this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on July 2, 2011.

A Social Weather Stations survey in February 2011 revealed that 57 percent of Filipinas would choose someone who is rich and, ehem, ugly over someone who is poor and handsome. I have to say I am part of that 57 percent. To say that I would gladly choose someone who is handsome and poor over someone who is ugly and loaded would be a lie. His good looks will not feed our family; neither would my poor decision-making skills. Seventy-one percent of the female respondents between the ages of 18 to 24 said they would choose a rich guy over a handsome guy, too.

On the other hand, the survey showed that 52 percent of Filipino men would choose a good looking girl over a rich-girl (why am I not shocked?). I am a perfect example (or should I say, victim?) of that statistical inference. I suppose it’s safe to assume that most men are after trophy girlfriends, not sugar mommies.

In our household in Los Baños, we believe in two very popular kinds of love: Hollywood Love and Economic Love. Hollywood Love means time stands still when you catch each other’s gaze from across the room and suddenly Lionel Richie’s “Hello” starts playing in your head, and you tell yourself, “That’s the one I’m gonna spend the rest of my life with.” Forget about his/her readiness to start and sustain a family or his/her mental stability, all you know is that the stars are lined up and he/she is The One.

I’m sorry, but I have to tell you to wake up and smell the worldwide recession. Economic Love might sound like an oxymoron, but when you think about it, it is simply following your brain rather than your hormones. It is not exactly about sitting on opposite sides of a conference table and checking each other’s bank accounts or knowing when his trust fund will kick in. It is about getting to know if your future partner is willing to make a fair exchange of goods and services. For most women (and I guess even for men, although I could be wrong), it is about getting to know if he (or she) is ready to provide you with the security that is essential in every relationship.

I am telling you there is nothing more attractive than security. And I am not just talking about financial security, I am also talking about the certainty of being ready to commit to a mature relationship with a clear and consensual direction. It’s about giving your partner the security that he/she is The Only One and he/she is second to none (catch my drift?).

Growing up in a middle-class family opened my mind to the need to be practical in life. Studying in a state university somewhat dampened my romantic wanderlust, I guess. I grew up thinking that emotions will not suffice (it might even get me into trouble), that I must be mentally, physically, spiritually and financially ready before I enter a relationship.

Society has done me a favor. Thanks to the prevailing standard of beauty (which I failed to meet), no one dares to distract me from my efforts to get ready. I have all the time in the world to get ready, even if I am only one score away from the dreaded “Finish Line.”

I bet I am sounding more cynical than practical right now, but let me redeem myself. Despite my belief in being practical, I also believe that true love exists. And when I say “practical,” of course I do not mean “convenient.” There’s a big difference. I believe that true love prepares for what’s ahead. I believe that true love will always be a perfect combination of romantic spontaneity and careful planning. I believe that true love is always being ready. It is prepared because it waited for the perfect timing. It is ready because it is certain, and it is certain because it took its sweet time and didn’t rush into anything.

The point I am trying to make is that while girls are after cute dudes in cool cars and MacBooks, (most) women are after security. We are after the certainty of love. And security may come in the form of a man’s certainty and direction, not the car he drives or the latest gizmo inside his branded bag. Those things are just bonuses. A secure man is by himself already a complete package. A car is just a welcome plus. If the car was from his folks, that’s fine. If he worked extra hours for a year to get the car, then it will all the more be sweeter.

A woman knows the value of a hardworking man, and a hardworking man knows that that kind of a woman is worth all the hard work. Strip him of his car or gadgets or, yes, even his good looks, and he will still have a definite picture of his future and how he will get there.

That is the reason women will still love you even if you don’t exactly have dashing good looks or a car. She would run the risk of bearing children who won’t become “Mr. Pogi” or “Little Miss Philippines” if you are ready to provide your family with stability; if it means that your baby will never have to experience the horrors of the Philippine transportation system; if it means your kids will go to good schools; and if it means that she is the only one you will ever want to lie next to at night and wake up next to in the morning. A woman (well, most women, I would like to believe) will always choose to embrace the possibilities of the future over the comfortable circumstances of the present.

The point is, whether you have a car or you don’t, if she loves you, she will choose you. It matters not if she is a goody-two-shoes or a slut, if she loves you, she will change for the better. If she loves you, she will see her future with you and it will compel her to become more than what she is now.

I guess the same goes for guys. Love is a very powerful motivation; it is almost unstoppable. If she is just looking for fun, she will have no trouble finding it. But if she finds love in you, she won’t want to go anywhere else. She will choose you every time. A loving, hardworking, secure man will always be better than any Forbes 500 A-lister or GQ cover guy or MENSA candidate.

A car will only get you so far. It will get her attention, but it will not get her to stay.

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