MARRIAGE, DATING, COURTSHIP, LOVE AND DIVORCE (ANNULMENT) IN THE PHILIPPINES

MARRIAGE IN THE PHILIPPINES

Concepts about marriage are shaped by the Catholic church. Marriage has traditionally been regarded as the milestone to becoming an adult and young people were encouraged to get married as soon as possible. Marriages have traditionally been a way for elite, politically powerful families to unite. Marriages among cousins of different degrees are somewhat common among Tagalogs.

According to a 2001 Time sex survey 82 percent of males and 87 percent of females said that monogamy was important to them and 78 percent of males and 65 percent of females said it was important to marry a virgin. In the same sex survey 48 percent of males and 10 percent of females answered yes when asked if they had every been unfaithful.

Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “Chinese influence runs deep and the majority of Filipinas adhere to its simple social dictum, “Get married at a marriageable age.” Marriage is considered the natural conclusion of a stable heterosexual relationship. Recently, however, Filipinos have started to replace their old-fashioned social concepts with ones that recognize that the right to remain single is as much a personal right as the right to marry. Because of the Western influence on women’s liberation, to be a single older woman is no longer considered a social disgrace or the result of any personal inadequacy. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology, 2001 |~|]

Whereas the legal age for voting is 21 years for both males and females, the legal age for marriage is 21 for males and 18 for females. In the Muslim community, the parents of a girl between ages 14 and 16 may betroth her to an older man. Generally, in the Christian community, the courts do not consider pregnancy a valid motive to grant permission for the marriage of a minor. Legislation has also abolished the possibility of reparatory marriage; in the past a person accused of rape or forceful abduction could avoid punishment by marrying the victim. In the southern end of the archipelago, where the majority of the Muslims live, a dowry is agreed on before a formal marriage arrangement is signed. The dowry, given by the bride’s parents to the groom, may be a large sum of money, property, or a sizable wedding present. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology, 2001 |~|]

Love marriages with parental approval—as opposed to arranged marriages—are the norm although parents often play a role in choosing marriage partners for their children. Marriages have traditionally been monogamous although in some places, particularly Muslim and tribal areas, men have had more than one wife. Virginity has traditionally been valued, particularly in the countryside. If a young man decides he wants to marry a particular girl, he or his parents visit the young woman’s house and offer a gift. After this initial visit the parents of the couple meet.

Marriage is a civil ceremony that is conducted city offices. A religious ceremony also is performed. Arranged marriages have not been part of Filipino life. However, men are expected to marry and if a man has not married by his late twenties, female relatives begin introducing him to potential brides. The median age for marriage is twenty-two. Young professionals wait until their late twenties to marry, and engagements of five to seven years are not uncommon. During this period, the couple becomes established in jobs, pays for the education of younger siblings, and acquires household items. A woman who reaches the age of thirty-two without marrying is considered past the age for marriage. Women believe that marriage to a wealthy man or a foreigner will guarantee happiness. Divorce is illegal, but annulment is available for the dissolution of a marriage. Reasons for annulment include physical incapacity, physical violence, or pressure to change one's religious or political beliefs. Interfaith marriages are rare. [Source: everyculture.com /=/]

In the early 2000s, the tourism Philippines department tried to promote the Philippines as a place for foreigners to come to get married.

Cohabitation, Polygyny and Courtship in the Philippines

Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “The colonial view of the sacredness of marriage includes a strong social condemnation of cohabitation for unmarried couples. Thus, cohabitation was relatively rare during the 1940s. The social and legal implications of “common-law marriage” (cohabitation) are not significant in a society of less affluence and resources. Furthermore, the definition of unmarried used in compiling official statistics makes it difficult to estimate the popularity of this behavior in the sense it is understood in the Western Hemisphere. Beginning in the late 1980s, the increased tolerance of non-marital cohabitation in the West began to influence the middle-aged and younger generations. During the author’s 1996 visit in the provinces of Cebu, Leyte, and metropolitan Manila, there was an estimated increase of half a percent and an estimated 340,000 couples in unmarried cohabitation. The majority of cohabiting couples in the provinces are separated from their legal spouses because divorce is illegal and they cannot be civilly or religiously married. The rest are college students, youth, artists, and intellectuals who are attracted to this lifestyle. |~|

