Cris Manuel-Hughes met her husband-to-be, Rich, in 2005. He was on a holiday; while she was enjoying summer break with friends in Boracay, Philippines. The two ended up hanging out and thereafter were virtually inseparable.
“He called me all the time and we would Skype every day after I got home from law school. Until we both graduated from university, all our school breaks were spent with each other – either in England or in Manila,” recalled Cris, whose husband is British.
Being the eldest in the family four girls, Cris said at first, her parents wouldn’t let Rich stay at their house when he goes for a visit so he had to rent an apartment just outside the village for three whole months. He was only allowed to stay at their house until 10 p.m.
“They [Cris’ parents] became relaxed after I spent Christmas with Rich’s family in England. Maybe they realised that, despite being in love and young, we were smart enough not to make a mess of our own dreams – we were both studying that time so my parents were worried at the start that we’d get ahead of ourselves.”
When Cris graduated from law school, Rich finally popped the question and they were married in September 2008. On how Rich proposed, Cris said it was “unromantic”.
“Instead of a yes, being the pragmatic lawyer, I made sure we discussed everything from moving, visas, etc. When I graduated from UP Law, I moved [in England]. Our wedding was intimate because we had to save up for visa fees and so I could enrol in law school here. To be honest, as far as we were both concerned, we’re finally together and we couldn’t care less about the hoolah of a big wedding,” Cris revealed.
In their three years of being together, they were very aware that, in order to be together, they had to make a lot of sacrifices. He had to work part-time in a supermarket; while she tutored kids everyday to make some pennies. They don’t even celebrate monthsaries.
“At first, we both played it cool – pretended not to care too much about the other person. In reality, I was going mental. I found him so attractive – he could talk about everything from Radiohead albums to the benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy while looking like a rock star! I remember a conversation with one of my best friends whereby I was questioning God why would He give me this person who is perfect for me but lives 7,000 miles away if there is no way we could be together. It turns out, we get to have our happy ending,” said Cris.
Cris’ biggest challenge of having a foreigner husband is moving to another country and leaving her family and friends, but she coped later on by calling them often and sending e-mails.
Lately, she has discovered the ingenuity and convenience of FaceTime.
Cris grew up speaking both English and Filipino so language did not become a problem for the couple. They also share the same family values. Rich’s mom comes from an Irish Catholic family while his Dad is a Methodist so his parents are only like older versions of Cris’ parents.
“The only challenge I faced was when I was actually in Manila, which made me really sad. There are some Filipinos out there who think that just because you’re with a foreigner, you’re with them for their money and they feel entitled to show you exactly how much they disdain you. But I learned not to care. I think I coped by simply ignoring them. After all, I knew that Rich didn’t even have money – he was only a student [then],” revealed Cris.
Cris never saw herself marrying a foreigner husband, “Good God no! I never even thought I would move countries.”
But the best part of having one is having two countries as her home. Moving to England really opened up her world.
“The UK is such a cosmopolitan country – people from various ethnicities live here – that making friends and family here has changed my perspective about almost everything. It’s made me more open-minded about people’s beliefs and circumstances,” said Cris.
On her advice to women on marrying foreigners, “My advice isn’t specifically for Filipinas who want to or are about to marry foreigners because, really, foreigners are just like everyone else. I think what’s important is to make sure you marry for the right reasons — whether it be love, companionship or whatever it is you think you would be getting if you’re marrying a foreigner – that way, you’ll never be disappointed. I married for love and I’ve been really lucky to have someone who loves me.
And for those who are about to get married, Cris has this to say, “Make sure that person really wants the best for you and ensure that you want the best for the other person too. I think that’s the only way for a marriage to work. If you both want the best for each other, how could you go wrong?”
On meeting potential husbands online, Cris has this to say. “I’ve always been sceptical about going online to look for a husband. When you go online with the purpose of looking for a husband, it sounds messy especially if you’re not being transparent about your objectives. Plus, there are a lot of not so trustworthy people lurking online. My gut tells me love happens naturally and you shouldn’t force it.”
The couple is now celebrating their eight years of marriage. Congratulations to both of you and may God continuously bless your union.
Originally published at Zen Health magazine August – October 2013 with minor edits.