Family Portraits by Ryan Arbilo

Michelle Cabaya and husband Marco Zanette with daughter Asia Zanette
Venice, Italy

I arrived in Italy on November 2, 2002, when my mom decided to bring me with her so we can stay together.
I left the Philippines when I was 12 years old, and I met my husband Marco when I was working in an ice cream shop. He came as a client and was a friend of the shop’s owner.
We were introduced to each other and eventually became friends. We started going out, got to know each other, and fell in love.
I used to hold a general disdain for the way Italians behave, based on the Italian classmate I had. Marco’s behaviour is different; he possessed a Pinoy’s heart, that I fell in love with. I didn’t know that I’d end up marrying him as we had our differences too, from our different ways of life and race.
There was talk that Italians do marry early. You could have a longstanding relationship yet the prospect that could just leave was frightening.
After three years of going steady, I was surprised that he wanted to get married. I was actually fine with not rushing marriage, as long as we were happy.
I do believe that love knows no boundaries, no distance, no gender, no race, no ethnicity, no social standing or religion. If you love someone, you LOVE. And I think that’s why me and Marco have never argued about our cultural differences because our love is greater than our race. It just became natural to us. When we are together I don’t think of him or see him as Italian, I see him as my husband. My Everything.
He came to Asia so we could marry after two years of saving up. I have no complaints in life. I feel so blessed and happy with all that we have. If you were to ask Marco, our business is taxed heavily and we encounter difficulties in hiring staff. For now we do not have plans of resettling in the Philippines.
I do recommend to Filipinos to go overseas, to learn about cultural differences and to be open minded about everything. I encourage mothers forced to leave the country for their family’s sake, to go. I find no problem in taking given opportunities for your children’s sake, to help raise them better. You only need to persevere as the situation is not easy for both parent and child. I would still choose staying with the children, if this is an option, as there’s nothing better than being raised by your own mother.
There was a period when my mother was abroad, and though she petitioned me to join her when I was 12, our relationship felt distant—naturally as we do not really know each other, due to her absence. But because she didn’t raise me, it was difficult to erase the gap the years apart created. I grew up close to her siblings—whom I considered my mother. It’s different if you grew up with your mother around. There’s a significant difference indeed.