Courtship is a cherished Filipino tradition with certain specific rules based on religious, sociocultural, and family values. There are five widely shared rules or “commandments” associated with courtship: 1) Say “yes” to the first invitation. 2) It is a prerequisite to have an escort, either a friend or next of kin, on the first date (no escort is necessary for a woman 28 years or older. 3) It is all right to publicly demonstrate decent affection, such as kissing, touching, and caressing. 4) A young Filipina should reserve criticism after the first date, be discreet about her feelings, and the man must cover (pay for) all expenses. 5) If dating leads to marriage, one must remember that marrying entails marrying into the spouse’s whole family as a clan. The majority of young men and women believe that love, physical attraction, similar religious beliefs, and trust are the basic essentials in creating and maintaining a stable relationship. |~|

Although polygyny had a long history in pre-colonial Filipino civilization and was common in the Muslim community prior to the 1970s, polygynous marriages are the exception today. The majority of sophisticated, highly educated males, whether Muslim or Christian, choose to be monogamous for financial reasons.

Traditional Dating and Courting Behavior in the Philippines

When Filipinos are in their teens, groups of males and females go out together in a kind of group dating. In the cities one-on-one dating and dancing are common. In rural areas, young men have traditionally serenaded women under their bedroom window. Filipinos are born matchmakers. They like to match up their friends and relatives. Blind dates are common. Girls often have to permission from their parents and guys are sometimes subjected to mild interrogation by parents.

According to an article on the website for the Center for Southeast Asian Studies Northern Illinois University: The traditional dalagang Pilipina (Filipina maiden) is shy and secretive about her real feelings for a suitor and denies it even though she is really in love with the man. Tuksuhan lang (just teasing) is the usual term associated with pairing off potential couples in Filipino culture. This is common among teenagers and young adults. It is a way of matching people who may have mutual admiration or affection for each other. It may end up in a romance or avoidance of each other if the situation becomes embarrassing for both individuals.[Source: Center for Southeast Asian Studies Northern Illinois University, seasite.niu.edu <>]

Tuksuhan (teasing--and a girl's reaction to it) is a means for 'feeling out' a woman's attitude about an admirer or suitor. If the denial is vehement and the girl starts avoiding the boy, then he gets the message that his desire to pursue her is hopeless. The advantage of this is that he does not get embarrassed because he has not started courting the girl in earnest. As in most Asian cultures, Filipinos avoid losing face. Basted (from English busted) is the Tagalog slang for someone who fails to reach 'first base' in courting a girl because she does not have any feelings for him to begin with. However, if the girl 'encourages' her suitor (either by being nice to him or not getting angry with the 'teasers'), then the man can court in earnest and the tuksuhan eventually ends. The courtship then has entered a 'serious' stage, and the romance begins. <>

A man who is unable to express his affection to a woman (who may have the same feelings for him) is called a torpe (stupid), dungo (extremely shy), or simply duwag (coward). To call a man torpe means he does not know how to court a girl, is playing innocent, or does not know she also has an affection for him. If a man is torpe, he needs a tulay (bridge)--anyone who is a mutual friend of him and the girl he loves--who then conveys to the girl his affection for her. It is also a way of 'testing the waters' so to speak. If the boy realizes that the girl does not have feelings for him, he will then not push through with the courtship, thus saving face. Some guys are afraid of their love being turned down by the girl. In Tagalog, a guy whose love has been turned down by the girl is called sawi (romantically sad), basted (busted), or simply labless (loveless). <>

Panliligaw or ligawan are the Tagalog terms for courtship, which in some parts of the Tagalog-speaking regions is synonymous with pandidiga or digahan (from Spanish diga, 'to say, express'). Manliligaw is the one who courts a girl; nililigawan is the one who is being courted. <>

Dating Filipino Girls

Winston posted in his blog happierabroad.com: The Philippines “is a dating paradise for men, especially foreign men. It is easy to get dates or sex anytime you want. No deprivation in this area for men. With most local guys being poor and a large percentage of them being gay or transsexuals, the supply of dateable men is very low. Hence there are always single girls who are looking everywhere you go, a huge surplus of them, never a shortage. 2) Girls are tender, affectionate and treat their boyfriend or suitor very well. They are always there for you and make time for you. They are not hung up on looks. 3) Girls like to flirt and enjoy flattery and compliments. They do not consider a guy who is attracted to them or asks them out to be a creep who ought to leave them alone. There is no such attitude at all. Flirting and signifying interest is not vilified, but seen as natural and adorable. Girls love attention and flattery too, even if they are shy. [Source:Winston, happierabroad.com, December 22, 2011 >>>]

