A Happily Mixed Up Marriage

Our family at the temple for Diwali, the festival of lights. Teaching the kids about the shared lessons of "good over evil" embraced by both their parent's religions. (Photo courtesy of Regina Manzana-Sawhney)

Our family at the temple for Diwali, the festival of lights. Teaching the kids about the shared lessons of "good over evil" embraced by both their parent's religions. (Photo courtesy of Regina Manzana-Sawhney)

M: From that first “magic moment” to marriage

A party at university: That’s where I met my husband, Rohit. That day was the ultimate “magic moment” that shaped my family life to be what it is today. I was 17, a few weeks shy of the end of our college freshman year. We really hit it off but would soon part ways for the summer. I was heading to the Philippines to visit family. Rohit would spend the break worlds away—with his family in New York. Despite the distance, we put in the time to stay in touch.

Postcards and letters were the “on a budget” mediums of choice. It’s how we first introduced ourselves to each other’s cultures. I wrote about how I wished he could’ve been my date for my debut and tried to explain why this tradition was so important in the Philippines. He shared more about his background and how he was enjoying time with his family. There’s something about that time that was really special. No access to email, IM, mobile phones, insta-anything -- “social networking” for us wasn’t virtual! The limitation of pen to paper and anticipation of time combined left us in similar states. We wanted to leave strong impressions that would carry the curiosity through to when we returned to school. It did, there and far beyond.

Literally showing our girls how lucky they are to cross the bridge and learn more about their roots in Pangil, Laguna, Philippines. (Photo courtesy of Regina Manzana-Sawhney)

Literally showing our girls how lucky they are to cross the bridge and learn more about their roots in Pangil, Laguna, Philippines. (Photo courtesy of Regina Manzana-Sawhney)

Work led Rohit to the San Francisco Bay Area, and I followed. I still thank him often for pursuing engineering and consciously making roots here. Fast forward to 1999. Friends, persistence and perseverance helped us make our wedding represent our cultures and our families. We found a Jesuit priest who would marry us outside the church (on a Sunday!), a pundit to perform the Hindu ceremony and another priest to walk us through the pre-marriage classes. We were lucky to meet wonderful culturally diverse couples completing the class, which was led by an inspiring Filipino duo who made many years together look easy. It took a village, and everything came together on July 4th 1999 -- when my best friend officially became my family.

I: India’s Influence and the path to our Indopinos

Rohit is Indian but was born in Iran. He had never lived in India. Fast forward to 2003 and the opportunity to set up support operations in India. I jumped at it! I’d grown to love what I learned about the culture through his family, but here was an opportunity for both of us to experience his culture firsthand, together. We made the most of it. He took a year off work to volunteer at an orphanage for children with HIV, and we spent down time exploring much of the country and beyond. Kashmir, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and more -- the experience was priceless and really shaped how we are with our kids. We named our first- born “Eila,” which means “earth” and represents the love we hope she has for travel and the priceless perspective it brings. Our second one’s name is inspired by the beauty of “ebb and flow” in everything, Raya.

When we left, we knew that beyond our friends and memories we wanted something to tie us back to Hyderabad (where we had worked). That gift came to us in church one day. A nonprofit was looking for families to sponsor children. We picked Kavya from Hyderabad. Years and many “pen to paper” times later, we were fortunate enough to take our daughters (AKA, our Indopinos) to India for the first time this year. Kavya’s family graciously hosted us for a delicious lunch, and the girls exchanged songs as introductions to each other’s worlds. We also took the girls to the orphanage, where Rohit worked, to meet the kids. All this deepened our collective love for the community and people. From Eila referencing what saw at the orphanage to describe heroes recently, to finding a plant in the Philippines that acts how she sometimes feels (“makahiya), it’s “gratifying beyond words” to hear our eldest (five) express how the experiences have shaped her perspective. 

Taking in the beautiful "Bombe Habba" display at the Sawhney's friend's house. The festival or dolls is definitely one that their kids enjoy. (Photo courtesy of Regina Manzana-Sawhney)

Taking in the beautiful "Bombe Habba" display at the Sawhney's friend's house. The festival or dolls is definitely one that their kids enjoy. (Photo courtesy of Regina Manzana-Sawhney)

X: The sum of these e(X)periences

We’v taken “magic moments” through the eyes of our two curious, caring and energetic little Indopinos -- one fearless/spicy and the other cautious/sweet: yearly trips back to the Philippines to reconnect with family, the probinsya, traditions and our culture; frequent visits from Rohit’s family to the Bay Area; rediscovering the beauty and history of India; exploring paths unknown; appreciating the little things like reading under the tree together at home and playing in the park. I’m blessed to have this family and the sum of our experiences as the “halo-halo” recipe of our life. We’re looking forward to what the journey has mixed up for us. I’m sure it will be bohot sarap (uber delicious in Hindi-Tagalog)!

Every time we bring the girls, we take them to a local school we support through AGAPP (Aklat, Gabay, Aruga tungo sa Pag-angat at Pag-asa). One of my favorite things about this is the sharing. Local kids often sing a song and my daughter will do the same - great insight into each others worlds!  (Photo courtesy of Regina Manzana-Sawhney)

Every time we bring the girls, we take them to a local school we support through AGAPP (Aklat, Gabay, Aruga tungo sa Pag-angat at Pag-asa). One of my favorite things about this is the sharing. Local kids often sing a song and my daughter will do the same - great insight into each others worlds!  (Photo courtesy of Regina Manzana-Sawhney)

Regina Manzana-Sawhney

Regina Manzana-Sawhney

Regina Manzana-Sawhney is a proud working mom, change maker, connector, Co-Founder of the Filipino Googler’s Network, board member of Philippine International Aid & executive committee member of the Apl.de.Ap Foundation. Wish for kababayans: use technology for meaningful collaboration, learning and social good.