The Case of Bennie and Sweetlove

It was 1904, shortly after I moved to Cebu City from Angeles City.

On of the List's member's, Bennie, not his real name but close, called me. Bennie told me he was a livinginthephilippines list member, needed some advice about how to get his girl friend to the States with him and if it was a good idea. He wanted to marry her and live here. But she wanted to go to the States, said it would be better for her daughter. I did not agree with that assessment, believe the way schools here teach interpersonal skills and responsibility to family is more just as important as what I feel is mythical academic superiority of the U.S. Schools. But that was not my business so I did not comment. I just invited Bennie over. He asked he could bring his girlfriend and the 14 year old daughter. I said, "Of course. I have a wife and other Filipinas to entertain them while we talk."

At first Bennie wanted both he and the girlfriend to talk with me. I really liked to talk with they guy alone, then the girl, have my helpers, wife, or other Filipina talk to both alone too. Sometime we compared notes and discovered strange inconsistencies, sometimes just misunderstanding. Men and women see things differently, of course, so do Filipinas and American men, Filipinos and American or other Western women. It is a challenge to deal with two cultural gulfs, indeed.

Finally I got Bennie aside and we talked. Bennie was 65 years old at the time, pitch black dyed hair, yet a handsome guy, less wrinkled than I was though I was younger. He could have been an aging movie star. But he was just a regular guy, did a lot of things from long haul truck driving, stock trading, was in a management job for a large industrial giant and picked up a substantial pension there. I had no information on the girl friend, admitting to 40 but looking older, frayed, though well dressed with Bennies pension money. The girl, Judilyn was an angel. Bennie was mesmerized by her. I felt maybe the innocence and brilliant beauty of Judilyn him dazzled to the point he missed the flaws in the mother, Sweetlove. He mentioned Judilyn in awe, “When she see me, she take my hand and hold it to her forehead, Man, what a fantastic child, how outstanding!" I told him later, that was the custom here. That if a child did not do that to someone older to whom they owed "utang na loob”, they would be considered insolent. Children are raised to respect their elders here. And it extends even to there peers. But I guess they are not really any "peers." because of the practice, custom, cultural demand. It reminds me of the US Army, where on Private First Class may have a days seniority on the other guys the same rank he with whom he is bar hopping or taking a vacation even. And he is responsible in part for the deeds of the others. But respect from a child is impressive to an older American, though expected here. I am still in awe sometimes myself.

So, was it the little girl who Bennie wanted or Sweetlove. After I talked with him I could see he had bonded with them both. I knew no mater what I said or did, he would end up in the States with Sweetlove and Judilyn, and maybe they would be happy.

I notice one of my sharpest helper, one who helps me a lot on the website, not house work, was trying to catch my attention. She was only 18 but street-smart, a former student though only one year in criminology. She had been talking with the other girls to Sweetlove. I excused myself, went to talk with her "about the website," I told Bennie.

She told me under her breath, "Sweetlove wants to go to the States to be with her husband there, a Filipinos who is "TNT," there, "Tago ng Tago," (hiding from immigration, "overstayed",) in the States.

Filipinas are like sisters. But the Filipina helper was loyal to me and told me the sad truth. Of course I felt it was incumbent on me to advise Bennie of what I was told, even if not true. I explained first to him that there were so many beautiful women available, might be a good idea to shop around. He scowled at me like I was a pimp trying to sell me a fat old hooker. I mentioned so many young women have young children, even more than one, children much like Judilyn who need help. The scowl deepened, black dyed eyebrows furrowed even more.

I told him best we talk on the phone later. We had finished our coffee. But I would talk to Sweetlove first. She was charming but hollow, did not look me in the eyes. But that is not uncommon for some shy Filipinas. She swore her love for Bennie. Before I asked her she launched into a diatribe about how much her husband abused her and the Judilyn. At this time my helper was corroborating what Sweetlove told her with the daughter. The daughter said little about the father but that she misses him and "mama told me not to talk about him." She did say, "Mama says we will see him when Bennie takes us to the States". My helper said, "Judilyn is in on the plan but really does not understand it, not a bad bone in her body". We both thought Sweetlove had corrupted Judilyn but evidently not.

So I got a call from Bennie, broke then news as gently as possible, could tell how much he had bonded, could tell how sensitive he was. He was enraged, at me, not Sweetlove. What he said to me, I will not repeat. But soon he tired, slammed down the phone. I did not hear from him for a long time.

Two years later he call me, telling me he was back in town. He had a girl he met on the Net again, a really fantastic girl he wanted me to meet. And he said, "Oh, by the way you remember that girl I brought by with her daughter? I said, I think so, Bennie, but that was a long time ago.” He said, “She was a real bad girl. She cost me a lot of money to get rid of. And she had a boy friend too! She and Judilyn are with him now in the States. I will stay here this time, I think. That is, unless Marissa (his new flame) want to go to the States.

I said, "Good luck, Bennie". I felt this one I would leave to the professionals and learned that some guys never learn. In the face of love, loneliness and social alienation so many of us feel in the States when people are nice to us, too often our better judgment falters.

If you are like Bennie and so many others, and me, do be careful. Get a professional involved, someone detached who wants only to help you. And listen to them when they tell you the truth. So many times it is good news. But even if the words sting, take heed. Don't feel you can fix a bad girl by being good to her, showing her some men are really good. I tried that and it did not work; I gave it all I had, money time, effort and emotion. Maybe you can make a purse from a pig’s ear. But there are so many kind loving women who really need you and will love and respect you. Get one of them. You fill fine one were the chemistry is just right for you both. Your best bet is to come over, meet them at churches, social functions, girls working hard in the offices, the stores at the mall, the fast food joints. Most have college education too. And they know older men are more stable, can be counted on. Whomever you find have a disinterested objective party check them out, even though it may hurt. I bet if you are aware, it will not. I can tell you, I am a trainee psychologist. Only a Filipino can tell if a Filipino is lying. I am getting better I am not there.

Jeff at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. will have qualified Filipinos, Filipina discreetly find out for you. In the Philippines there is no privacy; here there are no secrets, but from those of a different culture. You need Jeff. I wish he and his staff was available when I need him. It would have allowed me to find my happiness sooner.

July 2009