Best of Both Worlds — err, Universes Rather

We are Red Dot Juanderers. And this is our Singapore story.

How often do you hear compelling stories that involve the Philippines and Colombia? Aside from reminding ourselves of the controversial scramble over the 2015 Miss Universe crown — in fact, there aren’t that many remarkable Fil-Colombian stories. In the case of Ricardo (also known as Ricky; 36) and Erika (35), Singapore was the ultimate reason why their paths crossed. Who knew how fate will play a big part in their love story — that a little Colombian boy hailing all the way from Latin America will eventually fall deeply in love with a Filipina who was born and raised 10,000 miles away from his own hometown? Five years into their marriage, Ricky (who works as a systems engineer) and Erika (who is a full-time mom) continuously build a loving home in the Little Red Dot while raising their charming two-year-old hijo, Lucas.    

Our Singapore Story:

RICKY: When I left Colombia on September 01, 2007, I started working in my new company, DHL, on the 3rd day of my arrival in Singapore. During my company induction, I was introduced to all former AISEC interns (the organization that brought me here) and Erika was one of those ex-interns then. I still remember that moment how we met: I popped up over her desk and she was in a cubicle full of boxes on the sides as she was handling all the corporate giveaways for DHL at that time. Was it love at first sight? Not really — it was more of something that developed over time.

ERIKA: I still remember that day in particular because he was one of the last few interns who joined DHL. When we heard he was Colombian, we already kind of reserved him for this other colleague of ours who is very much into Latinos. So I didn’t really pay attention to him, because in my head, I already told myself he is not my type. The intern community back then was really close. We always go out as a group for lunches, drinks, or dinners. It was a group of 20+ interns from different countries and backgrounds.

RICKY: We first started going out with friends, but we got a bit closer. I would invite her to movies and to dinners. But the main turning point for me to really rush and get her was when I learned that she had to leave DHL and the country for good. So what do we do from here?

We had that one dinner at Blue Jazz (restaurant) and that was the time when we really started talking about the future: what’s next for us? That’s when we said, “let’s just enjoy these next couple of weeks before you leave.” From that day on, we went out almost every single day — whatever excuse we could find to see each other. It was only a short courtship from September to November 2007. By the time she had to leave, we were already officially together.

Adjustments in Dating:

RICKY: Filipinos are very traditional which is similar how things are in Colombia where I grew up. You date in phases: you start dating for a while, then you go to a formal relationship, and then things eventually develop into more. It’s not like you just jump into a one night stand, and that’s it.

ERIKA: That was the surprising part as I didn’t have any friends from Colombia prior to meeting him, and I don’t how they are when it comes to courtship. But he was very Pinoy — for instance, when he asked me out for a movie date, he left a long-stemmed rose, a little note, and chocolates on my desk.

There will also be some differences, in a sense that, the things I grew up with are not necessarily the things he is familiar with: like certain jokes he doesn’t get; or music he has never heard of before such as the ’90s boybands or RnB. He barely knows any American artist as he’s much more used to Latin music. So those are the little moments that frustrate you because you get excited over these things as there are also past memories attached to it.

Ask for her Hand in Marriage:

RICKY: Back in June 2010, I told her I’ll be having a business trip to Malaysia. I used one of my old plane tickets and just edited all the dates in the fake reservation, and then I showed the itinerary to her. I told her that I will be flying back to Singapore on the same day. She didn’t know that I was actually flying to Manila instead. And so I booked my tickets, went to Manila early in the morning, and took a cab to her house all by myself. Nobody knew what I was planning, except one of her brothers. I told her brother: “I need your help to pretend that you’re flying to Manila just to make sure your parents are in the house and I can talk to them.”

ERIKA: I then got a call from my Dad saying: “Ate, Manang called me from the house. Ricky daw is outside the gate.” “Do you mean Bits (the brother)?,” I asked. Because I knew Bits is coming home and Ricky is in Malaysia. It’s really by the grace of God that I didn’t investigate more. I left it at that and I stopped thinking about it. True enough, it was Ricky knocking at our door in Manila.

RICKY: And so I told her parents while they were sitting in the dining area: “I have been with Erika for four years now. I think she’s an amazing woman. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. But before that, I want to ask for your blessings first and hear what you guys think.”

ERIKA: Asking for the hand in marriage is probably one of the things we are accustomed to as Filipinos, but it’s not something I’ve imposed on him. But since he knew me that well over the years, he knew how important my family was.

The Proposal:

RICKY: The proposal should be an extension of your days; it should flow naturally during one typical day. The weekend after I came back from Manila, she stayed in my place that night. I remember I wasn’t able to fully sleep. I woke up around 5 a.m. and started walking around the apartment thinking, should I really do it today? At around 7 a.m. I woke her up, and she was still groggy. I told her: “You have been an amazing experience. I see us growing old together, building a family.” I was shaking her as she was still sleepy, “hey, look at me, look at me…”

ERIKA: Whatever he was saying, it didn’t feel like he was making a speech or proposal. I thought he was just casually ranting that morning — until I saw he had a box, and a ring!

RICKY: The first thing she said was: “Are you sure?” So I said, “yes, I’m sure.”

