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When she decided to try online dating again, a month after she and Dan separated, Leonor was determined to make a wiser choice.
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.
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.
Cherry Blossoms began publishing catalogues of international women looking for husbands in 1974, charging foreigners a fee in exchange for a woman’s address.
Virtual connections must eventually be realized in physical space, where real-world politics, money, and bodies intervene.
For the earnest among these internet searchers, the hope is that in the midst of these complexities, a real, lasting love can bloom.
Yet even as Filipinas and Westerners face off as equals online, the world of dating exposes the ultimate limitations of the web.
In September 2015, Leonor Cabigon, a 38-year-old Filipina mother of two, returned early from a trip to find a young woman sleeping in the bed she shared with her American husband Dan in Valencia, a remote mountain town in the Philippine island province of Negros Oriental.
A self-described wellness expert, Dan first claimed to be treating the young woman for a stomach ailment, before admitting they’d been having an affair.
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.
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She registered on Filipino and, over the last year and a half, has corresponded with several suitors.