4) Females are not prudish or uptight when it comes to touching or physical affection, but are quite receptive and into it themselves. They are not puritanical like their British, American and Oriental counterparts. When they make love, they are tender and soothe you in a way white women can't. 5) There are a variety of girls to choose from in terms of ethnic mixes, ranging from light skinned Chinese types to darker Malay types to Spanish looking white types. 6) Go go bars and videoke bars are cheap to get a girl from to take home. You don't have to sleep alone if you don't want to (unlike some countries where you are forced to sleep alone every night without choice). >>>

“Most girls that date foreigners usually come from poor families who will expect you to support them or give her an allowance that she can use to support them. In other words, they will attempt to leech off you shamelessly. If you are frugal and prefer to save rather than to spend, your will will be constantly in conflict with their will. If you are a foreigner, there will be a double standard against you in that locals are allowed to be stingy toward you, giving you nothing for free and counting every peso. However, you are expected to be a super generous Santa who is happy to give away things for free, and you are supposed to be willing to spend away from your "bottomless pockets" without complaining. In fact, although they may call a foreigner "kuripot" (cheapskate in Tagalog) if he is frugal or tries to save money, it is very odd and out of place for a foreigner to call a Filipino a "kuripot" because Filipinos are expects to be stingy, but foreigners aren't. >>>

Gmmurgirl.hubpages.com reported: “Men from the Philippines are often referred to as 'Pinoy' men or 'Filipino' men. Indeed, Filipino guys are a class of their own. A number of foreign women might find dating them an experience worth trying. Filipino men are often seen as thoughtful, sensitive, romantic and sweet, thought this may not be true for all. Some guys can discriminating and choosy. Any woman foreign or otherwise, confident of herself will not have difficulty getting a Filipino date. Learn about the what makes Filipino guys unique. So here is a lowdown, in case you manage to snag a Filipino date. [Source: gmmurgirl.hubpages.com <^>]

“If you are a foreign woman looking for a Filipino man to go out with, it helps to know that the local dating scene in the Philippines is very dynamic and colorful. With the proliferation of social networks and mobile phones, opportunities to meet singles and dating sites abound! If you are lucky, speed dating events are organized by a few groups. Moreover, knowing friends will double your chances of meeting eligible male Filipinos. They will be more than willing to play cupid and set you up on a blind date. Hence, a foreign woman trying to look for her Filipino dream date will not run out of options. <^>

“On the other hand, if you are in the capital city on a business trip and hardly know any local friends, do not fret. There are many bars in the city specifically in the business districts area of Makati, Ortigas, and even the Global City with great places to meet new people. Most Filipino men will be friendly enough to strike a conversation with a lone foreigner woman. Nevertheless, do not immediately trust anyone who is too friendly for comfort. <^>

“Dating and finding a Filipino date can be easy for a foreign woman. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. Despite background differences, an interracial relationship can prosper, since many Filipino guys are open to the idea of dating women from a different race or culture. Just make sure you know how to deal with him. <^>

Dating Filipino Men

Gmmurgirl.hubpages.com reported: “Men from the Philippines are often referred to as 'Pinoy' men or 'Filipino' men. Indeed, Filipino guys are a class of their own. A number of foreign women might find dating them an experience worth trying. Filipino men are often seen as thoughtful, sensitive, romantic and sweet, thought this may not be true for all. Some guys can discriminating and choosy. Any woman foreign or otherwise, confident of herself will not have difficulty getting a Filipino date. Learn about the what makes Filipino guys unique. So here is a lowdown, in case you manage to snag a Filipino date. [Source: gmmurgirl.hubpages.com <^>]

“If you are a foreign woman looking for a Filipino man to go out with, it helps to know that the local dating scene in the Philippines is very dynamic and colorful. With the proliferation of social networks and mobile phones, opportunities to meet singles and dating sites abound! If you are lucky, speed dating events are organized by a few groups. Moreover, knowing friends will double your chances of meeting eligible male Filipinos. They will be more than willing to play cupid and set you up on a blind date. Hence, a foreign woman trying to look for her Filipino dream date will not run out of options. <^>

“On the other hand, if you are in the capital city on a business trip and hardly know any local friends, do not fret. There are many bars in the city specifically in the business districts area of Makati, Ortigas, and even the Global City with great places to meet new people. Most Filipino men will be friendly enough to strike a conversation with a lone foreigner woman. Nevertheless, do not immediately trust anyone who is too friendly for comfort. <^>

“Dating and finding a Filipino date can be easy for a foreign woman. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. Despite background differences, an interracial relationship can prosper, since many Filipino guys are open to the idea of dating women from a different race or culture. Just make sure you know how to deal with him. <^>

Male Filipino Date Types

On types of Filipino guts, Gmmurgirl.hubpages.com reported: 1) The Romantic: The romantic types may come few and far in between, but this breed of Filipino men still exists. He is the kind of guy who remembers the special days in your life, wont to bringing gifts, and treats you like a princess. Expect Mr. Romantic to be there for you at all times. He can be cheesy, mushy at times, but that's just him showing his true romantic side. Simply enjoy and return the courtesy. However, if you are not bent on getting serious with him, try not to lead him on nor keep him dangling. Make it clear to him that you are not yet bent on settling down either. Otherwise, you might be proposed at even before you even celebrated your first anniversary. [Source: gmmurgirl.hubpages.com <^>]

2) The Cool Hunk: He is often attractive, savvy and slick with the girls. You better be careful and not easily fall for his charms. He often brags (or not) about his chick-magnetic personality. Women are drawn to him naturally. He generally loves to take care of himself by going to the gym, loves hip clothes, and often becomes the life of the part. He is aware of his effect on women. If you are not ready to break your heart or wants a real keeper, better touch him with a ten-foot pool. He can be fun to be with but a long term relationship is simply not what he's looking for right now. If you want great eye-candy, then having him as a date would do good, but that's it. You better proceed with caution. <^>

3) The Geeky: He may not look like the over-hyped geek in those reality shows but yes, they exist and can be 'geekily' hot even. Intelligent-looking guys have their special allure that draws certain women. He can be cute and geeky at the same time. He can be serious and might seem to be more interested in his studies or career but scratch beneath the surface and you might find a real gem. This kind of guy loves knowledge and you better be up to the challenge. He might look boring at times but definitely he wants someone who can be up her toes. He also loves setting high goals for himself be it in school or in his career. He can be intensely tied up with work or pursuing his masters or doctoral degree. A geek can be quite a handful if you are looking for engaging company as they may never run out of conversation topics. Since they crank their brains on a 24/7 basis, you might as well be on your toes and make sure that you have enough in between the ears to at least match his intellect. Finally, Mr. Geek can be quite choosy in their women. <^>

4) The Master Chicker: He is the modern Casanova and he would often like to maintain this image for a long time. He simply loves women and monogamy is not in his vocabulary. Most of them can't stand being in a serious relationship. Love for him is like a game of hunting and chasing. This may go on even into his middle age. Don't get too close, lest you risk losing your mind and heart. <^>

5) The Mama's Boy: Mama's boys are everywhere and there are good and bad sides of this types. They would rather follow what mom says and this can include who to date and when. You need not worry much if you're not bent on marrying him. There is nothing wrong if he simply adores his mother but it's a total different story if he makes her dictate everything in his life when he is already a full-grown adult. 6) Mr. Dependent: Yes, since the Filipino culture allows it, there are many Filipino guys still living with their parents. This may come as a shock for those in the west, but that's how it goes in the Philippines. Extended families are common and a guy may still be with his folks until he is ready to move out. In fact, many still live with their parents until well into their 30's or until they marry. This doesn't mean that the guy that you are dating is still a baby. <^>

Courtship in the Philippines

In Philippine culture, courtship is far more subdued and indirect unlike in some Western societies. A man who is interested in courting a woman has to be discreet and friendly at first, in order not to be seen as too presko or mayabang (aggressive or too presumptuous). Friendly dates are often the starting point, often with a group of other friends. Later, couples may go out on their own, but this is still to be done discreetly. If the couple has decided to come out in the open about their romance, they will tell their family and friends as well.[Source: Center for Southeast Asian Studies Northern Illinois University, seasite.niu.edu <>]

