It’s Valentine’s Day and whether you’re celebrating it alone, with your significant other, or with a group of friends, it’s always fun to hear stories of couples — how they got together, their wedding, and their happily ever after. As Chinoys, we are well aware of the barriers of family and cultural expectations in most cases. But don’t worry, if you want stories of people who have chosen to scale “The Great Wall” and succeeded, we’ve got them for you.
Ella* and Phil* have been married for 15 years, and they have 4 kids. For this Fil-Chi couple, Phil is Chinese and Ella is Filipino.
Kim*, who is Chinese, and John*, who is Pinoy, have been together for 5 years, and they have 1 dog and 1 cat.
Cassie* and Mark* have been together for 1 year. In this relationship, Cassie is Filipino and Mark is Chinese.
How they met
Kim and John met on campus and became friends. “Someone in our friend group actually had a crush on Kim,” John shared. “Yeah, he told me, but it wasn’t a big deal. We used to joke about it all the time. It wasn’t a serious thing.”
Kim added, “We were all just friends and he wasn’t pursuing. I wasn’t interested. We were all very chill about it.”
On the other hand, Mark saw Cassie and was immediately interested. And they met off campus at Poblacion.
“Mark was at the table across us with his friends,” said Cassie. “He bought me and my friends a few drinks, but we had to leave early because my friend had an event the next day. He waited for a Grab with us and got my number right before we left.”
We asked the big question: Did he text you the next day? “He actually texted a few hours later,” Cassie revealed.
Recalling how Ella and Phil met, Ella shared, “I had never had a boyfriend before Phil. We met in a class in college. He talked to me — I can’t remember about what. We didn’t click immediately. It took a while before we warmed up to each other, and I never really thought of us romantically.”
Phil agreed, saying that he probably talked to her about an assignment. “We ended up becoming groupmates in the class — that’s how we got thrown together. Then, we just became friends.”
“We were never close, really, but we had mutual friends. Our friends became closer, so we ended up hanging out more. Then, one day he asked me out,” Ella said.
Phil shared, “I was super nervous, but I just thought, ‘Why not?'”
Don’t most great love stories start with “Why not”?
In a relationship
For Kim and John, Kim said, “We never really went out, like, we’ve never really had a first date. John called me and told me he liked me. We accidentally held hands that same night —”
John interrupted, saying, “The cat was out of the bag.” They did note that they were already best friends before that moment.
Sharing their story, Cassie said, “He asked me out for drinks the next weekend. I brought my friends because I was super nervous, but he showed up alone. I felt super bad.”
“It was actually okay that she brought her friends. We still had fun, and it lessened the pressure on both of us,” Mark responded with a laugh. “And she was the one who asked me out after that.”
The Great Wall
Once the relationship becomes more serious, how did they deal with The Great Wall?
“I came into it very nervous with the idea of ‘The Great Wall,’ but Kim had mentioned it doesn’t really exist in her family, but there was still a level of doubt,” John shared.
“I had to make sure he had a lot of red shirts,” Kim said.
Adding to the perks, Kim said, “I’ve been introduced to so much new food, but I’ve introduced him to better Chinese food.” John agreed.
For her part, Cassie shared, “I didn’t realize [Mark] grew up in a traditional Chinese household until I met his family. I was shocked when I met them, but they were nice. I haven’t really been around them since the pandemic hit.”
“Calling his parents and relatives, ‘Auntie’ and ‘Uncle,’ instead of ‘Tita’ and ‘Tito’ was something to get used to,” Cassie added.
Speaking of her experience, Ella shared, “I was actually nervous when we first started dating. On top of never having been in a relationship, he’s Chinese and I’m not.”
Phil added, “I had never dated a non-Chinese girl before [Ella] and we never really talked about it at home, so I didn’t really know what to expect.”
However, Ella went on to add, “We’ve been together for a while, and I have a good relationship with his family. There are still conversations that I get left out of, like when they use Chinese terms at the dinner table. When we started talking about having kids, we really talked about how they were going to be raised, more Pinoy or more Chinese — what holidays and traditions we would celebrate. Honestly though, we end up celebrating everything. I think it’s good for the kids to see stark differences and similarities in the cultures.”
Aside from The Great Wall, last year gave them the pandemic to contend with.
“The pandemic gave us more time together as a family than ever. It’s given us more time with the kids, and I’m trying to learn Chinese with them,” Ella added with a laugh.
For John and Kim, Kim said, “The pandemic hasn’t affected us much. We both work from home, so we’ve both been able to stay in our own bubbles.”
John added, “The major change is that we haven’t really been able to celebrate holidays with each other’s families. Instead of splitting the holiday, we alternated holidays.”
In their relationship, Cassie said, “We spend a lot of our time on Facetime. We go on dates like once a month, but we became official right before the lockdown, so it was hard in the beginning.”
“We live with my Ahmah and Angkong so we try to keep outings to a minimum,” Mark added.
Nonetheless, Cassie shared giddily, “We’re doing okay so far. We’re just about to celebrate our anniversary so I’m excited about that.”
So, what’s their advice for people that want to topple The Great Wall?
“Be respectful, prepare to be patient,” Ella said. “If you really like the person, whether or not you’re from the same culture, I think it’s the same. You have to be respectful and patient when you meet the family and friends of the person you love.”
John said, “First things first, make sure you’re a good person. Your upbringing and culture are secondary. If they know you can provide and care for their daughter/son, you’re not being Chinese is less of an issue.”
For more tips on how to surmount The Great Wall, check out BLK Cosmetics CEO Jacque Yuengtian Gutierrez’s relationship advice here.
*Names have been changed.