Finding love online that works
In September 2008, Rosette Lozano, a 24-year-old Filipina caregiver in England surfed MySpace.com and a profile appeared on the screen: Gene Rehberg, 26 years old, an American soldier deployed in Iraq.
“I found his profile and sent him a friend request and started talking. I can say we became good friends despite our distance. We both fell in love online, but he was too shy to say it. So, I made a move,” recalls Rosette.
Distance was not a hindrance for their blossoming romance. They met in December 2009 in the Philippines to spend Christmas and to meet Roselle’s big family in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija.
The online love affair led to the altar on March 17, 2012 in Hawaii. But cultural differences had to be set aside in order to conclude that theirs is a successful love story.
‘Where do I begin?’
Rosette was raised in Cabanatuan City by a widowed mother. Poverty did not hinder her from finishing nursing and eventually becoming a registered nurse. However much she exerted her effort to find a job, she ended up only as a volunteer nurse in the Philippines. Fortunately, she was granted a student visa to the United Kingdom.
Meeting Gene online made her endure living and working in England. Despite the chance of meeting “bad guys” on the internet, Rosette trusted her instinct that Gene was a good man.
“He was the one scared to talk to me since it was his first time to talk to a girl online. He sent me flowers and chocolates. To think he was in Iraq!” Rosette fondly recalls.
‘Until I met you’
Rosette and Gene decided to meet in December 2009 in the Philippines to celebrate Christmas and to formally introduce him to the family.
“It was a mixed feeling; I was excited, happy and at the same time scared too that he might not find me unattractive in person,” Rosette laughs.
Instead of breaking up with her, Gene fell more in love with her. Rosette says that Gene enjoyed “inuman,” sisig, and Red Horse beer.
Gene proposed to Rosette in Baguio City while they were boating in the artificial lake of Burnham Park.
In 2010, the couple went back to their workplaces; Rosette in England and Gene in Afghanistan. After a year, they decided to get married. Rosette came back to the Philippines in July 2011 to apply for a fiancé visa, which took six months. In 2012, upon its approval, Rosette flew to Hawaii to become Mrs. Rehberg.
‘I’d do anything for love’
The language barrier is often the first thing that sets the divide in interracial marriages. During their first months of living together, Rosette says they were having fights on the most trivial things due to misunderstandings and miscommunication.
“He talks very fast so I would keep asking him to repeat it until I got mad,” she says.
Tidiness was also an issue because generally Filipinas want everything to be “in place.” Rosette admits that she did not like the way her husband cleaned the house. Food is also an issue in an interracial union. So Rosette says that she cooks mainly roast chicken, burger, pasta, etc.
After the months in Hawaii the couple moved to Washington state. They also traveled to New York and Florida to meet both sides of Gene’s family.
“Meeting his family for the first time was terrifying because I didn’t know what are they’re thinking about interracial couple, but everybody seems fine with it. But they were shocked to learn that I couldn’t drive,” Rosette says.
When Gene was discharged from the Army, he joined the Army Reserve. They stayed with his mother and stepdad for four months in Florida while waiting to move to their own home.
“When I gave birth to my son, Rayner, I was too shy to ask for help from my mom-in-law. Since we’re living in their house for free I cleaned and cooked for them every day. My husband admonished me, but as a Filipino ‘pakikisama’ is important,” Rosette explains.
‘A many-splendored thing’
“We’ve been married for almost five years and I should say we’ve known each other very well, we tell each other do’s and dont’s. Mostly, I tell him the ‘don’ts.’ Communication is really important. We both agree on a lot of things, but mostly he lets me decide what will make me happy,” shares Rosette.
The Rehbergs moved to Hawaii recently. Having a five-year-old keeps Rosette busy. She is now a full time wife and mother because it is more expensive to leave the child in childcare. Being a mom though keeps her busy. Gene is also a hands-on father to Rayner whenever time permits.
To Filipinos looking for partners, take this from Rosette:
“Not all foreigners have a lot of money. Look for a person with good personality and know the person well before you enter into a relationship. Be ready for the cultural differences. Do not be onion-skinned. Ask first for explanations and accept them.
“Keep the love stronger each day. If you have problems do not post it on Facebook. Finding your love online does not mean solving it online too,” she concludes.