In the Philippines, if a man wants to be taken seriously by a woman, he has to visit the latter's family and introduce himself formally to the parents of the girl. It is rather inappropriate to court a woman and formalize the relationship without informing the parents of the girl. It is always expected that the guy must show his face to the girl's family. And if a guy wants to be acceptable to the girl's family, he has to give pasalubong (gifts) every time he drops by her family's house. It is said that in the Philippines, courting a Filipina means courting her family as well. <>

In courting a Filipina, the metaphor often used is that of playing baseball. The man is said to reach 'first base' if the girl accepts his proposal to go out on a date for the first time. Thereafter, going out on several dates is like reaching the second and third bases. A 'home-run' is one where the girl formally accepts the man's love, and they become magkasintahan (from sinta, love), a term for boyfriend-girlfriend. <>

Filipino women are expected to be pakipot (playing hard to get) because it is seen as an appropriate behavior in a courtship dance. By being pakipot, the girl tells the man that he has to work hard to win her love. It is also one way by which the Filipina will be able to measure the sincerity of her admirer. Some courtships could last years before the woman accepts the man's love. <>

A traditional dalagang Pilipina (Filipinpa maiden) is someone who is mahinhin (modest, shy, with good upbringing, well-mannered) and does not show her admirer that she is also in love with him immediately. She is also not supposed to go out on a date with several men. The opposite of mahinhin is malandi (flirt), which is taboo in Filipino culture as far as courtship is concerned. <>

Rural Filipino Courtship

During the old times and in the rural areas of the Philippines, Filipino men would make harana (serenade) the women at night and sing songs of love and affection. This is basically a Spanish influence. The man is usually accompanied by his close friends who provide moral support for the guy, apart from singing with him. [Source: Center for Southeast Asian Studies Northern Illinois University, seasite.niu.edu]

On rural traditions Salmagundi wrote in stuartxchange.com: The "lupakan" was the afternoon gathering of the rural youth, the men pounding on unripe bananas fed onto the "lusong" by the young village lasses, the air palpable with raging hormones, the young men oozing with testosterone, the young women flushed with flirting. In the evenings, there was once the "harana," when a suitor, spurred by love and a supporting cast of a friend or two, guitar in tote, will venture to the young woman's house, serenading her with love songs. During the days, the young man labors for good impressions, courts the good graces of the girl's parents, dropping by to offer a hand with the daily chores–chopping wood, fetching water from the river, helping with the tilling of the land. And believe it or not, love letters were exchanged. . . by mail. These rituals of courtship are fast fading into oblivion, persisting in a few and scattered rural communities. [Source: Salmagundi, stuartxchange.com */*]

What has replaced the romance of rural courtship is. . . texting. Yes, texting. . . in its abbreviated and abridged messaging. Often it starts as an anonymous faceless text introduction that leads to a flurry of text-exchanges. The texting could go on for a month or two before an actual meeting occurs. Then if sparks fly. . . courtship continues on the cheap, with unlimited texting that leads to: i luv u. . . i luv u2. . . mis u. . . mis u2. . and eventually, texted marriage proposals. */*

Language and Love in the Philippines

A study of women in Europe, Japan and the Philippines asked them to fill out forms that measured heir experiences of passionate love. All three said they felt love with the same level of intensity.

Edilberto Alegre wrote in his From Pinoy na Pinoy column in Businessworld: "Mahal kita, mahal kita, hindi ito bola." The phrase is the first verse line of a song which was written by a teenager, so said a DJ of the time, in the early 1970s. That's some three decades ago. And yet we still hear it played on the radio, especially around this time of the year. The line literally means "I love you, I love you, I am not joking." Bola means ball, as in basketball. To "make bola," a patent and peculiar English Tagalog statement, derives from Tagalog: e.g. Binobola mo lang ako, which implies saying untruths but in such a charming manner that what the speaker says appear to be true. It's related to "binibilog ang ulo," literally making a head round -- bola (ball) and bilog (circle) have the same shape round. It remotely recalls "drawing circles" around someone. [Source: Edilberto Alegre, From Pinoy na Pinoy column, Businessworld February 14, 2002, Center for Southeast Asian Studies Northern Illinois University, seasite.niu.edu ]

“To make the title of this section sound closer to English, then: "Seriously, I love you." That deflates the statement though, since the translation is bereft of all that affection in a Pinoy's wooing of a woman. Affection and the lightness of language -- for she, if Pinoy, too, knows he can just be saying it but not truly meaning it, so he enjoins her at the end of the line plaintively: do believe me, hindi ito bola, seriously, peks man, cross my heart and hope to die.

