Thom Sisson loves history and developed an interest in U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who famously returned to liberate the Philippines during World War II.
Thom was fascinated by why the general returned, and in 2005 started researching the country’s history online. Through his research, he connected with a couple of Filipinos and chatted with them about what life was like in their island nation.
Through those exchanges, Thom met a 25-year-old Filipino woman named Rio Mazo, a civilian employee of the Filipino military.
She loved history and enjoyed sharing her knowledge of the country with Thom.
Thom, 26 at the time, decided to travel to the Philippines and explore the country, spending two weeks there in October 2005.
He met Rio during his visit, and she became his tour guide.
Thom visited Manila and other big cities, but also small villages. He saw beautiful beaches and towering volcanoes.
He was struck by the friendliness of the people and how it seemed everyone he met wanted to ask about his journey.
Even though they grew up 8,000 miles apart, Thom and Rio discovered they had a lot in common, such as being raised by their grandparents and having a strong Catholic faith.
The two began falling in love. Before Thom returned home to his job with an Omaha-based trucking company, he asked Rio to marry him.
She said yes, and during the next six months, they stayed in touch through phone calls and text messages.
In spring 2006, Rio traveled to the United States. The couple married on Aug. 8, 2006, and Thom became her tour guide.
He was an over-the-road trucker at the time, and Rio rode along, visiting 36 states and historic sites such as Gettysburg.
Thom still works for the same trucking company but now has an office job.
The couple celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary this year, and, just two days ago, marked another milestone: the birth of their first child, a 7-pound, 1-ounce boy named Thomas Edward.
Thom and Rio want their son to learn the Filipino culture and language. When he gets a little bigger, they plan to visit Rio’s country to show him off to relatives.
It will be their own return to the Philippines.