ERIKA: If I can imagine my engagement, I thought it will be some special occasion — over dinner, with the family, and we’re both dressed-up. But what happened was a very low-key moment. There’s that beauty in what happened, because this is us — this is how we spend most of our weekends. Very chill. Very relaxed.

Our Wedding in Manila:

RICKY: Why do it in Manila? I wasn’t really particular where to do it; I’m good wherever Erika wants to get married. Bringing my family to Manila was an adventure. I planned the whole thing for them. There were no direct flights from our town, so I had to fly them from Montería (Colombia) to Bogotá (Colombia) for 1 hour; to Sãu Paolo (Brazil) for 6-7 hours; to Barcelona (Spain) for 10 hours; to Singapore for 14 hours; and then later on to Manila. It was their first ever flight to Asia for a family of 10 adults and one kid, and some of them haven’t even flown out of Colombia yet. The only one who speaks English is my sister (so imagine the adventure it was!).

ERIKA: They really liked the Philippines because they felt at home. They compared Manila to Bogotá which is very cosmopolitan and crowded. Interacting with his family was also challenging at first primarily because of the language. We had a dinner prior to the wedding day at our home in Antipolo. I remember I was so nervous because they’re all meeting each other for the very first time. And secondly, how are we all able to interact with just Ricky and my maid of honor, Denise, as the group translators? I had very limited knowledge in Spanish too. True enough, during dinner it was mostly silent — and a lot nervous laughters too. It turned out well in the end after some alcohol and picture taking. People even started interacting by using sign languages.

Learnings in the Last 5 Years of Marriage:

RICKY: You need to develop a lot of patience. To say it has been an easy ride, it’s really not — it hasn’t been. There are bumps along the way. For those moments when I lose my cool, I always try to see the good things that attracted me to her and how my love has developed over the years. You need to give some in order to get some. Sometimes, it’s the cultural thing that makes the big difference, like language: I say something with the best intention but it doesn’t come out in the right form.

ERIKA: Ultimately, we agree on things which would be: values, our love for our families, and how to raise Lucas. Even if we have differences, what matters at the end of the day is that you always go back to the reason why you’ve loved each other at the beginning of your relationship.

Raising our Two-Year-Old Son, Lucas:

Ricky: It’s so fun. Sometimes it’s challenging because he wants to do whatever he wants, not what you want.

Erika: He teaches us to be more patient. When you see the world through a toddler, it makes life more interesting. It’s fun.

How Filipino/Colombian are We Now?

Erika: Ricky has learned the concept of “pasalubongs” and he embraces it so much. Every time somebody goes home to Manila, he has more bilins” than I do. And they include very Pinoy stuff like: Mary Grace ensaymada, cassava, pan de sal, and cheez whiz pimiento.

Ricky: Erika speaks more Spanish nowAnd she likes more Colombian dishes.

Erika: More than the food, it’s the music. I have a bigger appreciation for Latin music now.

For Lucas, definitely his hair is Colombian. And his swagger — he has rhythm that can be both Filipino and Colombian. He loves music!

Singapore for us:

Ricky: It’s definitely a second home. It’ll be my 10th year now in Singapore this year. It will always be part of our lives, regardless where we are. Here is where we met; where we got engaged; where Lucas was born. Singapore also defined my career.

Favorite Place in Singapore:

Ricky & Erika: Orchard area works for us. We’re always here. We are not the outdoorsy type of family anyway.

A Place in the Philippines/Colombia I will Bring my Husband/Wife to:

Ricky: I would like to bring her to Eje Cafetero (also known as the Coffee Triangle). It’s actually composed of three main cities and this is where majority of the coffee in Colombia are grown. It’s a very beautiful region and the landscape is just fantastic.

Erika: We want to go to El Nido just because it’s less commercial. It has pristine beach and nice sand.

Miss Philippines vs. Miss Colombia — and the Battle for the Beauty Queen Crown:

Ricky: I always thought that Colombia is the country of beauty pageants. We have one beauty pageant in every single town, every single month. I thought we are the only land of the beauty queens — until I’ve learned about the Philippines. Haha! They raise it to another unbelievable level there especially with the number of followers and the amount of passion the Filipinos have.

Erika: During the 2015 Miss Universe competition, I spent the whole morning watching it. When Pia Wurtzbach (Miss Philippines) was proclaimed as the actual winner, I went to Ricky’s room and I told him: “See I told you, Pia should win.” And his reaction was like: “Good for you,” as he didn’t really mind. When I went online, I saw that there were a lot of comments against both Pia and Miss Colombia (Ariadna Gutierrez) and there were a lot of tensions between the Colombians and the Filipinos too. So what I did was, I’ve posted a photo of Lucas on Facebook and captioned it: “Lucas, you have the best of both worlds!”

What if we had a Superpower as a Couple?

Ricky & Erika: To fly and to see more places together.



About the Red Dot Juanderer:

We are constantly on the lookout for inspiring, aspirational, and relatable stories from our fellow Juans living and working in the Little Red Dot. If you know any Filipino in Singapore that should be our next Red Dot Juanderer, email us at [email protected] // Interviews and photos by Paolo Avis; Assisted by Jaypee Quitco

Share your thoughts below: