This love story begins in, of all places, Las Vegas. “I came to the United States to be an entertainer,” said Sally Habana-Hafner. Sally was an 18-year-old college student in the Philippines when she heard about an audition for a Philippine Festival Show in Las Vegas. Months later she found herself dancing on a Vegas stage. “It didn’t last very long because it was too decent a show.” Sally laughed. Her career as a Vegas showgirl lasted one glorious year in which she got to hang with Elvis and Sammy Davis, Jr. among other Vegas entertainers. Frustrated by the Vegas lights, Sally quit showbiz to go back to college where, as fate would have it, she met her husband, Jim Hafner.
Jim first laid eyes upon Sally at a party for the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan. Jim wanted to ask Sally out, but in accordance to Filipino tradition he first asked permission from Sally’s brother-in-law. Six months later they were engaged. Jim’s parents were warm and open to Sally. There were other members of his family, however, that were not quite as gracious. A priest even discouraged Jim from marrying Sally.
“People look at us like the mail-order bride or a military marriage. That was the type of stereotype at that time,” said Sally. These feelings never affected their relationship. Forty-five years, three children, and eight grandchildren later Sally and Jim laugh at the warnings against their “mixed-marriage.”