He is a (Chinese) Singaporean, and I am a Filipino. In this side of the world, where racial lines are clearly demarcated, we may be regarded as a very odd, interracial couple.
Rihanna’s “We Found Love” explicitly defines how we started: We did find love in a hopeless place. I was on a Christmas holiday in Singapore, and I met him in a popular club in Tanjong Pagar. We exchanged glances and ended up dancing in each other’s arms. He actually thought I was a local Singaporean of “mixed” descent—Malay and Chinese. We exchanged numbers, went on a date the following day, and then I revealed that I am a Filipino residing in Kuala Lumpur.
It wasn’t a big deal for him, and we continued dating for the rest of my four-night stay in the Red Dot. He is not the stereotypical Singaporean who peppers every line with “lah” or “loh.” Though not the sweetest person in the world, he personifies my ideal partner—a holistically stable guy, caring, profound, and simple yet oozing with sex appeal and intelligence—except for the fact that we were 300 kilometers away from each other. Still, he was the best Christmas present I got in 2012.
Of course, that was just the start of our romantic adventure. In the following weeks he would travel to and from Malaysia. Traveling for him is not such a big deal, as it is in his veins. Privileged to go to almost any country without need for a visa, he had already toured almost a third of the world at the age of 25, while I hadn’t even been to a third of the Philippines.
Being in a bus for six hours or in a plane for less than an hour was nothing for him. Thus, we made it a point to see each other at least twice a month, and we decided to keep and nurture our long-distance relationship.
For two years he welcomed me to his world. I fully embraced the Singaporean in him, and he had no qualms with the Filipino in me. We would go on Skype every single night and text on Watsapp every time we had the opportunity even if he was doing his National Service and even if he was on a business trip overseas.
Every time we were together, we would spend our day looking for the best hawker centers in Kuala Lumpur or in Singapore, and end up splurging on chicken rice, bah kut teh, yong tau foo, and pan mee just to name a few. In the evenings, we would laugh together as we get ensnared in a “Family Guy” marathon.
Our arguments usually stemmed from something ubiquitous and at times random. I hated it when he spent hours playing Dota and watching Dota videos on YouTube, and he despised it whenever I checked my Instagram or Facebook account every now and then. He would get very fussy every time he had to wait for me at the airport for more than 15 minutes, but he would just annoyingly smile at me whenever I had to wait for him for more than an hour at the bus station.
Other than that, he pushed me out of my box, and he made me value backpacking as a great learning experience. We had fun planning our trips as it brought out the obsessive-compulsiveness in us. Together, with his drive and my passion, we made it to five Asean countries in seven days, and roughly 50 European landmarks in 19 days.
Most importantly, we enjoyed just slacking off together, on the queen-sized bed I bought for the two of us, and our adopted teddy we named “Monkey.”
Like a married couple we began sharing our short- and long-term goals. His pragmatic and critical thinking would often clash with my idealistic and emotional thoughts, but we always tried to strike a balance. I was able to add some feelings to his once heartless views, as he was able to sprinkle his no-nonsense attitude on my carefree thoughts. We did complement each other. His intellectual perspectives and my emotional instincts blended well and made us accomplish our short-term goals.
However, time and distance managed to get the best of us and our long-term aspirations. Residing and working in Singapore were a part of my plan, which we shared, but the current immigration policies and conditions in that country, particularly the barrage of hate blogs, made it difficult for us to work out our plan. I made numerous attempts to get a job in Singapore, but I was never given a single opportunity. Hence, I decided to stay in Malaysia for another two years—and this changed his outlook.
We would spend our usual weeknight chat on Skype with him chiding me for my lack of determination, for my poor decision-making skills, for being content with my life in Malaysia, for being a slacker, and, worst, for being a carefree Filipino. In retaliation, I would just keep my mouth shut. My just leaving the conversation always pissed off the kiasu (afraid of losing out, or always wanting the upper hand) in him.
In the end, I decided to be fair to him and let him go. I loved him, and I never wanted to put his dreams on hold and to prolong his agony traveling miles every other week and waiting for something or someone remotely uncertain. I wanted him to have a stable life with someone who could be with him in Singapore, and I was not that one—yet.
Well, with his Singaporean mindset, he found my reasons rubbish, as well as immature and irresponsible. That was why I fell in love with him in the first place. And if given the chance, I will love this Singaporean guy again no matter how odd we are.
“Jo,” 29, is a middle-school English-language and literature teacher in Kuala Lumpur.
‘What am I doing about it?’