Family Portraits by Ryan Arbilo

Remedios Pilar Barcelona with husband Fabrizio Ruggiero with children Vincent, Andrea and Isabella
Abano Terme, Padua

I met Fabri online in May 2002. A close friend of mine encouraged me to try chatting to meet new friends. I tried it out of curiosity and that’s how we met. He used to work in London and he wanted to keep his knowledge of the English language. I wanted to know more about the Italian culture and food. We clicked right away. He was simple and sincere. What started out as a friendship became more when he began calling and sending messages regularly. After 3 months he came to visit me in Davao, to get to know me better and meet my family. I’ve always believed in the power of prayers and I remember praying a novena to St. Jude and asking God to give me signs if this guy who was coming to visit me was really the one meant for me. I asked my mom to pray for me as well. There I was, falling for someone I hadn’t even seen in person. It was scary. We knew we had to see each to find out if what we felt was real. When we finally saw each other, we both got the answer we wanted. Yes, it was real! And yes, I got all the signs that I prayed for. He spent 3 weeks getting to know me, my family and friends. Before he flew back to Italy, he spoke to my parents and asked for my hand in marriage. We had a civil wedding in Manila in January 2003. A year and a half later we had a church wedding in Italy attended by our families and friends. We are both Catholics and we wanted our union to be sanctified in church. What made the occasion more memorable was the fact that we had our baby boy christened on the same day.
It has been 16 years and 2 months since Fabri and I got married. We now have three kids – our eldest son, Vincent, who’s turning 15 this July, Andrea who will be 12 soon and Isabella, our youngest child celebrating her 8th birthday this month (March). Fabri and I have been blessed with a happy marriage and a happy family. Every day we thank the Lord for it. Right from the beginning, we have the love and support of our respective families. The only difficulty I experienced after moving to Italy at first was the language barrier. My knowledge of the Italian language was very limited and my in- laws didn’t speak English at all. Fabru was our interpreter for a while.
I can say that Filipinos and Italians are alike in many ways – from being family oriented to sharing the same passion for food. My husband has acquired our use of “Po” and “Opo” when talking to our elders. He even does “Mano” or “Pagmamano” to show respect to my parents or elder relatives. He is an ideal husband and an amazing father to our children. I couldn’t ask for more.
I never thought I’d end up marrying someone I met online. I wasn’t looking for love and neither was he. But here we are, 16 years and 3 kids later, still in love and happily married. True love does exist.