Family Portraits by Ryan Arbilo

Alexandra Ganzon and husband Giacomo Sarti with daughter Maya Ganzon
Florence, Italy

I came to Florence in 2005 to take my Masters in Fashion Merchandising and Marketing in Polimoda. At that time, my immediate goal was to find a job in Italy so I could gain some work experience here. I also wanted to learn the language well. I was open to any possibility. I could either stay on, go back to the Philippines or even explore working in other countries afterwards.
I met Giacomo when I was still a student. We met at a university party in Fiesole. We dated from 2005 until 2010.
I did not choose him consciously because of his nationality. I had a long-term Filipino boyfriend prior to coming to Italy. I chose Giacomo because of who he was and who he challenged me to be.
In the beginning, my struggles had to do mostly with proving myself in this country. My first job was in the commercial office of a big textile company in the North of Italy. Unfortunately, discrimination is still rampant, especially in that area. I had colleagues who enjoyed bullying me on a daily basis just because I was a foreigner who “robbed other locals’ jobs”. It was really something that put me to the test because I had not experienced anything like it before. I also struggled with homesickness just like everyone else living away from their families. I come from a very close-knit family so being away was and still is not easy. Today my day-to-day battle is defining who I want to be as an individual, a mother and a wife. I would like to raise Maya as a true bicultural child so teaching her Filipino and Christian values is very important to me. Raising a child far from my family of origin is another sourceof struggle for me. I don’t have that strong and loving support network physically close to me. Thankfully, the technology works wonders these days but it’s still not enough to fill that void.
Adjusting is never a simple task. Sometimes we think we’re well adjusted then we get the shock of our lives. I’ve been here for over 10 years but I feel the process of adjusting is continuous. It’s a never-ending process of compromise. You may ask yourself what you’re willing to adapt to and accept and what you don’t want to. It’s about defining certain limits and finding the right balance. You try hard to assimilate without losing your own identity. You take what is positive of your host country but you also distinguish yourself by being proud of your origin.