I have crossed paths with Pastor Kevin Sanders in the Philippines before we moved to the United States in 2015. He was a missionary and worked with youth and students in Manila and in Pampanga. He has lived in the Philippines for a total of 11 years! He can also understand and speak Tagalog.
In this interview, Kuya Kevin and I talk about many things:
- his experience as an American missionary in the Philippines;
- how he met his wife in the Philippines, got married, and moved back to the US;
- what he has learned after being married to a Filipina;
- what it is like becoming a father, and raising a biracial kid; and
- some nuances and corrections about perceptions on American family culture, as well as some challenges he has seen among families of overseas Filipinos.
Connect with Kevin online
Living in the Philippines as a Missionary
He arrived in the Philippines when he was thirty years old and adjusted easily to life in the Philippines. Guess what, he has never taken a liking to balut! After about eight years in Manila, he moved to Angeles City, Pampanga. After he moved there, he met his wife on Facebook thru a mutual connection. Back then, Mare Cris, his eventual wife, was living in Macau. After nurturing their relationship online, Kevin proposed to her when she came back to the Philippines.
On learning Tagalog. He was intentional in learning Tagalog. His dad sent him a CD that helped him learn the basics. But he really progressed in learning the language when he hired a language teacher.
After getting married, and Kevin’s missionary term ended, they went back to the USA. He experienced some “reverse culture shock” as he adjusted back to life in the USA. One thing he remembered is that in fastfood restaurant in the Philippines, you don’t really throw your trash yourself; there’s usually restaurant staff who does that. In the malls in the Philippines, there are attendants everywhere, even when you’re buying underwear. In the US, you only call store attendants when you need help.
Being Married to a Filipina: Some cultural observations
Kevin and his wife started their relationship with two strengths. He’s been in the Philippines for a long time so he knows the culture and his wife has worked with a lot of foreigners in Macau. Secondly, they also belong to the same faith. They respect each other’s culture and find compromise in other areas. Rice! Kevin’s wife cooks a lot of rice and Filipino food, but if he were by himself, he would not be eating lots of rice.
Kevin also shared an important issue faced by overseas Filipinos: in-laws, relatives, and money. He also observed that many Filipinos over-estimate the individualism of American society. In reality, family also matters a lot for many Americans. Money tends to flow from the older generation to younger ones. Case in point, Kevin’s dad helped him pay for his Doctor of Ministry education. In Philippine families, money tends to flow from the working children to their siblings and/or parents. Kevin explored the topic of money and why overseas Filipinos sometimes go broke. Watch it in his YouTube channel.
On Becoming a Father
Kevin didn’t get married until he was 39. It took some time for him to get established in his ministry and career. It took them a while to get pregnant. But he had a sense that they were having a boy, which was confirmed when they had an ultrasound. He considers it a big privilege to be a dad. One of the first thing that he learned is how precious time is! He also want to be a man that his son can look up to.
We also talked about the absence of fathers in the lives of their children, which could lead to many problems in the lives of kids. He encourages other dads to remember that we only have one chance at becoming a father and that children look to their father to understand what it takes to be a man.