“Deep down the Pinoy knows words are just that -- words. Sounds articulated by the vocal cords. Nice to say, good to hear. They need not always carry the weight of truth. And we're adept at manipulating them. It's a cultural attitude to language. We're not supposed to believe everything we hear. Verbal meaning is kahulugan. The root word is hulog which means "fall" (nahulog sa hagdan -- (s)he fell down the stairs) primarily and "partial" (hulugan -- installment) secondarily. So there are always implications and nuances and the truth is more in them than in the words themselves. So, the bearer must be assured by the speaker -- Hindi ito bola.

“Love in the oral level is a game. There is the pursuer and the pursued. And there are the arrows of words to slay the wooed into belief. Even in the written certainly, the attitude to language is the same. No wonder then that the perennial best-seller continues to be a thin book of samples of loveletters. In Tagalog, that is. Where is the truth of the loving, then? In the acts of loving, in the action of love -- especially those which are not meretricious; those which do not advertise the feeling of love and loving behind the act and actions. Wala sa salita; nasa gawa. Not in the words but in the actions.

“What does our language tell us about love? There's a range starting with wooing, suyuan, an old fine Tagalog word that indicates a man's declaration of his love by overt action, verbal or otherwise. Usually it's non-verbal -- singing, glancing or stealing glances, services -- and indirect. Ligaw, a more modern term, has directness. Ibig connotes desire, wanting, even an impulse to possess the other. Its highest statement, though, is love of country -- pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa which carries a hint of self-immolation. Mahal implies valuation, therefore, the other is prized, valued highly. It's root meaning has to do with the monetary cost of goods as in Mahal ang mga bilihin ngayon (Goods are costly now).

“While manuyo (from suyo) and manligaw are active, they are traditionally a man's action toward a woman. A one-sided wooing, a pursuit of the woman's heart. Ibig and mahal are feelings. They express the content of the heart that pursues. The words are focused on what the wooer feels for the wooed. There are three words which have become poetic because, I think, they are old expressions. Irog is fondness or affection for another. When there's a hint of yearning it becomes giliw. When there is reciprocity it becomes sinta. And thus sweethearts or lovers or magkasintahan. And when one introduces the other the term of reference is kasintahan. If it's friendship it's ka-ibig-an; a friendship which has a latent possibility for desire. Kasintahan is closer to affection.

“Purely physical desire is of another category altogether: pagnanais. The root word nais implies focused desire; focused on an object or objection, that is. While that which is desirable is kanais-nais, its opposite, di-kanais-nais, is not only not nice but unpleasant. In contrast to pagnanais the words which refer to love or loving (suyo, ligaw, ibig, mahal, irog, giliw, sinta) contain a lightness -- fondness, affection, yearning. There's no obsessiveness, no imprisoning. There's the lightness of flowing air, the grace of morning's tropical sunlight.

“No possessiveness. Perhaps this has to do with man's regard for woman, for it is the man who woos. More probably though, it has to do with the completion of the self with, in, and through one other person (the kita relationship in Tagalog) as only one aspect of the I -- personhood: there's also ako (just the self and no other), tayo (relationship with two or more persons, including the person directly addressed) and kami (also with two or more persons, but excluding the person directly addressed). The completion of the self in kita cannot possibly deny tayo and kami. While one desires, one wants, too, to yield. There can be and there is passion, physical, but it dissolves in tenderness, in affection, in fondness. Softness wins out in Pinoy loving: it's only in yielding the self that one becomes complete.

