On a recent morning, the two Chinese men, who were waiting to take their orders at a restaurant in the southern city of Quezon, started to discuss the future of their relationship, when a young woman with an accent asked if they were going to eat together.
“That’s when we were all in tears,” said her mother, who gave her surname as Li.
“I think we all thought, this is going to be so fun.”
Li, who has a family in the United States and has lived in Manila for more than three decades, had never seen Chinese people before.
“We all thought this would be just us being normal people, having a normal life, but it’s not that way,” he said.
“What is so interesting is that the Chinese have a lot of different cultures.
They’re not just looking at the United Kingdom or the United Arab Emirates or the UK or Canada.”
It’s a phenomenon that has emerged as the Chinese, who are increasingly embracing Western culture, become more integrated into the country’s economy.
But it’s also creating tensions between Beijing and its neighbours in the region.
In the past decade, there have been frequent clashes between Chinese tourists and Filipinos.
In 2016, at least 18 Chinese nationals were arrested for allegedly throwing rocks at the Philippine embassy in Manila.
In January this year, police arrested an Australian man suspected of throwing stones at the consulate in Manila, the worst such incident since the early 2000s.
China, meanwhile, is facing criticism from the West for its handling of its migrant workers, especially in the construction industry.
In recent years, the number of Chinese nationals working in the Philippines has risen sharply, with about 60,000 in 2017, according to the Philippine government.
But the growing number of tourists and locals alike are turning their eyes to the food at Chinese restaurants, where they say the food is prepared better than in their home countries.
“They are more prepared,” said Li, who was eating at a popular restaurant in Quezon City.
“When I came to the United State, I didn’t know Chinese food.
Now, I know a lot more.”
On the other hand, he said, he’s happy to see that there are more Chinese restaurants in Manila now than ever before.
The pair’s mother said they were so excited when they found out that they could meet their Chinese boyfriend at the restaurant.
“It’s good that he can come over and meet us, because I didn´t think it would be that hard,” she said.
There’s a lot to learn.
But there’s also so much more to love.
It’s a really special friendship.”