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In 2001, the company shifted its entire operation online—and Leonor started receiving emails from an American in his 50s living in Thailand, named Dan Mc Kee. When he came to the Philippines to visit her, the woman he met was beautiful in the ways Western men imagined island women to be, with long straight hair, high cheekbones that taper toward a delicate chin, and smooth, dark skin.
Leonor also distinguished herself with good English and an indefatigably optimistic, life-embracing attitude.“I like you,” Leonor recalled Dan saying one day, less than a week after they first met in person.
But a power dynamic that for decades favored Western men has steadily tipped toward Filipina women, largely because of technologies that level the information gap that used to separate the two parties.
Filipinas no longer need to sit around and wait to be chosen, and they now have much more access to these men’s complex lives before making a choice of their own.
So when she found out about his infidelity, she was disheartened but not entirely surprised.“We didn’t really know each other,” she concluded.
“It all happened too fast.”So Leonor did what an unfailingly optimistic woman would do: She decided to try again.
Unlike in 2001, when she and Dan exchanged emails and scanned pictures over a slow connection, Leonor had a robust set of online tools — video chat, social media, messaging apps — to help her find the right man.
Instead of taking Leonor to the US, Dan poured his energies into building a wellness center in the mountain town of Valencia outside the provincial capital of Dumaguete City, a cool area in that perennially hot country that was beginning to see some tourism.
In addition to raising his children Dan expected Leonor to run the center day to day, coordinate with helpers and gardeners who did not speak English well, and do a lot of the cooking herself.
Yet even as she went through the paces of partnering with him, Leonor found herself wanting to rewrite the script—and Dan’s betrayal became her chance to try again.
For decades, Western men picked Filipinas out of catalogues, selecting from rows upon rows of hopeful women’s pictures printed on cheap paper, like a strange yearbook or police lineup.
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In 2001, at age 23, she found her way to a fledgling internet cafe in a nearby city and registered at Cherry Blossoms, the oldest and most established mail-order bride service in the world.