By: Thomas Cytrynowicz
Gemma – “I never gave up”
“I have been here for a very long time. A lifetime actually. I came in 1986,
after having met my then future husband in the Philippines. He was on a business trip in Cebu at the time; we met there, fell in love. He took me with him really quickly afterwards, we married in Taiwan and that is it. My two sons were born here in Taipei.
These past 30 years have been everything but a smooth sailing. The cultural shock when I first arrived hit me really hard. Because my husband was making enough money to sustain our couple, he refused to let me work. He was also against me making Filipino friends, or going to Church on Sundays. As a fervent Catholic, that was difficult to accept. My first few years were very lonely, I used to stay at home most of the time. I could have felt depressed by then, but I chose to make use of my time the best way I could. I forced myself in learning Chinese through the TV programs that were available. Later on, I volunteered in the primary school where my kids were going, and I was able to make many Taiwanese friends, mothers and children alike. It is actually very impressive the extent to which children wanted to help me improve. Thanks to this, I managed to acquire a very strong proficiency in Mandarin and sooner or later, I was asked to join the Saint Christopher’s parish; they needed help with their Filipino community. My husband accepted, and I became the secretary of the parish about 10 years ago. [FULL STORY]