Family Portraits by Ryan Arbilo

Rosario Zarate and husband Carlo Decurti with daughter Alessandra Melinda
Turin, Italy

I am Rosario, born in Pasay City. Ever since I was 5 years old, I started to become fond of dancing. So when my mother read that Nayong Pilipino needed dancers who will be instructed by Mr. R.O. in folkloric dance, she hurriedly had me sign up. A year passed by then I became 1 of the 30 dancers, out of 200 who joined. After that, I was still hoping to be part of Bayanihan but that plan was cancelled when my mother read the P.C.D.C is looking for dancers major in folklore. I gave the audition a chance even though I noticed that the dance company consisted mostly of high society people and I am not. The only treasure I have is my expertise on folklore dances. This was the start of my journey around the Philippines, Japan, and even Italy. In Asti, I met Carlo, July 2, 1980, in a feast held at a swimming pool where we usually perform. He was impressed when I offered him white rice. That was the start of our love story. After a year, we needed to go to Malta which was far. We could not bear to be apart so come September 1, 1981, we decided to elope so we can be together forever.
Why European? In love, we do not know why and who, when the heart commands, our brains do not work right. Aside from jokes and banter, perhaps it was also because of the way I used to think. I was young when I learned to be the breadwinner. I was advanced. I matured at an early age. Maybe that was the reason I did not find my ideal traits in a Filipino. In my head I viewed other people as only looking for fun while there I was thinking about working so I can help my family.
Life struggles? First of all, his brother (R.I.P.) did not readily accept me. During the 80’s there were only a few foreigners here in Italy. Of course, naturally he thought I was only using his brother to be able to stay in the country. It was as if we had to pay our neighbors living in a condominium before they greet us good morning, etc. Most of the time, when you go somewhere alone, they would glare at you because they assume you would steal from them, whether it be from a store or from a bystander. Despite all that, I persevered, even though I was alone without any family in this country. This was because of my travels with different companions from the dance company. It was not the same as touring around for leisure when you stay for months to work. You will learn about different cultures, it will broaden your thinking and knowledge. This is worth more than what you will learn at school because you will experience it firsthand, not just in books. We also experienced war on the Middle East, an experience that really opened our eyes to the reality of life.
It is not that easy to adjust in a different country’s culture. Do you know what the secret is? Respect their culture. You are the one who emigrated to their country. Even if you in your heart you are Filipino, with your own culture and tradition that you want to share with them. For those who want to stay in a foreign country, let us bring our culture but still respect the country we are in.