Family Portraits by Ryan Arbilo

Sally Pagdanganan and husband Luca Prete with son David Santa Maria di Sala, Venezia, Italy

I’m currently living in the Province of Venice located in Santa Maria di Sala, Italy. I am a part of a very big family, we are eight siblings (6 out of 8 live permanently in Italy with their own family including my parents) and I am the last one.
When I arrived in Italy during the beginning of winter 2007, my main motivations were to save money and be with my family. I was single and my family supports me in everything, I felt that it was the start of building the future here leaving behind my old life in the Philippines.
My work experience back in my hometown was not bad, I became a Guidance Counselor in a known private school in Meycauayan Bulacan, and also had the opportunity to get recruited through an Agency to go to Qatar.
One of the many prayers I have during those times was to find a husband that fears God then after 3 weeks from the day of my arrival, I met Luca Prete in my sister’s house. You wouldn’t believe that the first I laid my eyes to Luca and so he does to me, we both immediately attached to each other, and this might sound crazy, but I guess love at first sight can happen in real life. However, I left someone in the Philippines, when Kuca’s friend asked me if I have a bf, which also the son-in-law of our pastor, I said “no.” I purposefully said no, because I know in my heart I do not want him to lose his interest on me. I thought maybe he could be the one, and I remembered Isaiah 43:4 about God’s precious promises to me.
When we started dating, we encounter different problems, such as, my family were against the relationship (due to the reason that I just came in Italy), my sister because she helped me to get to the Italy, and the language barrier. On my birthday, me and Luca went on a date and when I came home, my sister got so mad, furious and humiliated me in front of Luca. Her replied my sister telling her she acts like a devil. The incident only made the situation worse that my family openly affirmed to me how much they were against about me and Luca.
It was a difficult time, we tried so hard to fight against all the odds because we fully knew that we loved each other and Luca had always been there never leaving my side. He started to look for a house where we can live and told my father his plans in getting a new house because he wants to marry me. Not long after, he officially asked my father’s consent of marrying me (May 15, 2008), and everything was so quick because by September 21, 2008, we got married because he cannot wait anymore.

As a new married couple, me and Luca once again had a new problem, that is about our culture and language, culture and language barrier. Our first two years was so hard, I couldn’t understand why he yells all the time (to which I didn’t know was Italian culture), and we fought a lot maybe because Icouldn’t understand him. Sure, there were times that I felt stupid, and I pronounced so badly the word “Moka” (which means coffee), and said instead “Mucca” (means cow). Although simple word like this is funny, it cannot change the fact that language barrier between me and Luca is one of the struggle we encountered that needs to be conquered. There are many words for example that have the same sound but has different meanings because of where you have to put the accent.
Other than the language, Italians are meticulously precise on their time and they do not like being late. In the Philippines, couples give so much importance to monthsary, anniversary, and celebrate almost everything accompanies by chocolates, gifts and flowers. For Italians, material things are not the measurement of their love but by being responsible in their actions. At first, I couldn’t understand this concept, and I had a hard time comprehending the whole situation. Whenever we had Filipino birthdays in my family, he sometimes refuses to come because he couldn’t understand the language as everyone only talks in Filipino. But I never gave up, rather I tried my best to get him closer to my family, and me to his. I asked him if he could respect mine as I do to his, and adopt my culture as I do to his culture. I’ve tried to explain to him that as an Asian, we are very linked to one another especially in the family. We are very family-oriented where we care and help each other. And told him also that him choosing me as his wife means accepting my culture, my family, and love them as if they were his own.
Yes, I admit it was difficult adjustment for both of us, but we believe in the same God, we are both Christian, and with Christ we can overcome anything. By praying together, we are able to accomplish a meaningful relationship not based on material things but on a deeper level.