Money, Beauty, Security: Online Dating in the Philippines

a hand holding a smartphone, tapping on an app
kris krüg via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Jonathan welcomed Leonor’s adolescent children when she introduced them over video chat, and he in turn introduced her to his own children, who are in their twenties. Jonathan also gained favor by not asking for nude pictures or for Leonor to talk dirty with him, as Western men are prone to do with Filipina women they meet online.

As 2017 began, Jonathan and Leonor embarked on their plan to meet in earnest. It’s standard for the interested foreigner to visit the Philippines, because there are no tourist visa restrictions there for Westerners. But because Leonor wanted to settle in the West and Jonathan couldn’t take too much time off work, the pair decided that Leonor should visit England. Jonathan paid for a lawyer to get Leonor a tourist visa, and the British consulate asked her to submit all her personal correspondence and proof she had funds in the bank — most of which Jonathan had given her—to show that she wasn’t just a poor woman hoping to work there illegally. “He offered to also pay for my children to visit England but I refused,” Leonor said. “I don’t want to owe him so much if things do not work out.”

At Backchannel, Meredith Talusan reports from the world of Philippine online dating on the ways new technology and information access is helping shift the power dynamic from Western men to Filipina women. Still, certain elements remain the same: Filipinas’ hope for economic security, and men’s search for youth and beauty.

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