation of illegal recruiters should be strengthened and re-oriented towards providing full assistance to the victims. Coordination with immigration authorities of other countries where OCWs go should also be looked into without imposing criminal sanctions on the women;

2. Provide women overseas contract workers with on-site services such as gender sensitive and well-equipped assistance in their specific time of need. Embassies, consulates and welfare centers must be re-oriented toward providing genuine services to Filipino women and men; 3. Consult with women's and other concerned non-government organizations in resolving issues which have bearing on women overseas contract workers;

4. Provide Filipino women with viable employment alternatives in their specific communities, and the necessary assistance to all their initiatives in their specific communities, and the necessary assistance to all their initiatives, such as provisions for seed financing, legal and technical assistance, and other support services and facilities that may be needed by them;

5. Provide in-country support services and mechanisms which are gender sensitive to victims of sex trafficking such as counseling, and legal assistance.

6. Create a special mechanism at the national and international level that will handle cases of women victims of sex trafficking. This mechanism should be gender sensitive to encourage women victims of sex trafficking to share their stories and file charges against their recruiters. This will also ensure the safety of the women and their families from possible retaliation from the recruiters, provide legal assistance, and ensure speedy and just resolution of cases;

7. Urge other governments to address the issue of trafficking of women; and

8. Review to present labor export program and reorient the policy for the benefit and interest of the migrant workers and their families and the whole nation.

Reproduced by PINAY sa Holland-GABRIELA, P.O. Box 9181, 1800 GD Alkmaar, Netherlands.

Empowerment Strategies of Black, Migrant and Refugee Women

Black, migrant and refugee women share a common bind: they belong to a displaced population who have to live and survive in foreign soil. Yet migration continues and accelerates. Thers is a global struggle going on. The new migrants are resisting the pressures to conform to the norms of white Euopeans. The result is a struggle of wills, a struggle of cultural and moral discipline. Colored women migrants especially, are becoming aware of the oppression brought by class stratification and race discrimination; more specifically the subordination imposed by society by virtue of their sex.Women groups are borne out of the struggle for human and social liberation.

Human liberation begins with the individual. In time multiple individuals discover a common bond of concerns and demands. A process develops.

Firstly, individual liberation. This encompasses a spectrum of moves. Literally it means breaking isolation by establishing contacts. Socially, it requires learning the language of the local population, an act that opens vast opportunities - better paying jobs, ability to socialize, better information.
Personally, individual liberation means improving self-esteem and developing self-confidence. As the individual becomes more self-assured, she begins to affiliate with others.

Second, and one of the most important strategies for the empowerment of black, migrant amd refugee women is to organize. Socially oppressed groups can liberate themselves only by creating strong organizations. Networking with other organization follows where alliances are formed. Together they carry out campaigns and lobby work to pursue their concerns.

Third strategy is education. Knowledge, skills or just being conscious empower anyone. It is of dire importance that migrant women take education and training programs, be they through formal or non-formal means.

Forth strategy is international solidarity. The struggle of women is wolrd-wide. Sharing of experiences and exchange of ideas with women from other countries are empowering.

Based on the above strategies, we recommend:

1. Immediate and proper orientation of newly arrived migrant and refugee women to areas such as:

  • rights and migrant laws concerning foreigners
  • addresses of counseling centers
  • social services available
2. Offer advisory assistance to women who wish to organize

3. Support compaigns launched by migrant women.

4. Offer education and training programs for migrant and refugee women, to build their capacities than can strengthen their identities as women, and to develop their self-confidence.

5. Public recognition of problems faced by black, migrant and refugee women

6. Assistance in lobby work that pushes relevant policies for the betterment of conditions of migrant women.

7. Offer financial assistance ot organizing efforts of migrant and refugee women.

8. Represent concerns and problems of migrant women in commissions, migrant committees, etc. 9. Networking with local and international women's organizations.

Prepared by: Anny Hefti-Misa,Babbaylan, Philippine Womens's Network in Europe

An Appeal for Prudence

In a letter dated March 1, 1995 to the Director General of the Austrian television (ORF) and forwarded later to the Frauen Ministerium, concerned Filipinos in Austria asked that prudence be exercised in future television programmes featuring Filipinos.

The letter referred to a documentary film recently showed in the program Inlandsreport, which featured Filipino women. It stressed that the program "created a general impression that Filipino women here in Austria are a commodity, which can be 'ordered' direct from the Philippines" and added that "the film failed to render an accurate representation of the cross-section of Filipino women married to Austrians."

The letter stressed that the refusal of Filipino women from professional and other sectors to appear in the film should not have been a reason for the filmmakers to concentrate only on these particular cases. At a time when tensions are high, the film further reinforced existing prejudices against foreigners in general and the Filipinos in particular, the letter added. It requested that consultations be done with the Philippine Embassy in future before such films are shown.

Signatories of the letter fillid up to seven full pages.

[Austrian-Philippine Home Page] [Status of Women]
created: May 13, 1995
updated: July 16, 1998
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger