A Filipina's Plea for Help
Edited by Bob Lingerfelt of ASAWA

(Note that the names of the individuals involved in the narrative below have been changed to protect their privacy - if you would like more information about this case, please contact cfb@charter.net, on whose behalf I am posting this. Thanks, Jean [UPDATE  her asylum hearing went well and a positive ruling is hoped for])

Mary is a Filipina who was introduced to an American penpal by a friend who had successfully used the penpal method to meet her own husband.  In the friend's case, as in most, this method worked great - she's happily married.  Unfortunately, this was not to be the case for Mary. 

In this case, the penpal, James, contacted Mary initially by phone and then wrote her a for a few weeks after that.  He then took a vacation and visited the Philippines, spending ten days there.  Seven of those days were in Mary's hometown, where the American met her family and even bought her mother a family-sized refrigerator.  Things were certainly off to a promising start.

James stayed at a nearby motel while he was in the Philippines, and Mary says he was the perfect gentlemen the entire time he was in the islands.  He never touched Mary inappropriately nor did he try to coax her into heavy kissing or anything physical.  In fact, one of Mary's brothers even stayed at James' motel to ensure that the American was not spending his nights visiting local bars - apparently he wasn't.  James further established himself as a gentleman by throwing a large party for the family and their neighbors at a nice motel, after which he even had the courtesy to ask Mary's brothers and mother for permission to marry her (he wasn't legally required to get their permission, since Mary is over 21 years old). 

So all indications were that James was one helluva a nice guy.  To top things off, he gave Mary what appeared to be a very nice engagement ring (it was later determined by a jeweler to be a cheap fake, but of course this couldn't be known by Mary at the time).  Needless to say, Mary was impressed by his apparent good character and charm and agreed to marriage.  She proceeded to get all her documents ready for her fiancée visa while James returned to the states and started the paperwork required of him. 

This is where the first warning sign appeared.  Mary should have noticed that James was sending her merely $10 a week, which was supposed to cover her living expenses while she was processing her immigration paperwork (anyone who's done this kind of paperwork in the Philippines knows that it is very difficult for a Filipina to work the traditional 12 hour days and do all the traveling required by INS and the Philippine government to arrange for a visa).  But Mary accepted this unquestioningly and continued to live and execute the paperwork required of her using whatever funds James decided to send.

Months passed before Mary was finally approved for travel to the U.S.  This would normally be a time of great celebration and optimism.  But when she finally arrived in Atlanta, Mary received her first clue that things weren't right.  James had actually sent friends to meet Mary at the airport, saying that he couldn't "get off work" to meet her, that the four hour drive was too long.  You can imagine the shock that this poor girl must have experienced, her first time away from her family, alone in a foreign land and being picked up by strangers because her "loved one" didn't want to take time off from work.

When these friends took Mary to her fiancé's apartment, things got worse.  The apartment had only one chair, one bed, one desk, a kitchen table and a television.  There seems to have been an implication that James had been through a divorce the year before and simply could not afford to buy any furniture.  Well, it was a sparse home, but Mary was resolved that she could make any place a home with the right support from her husband.

If only that were to be...

James finally showed up and immediately began using sweet talk to soften Mary up (you can imagine she was a bit uneasy at this point).  Despite her concerns, however, she must have been relieved to at last find herself with the man who had charmed her and her family in the Philippines, her future husband.

And so it is not surprising that, when the two were alone together that night, James successfully managed to convince Mary to give up what she had guarded for so long - her virginity.  The night after that, however, he came home from work very late, and the night after that later still.  The fourth night he didn't return at all.  There were no phone calls, no notes, nothing at all to let Mary know what was going on.

In point of fact, she had just been abandoned.

It turns out that James had a girlfriend on the side and was frustrated that Mary, after one surrender to his sexual advances, refused anything else until after the marriage.  Apparently this was too much to ask of James, who promptly determined that Mary had become a bit too much trouble. 

Mary was to later learn that James had lied repeatedly when completing his paperwork to bring her over.  He had stated that he had only been married and divorced one time and had only one child and had never before applied for a fiancé visa.  In fact, he has he has been married four times and has three kids.  He has had at least one other fiancé visa application that went as far as one week before the interview before he canceled it.   James has also been to the Philippines three times before and married at least one other girl in the islands and did the same thing to a girl from Honduras six years ago.

To make matters worse (hard to imagine, isn't it?), Mary had borrowed the money for her airfare to the U.S. from her relatives living here.  James had not even paid for her travel.  So Mary was duped, used, and then abandoned - at the expense of her own family.  INS was contacted and given proof that James had falsified most of his INS paperwork but the government's position is merely that Mary must now return home.  For obvious reasons, she is humiliated beyond words and believes that there is little chance of her finding a respectable husband in her homeland.  Because she has given up her virginity and because of what has happened to her here in the U.S., she believes that any Filipino husband she might end up with will treat her badly.  She also believes that her family will shun her, and that she is essentially marked with what amounts to a "Scarlet Letter" by her entire community. 

Right now she is living with a relative and working here in the U.S., but she has applied for asylum based on the mistreatment she believes she will experience if she returns to the Philippines.

Some very concerned individuals who were involved in her case are asking that anyone who can provide an honest account of what Filipinas like Mary might face upon returning to the Philippines to please contact them.    They can be emailed at: cfb@charter.net .  They want to use any information you can provide to help Mary in her bid to remain in the United States. 

I strongly encourage anyone out there who can help these people to please do so.  The fact is that this is NOT a unique experience and these ugly episodes get splattered all over the print media and television.  Cases like these are what give so many people the wrong impression about Fil-Am marriage.   We need to make some effort to "look after our own."  Our own families, our own friends, and those Filipinas who come to this country seeking only what we already have, only to be used and abandoned by the men they had promised to devote their lives to. 

We are currently looking for input, also, on the idea of creating "contact list" or even perhaps arranging for individual sponsorships of Filipinas coming to this country.   The idea would be to give the girl a point of contact she can rely on both before and after she arrives in the United States.  I would think that contacts or sponsors would necessarily have to be Fil-Am couples.  The couple trying to help Mary suggest a list be made of volunteers which could then be given to a contact he has at the embassy, where it would be made available to Filipinas who are attempting to gain their visas.  

Alternatively, perhaps one couple could "sponsor" a number of different Filipinas based on either where they are from (perhaps same province or town as the sponsoring wife) or where they're going (near your current  home in the U.S.).  By sponsorship I simply mean providing moral support and assistance should it be needed.  

If you'd be interested in either of these ideas, or if you have suggestions of your own, please email these folks- cfb@charter.net; or Bob at blingerfelt@home.com.



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