by May Cordova

[Editor’s Note: May Cordova has been living in Korea for nearly a decade. She is among the most active members of the Korea Filipino Wives’ Association, a support group dedicated to marriage migrants and in their daily negotiations as wives, mothers and in-laws in Korean family and society.]

My name is May Cordova. I am married to a Korean man and we have an 8 year old daughter. We live in Bucheon City in South Korea.

I met my husband in Manila in 1999 when I was working as a sales representative / clerk in a supermarket. He was a member of the Unification church, founded by a North Korean Moon Sun Myung.

My husband decided to join this group so that he could marry a Filipina. He submitted his picture to the church, which was then matched to a picture of a Filipina, done in a wedding ceremony. Although the matched persons through pictures had not yet met in person, they were married through the pictures. My husband attended the marriage ceremony in Korea while the Filipina woman attended the marriage ceremony in Manila.

Later my husband decided to come to Manila and meet his partner. However, the church could no longer locate the Filipina. Around this time, a Filipino member of the church invited me to attend a party she was throwing for Korean men. I said no, but I guess she was so desperate. My colleagues at the supermarket also convinced me, “Why don’t you try? This might be your lucky chance.” So I went to the party, accompanied by a cousin.

At the party, I saw a lot of Koreans. We were guided to the office where we filled up bio-data sheets. My cousin and I looked at each other because some of the questions were too sensitive but I answered them anyway. Then we were led into a room full of Filipino women, mostly talking about their Korean spouses, “I saw him, I know that’s him. He is so handsome wearing a nice outfit.” I got nervous upon hearing this that my cousin and I began to wonder whether we are in a prostitution den. After that, the leaders called out my name and asked me to proceed to another room where I met my husband. The following day, we were married. Maybe you might think why I was following them? Simple, you cannot run from that place, which had no neighbours and no vehicles which could take you back to Manila.

After a year, he came back to the Philippines to meet my parents. A year later, the church mailed my passport with visa and ticket to Korea. A month after, I was already pregnant.

At the beginning in Korea, I did not know how to speak Korean and could not eat Korean spicy food. But I had no choice anymore and I had to face the situation I chose. Initially, I thought I could not last in Korea given the different culture, weather, food, language and the lifestyle. Most Koreans are forcing us, the foreign wives to follow their culture. And we did but the trouble is that they want us to forget our culture as a consequence of marrying them. All we want is for them to be fair to us, we accept their culture and so I think they must also accept the culture of their wives.

Then I encountered the Korean Filipino Wives Foundation which was founded in 2004 wuth the goal of inspiring and encouraging each member to share experiences and ideas, helping each other in our struggles here in Korea. Its members keep on increasing. At the centre, we can shout and show who we are and where we are from. We can share our cultures. At the centre, we have Korean classes, computer classes, art classes for the children, and seminars for migrant families. Both documented and undocumented migrants, women and men are welcome to join this group. We are very much thankful to the centre for supporting us. We are just hoping that they will continue this kind of human welfare projects not only for Filipino but for all migrants’ workers and migrant wives.

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