Filipino Love Stories

Edilberto Alegre wrote in his From Pinoy na Pinoy column in Businessworld: "How does one show na hindi ito bola? There is a cultural context to it, of course. As red roses in the west. There's the gift giving, too. But traditionally it's pasalubong -- bringing someone a gift since (s)he was not there when the giver was. A gift to show that one remembered. Valentine's Day is a foreign idea which has not yet seeped into our traditional cultures. [Source: Edilberto Alegre, From Pinoy na Pinoy column, Businessworld February 14, 2002, Center for Southeast Asian Studies Northern Illinois University, seasite.niu.edu ]

“But let me dwell on it a bit. Red is the emblem of the heart (so very bloody, though!), as roses should be red if one wishes to get across love as the message of the giving. This one day even old people won't feel corny wearing red shirts or red skirt. I know, in fact, a few who have Valentine's Day attire which they take out only once a year. In the 1970s there was this red-and-white taxi named Alfredo's. On that one day, riders who wore red or red-and-white were entitled to a 50 percent discount. See, how far we can go! Luneta (national park) in those times bloomed in red. That one crazy day!

“They are not that crazy in Japan. Primarily it's because the culture which Valentine's Day still tries to penetrate does not possess the articulate meretriciousness of ours. Theirs is an oppressed society -- oppressed by feudalism which continues to fuel it. Their extreme behavior on this day consists of a mild reversal of roles, namely, the girls can gift the boys with chocolates to express their feelings. And that's confined to the young. Just the young.

“Let me contrast that with a story here in Tacloban, Leyte (Eastern Visayas). A couple who had been married for almost three decades had seven children between them. On Valentine's Day morning, the husband forgot to greet his wife. She let it pass. In the evening he came home a bit tipsy. He had forgotten completely that it was Valentine's Day. When he was changing his clothes she threw her slippers at him. Love and loving we expect even after decades of togetherness.

Divorce in the Philippines

Divorce is banned in the Philippines and legal annulments are an arduous and time-consuming process. Aside from the Vatican, the Philippines is the only country in the world that does not allow divorce, and church leaders intend to keep it that way. Huffington Post reported: “With about 80 percent of its population Roman Catholic, the nation is the bastion of the Catholic church in Asia. Philippine Catholic leaders remain firm on their stand against divorce, despite Pope Francis’s recent comment to change the tone on the issue.’

Currently, the existing law in the Philippines allows for annulment, declaration of nullity of marriage, and legal separation, but not divorce. Marriage annulment in the Philippines is an extremely difficult legal issue that requires a qualified lawyer who is intimately familiar with all of the intricacies and complexities regarding the annulment of marriage in the Philippines. Filipinos who have obtained a divorce outside of the Philippines must still obtain an annulment in the Philippines to regularize their situation.

Kate McGeown of the BBC wrote: “With the strong influence of the Catholic faith, divorce is illegal in the Philippines. But couples who have fallen out of love find novel ways to split - including multiple annulments. For a country which does not allow divorce, there seems to be an awful lot of people in the Philippines who have ex-wives or ex-husbands. It is not something that is often talked about openly, but in any gathering of professional Filipinos, you can be fairly sure that at least one is onto their second or maybe even third marriage. [Source: Kate McGeown, BBC, June 11, 2011 \*/]

“ And I have met some people who say there is little incentive to get married in the first place. One woman I found sitting in a doorway cleaning vegetables - a 22-year-old pregnant with her fourth child - looks at me with bewilderment when I ask if she's married to the man standing with his arm around her. This is not really on the agenda for now, she says - they have too many other things to worry about. \*/

“There are undoubtedly people who feel trapped by the lack of a divorce law - those whose first partners are long gone and who would dearly love to marry someone else, and the children born out of wedlock and into stigma because their parents cannot get married. Supporters for legal divorce also point to the high number of battered wives who feel trapped, unable to leave their husbands. A small percentage of Filipinos are already allowed to divorce - the 5 percent of the population who are Muslim, and also some Filipinos married to foreigners. \*/

Civil Annulment, Consensual Separation and Remarriage in the Philippines

Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “The Catholic Church does not allow divorce of any kind, but it will grant annulments, which most Filipinos find socially distasteful. However, generally, we find civil decrees of legal separation, divorce, and annulment are becoming more socially acceptable for Christian and Muslim Filipinos. A civil divorce requires that the ex-husband support the children and provide some assistance to the ex-wife along with household maintenance. [Source:Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality www2.hu-berlin.de/ sexology |~| ]

Slightly more acceptable are consensual separations. What is popular today is having a court declare a marriage null and void under the Family Code (Executive order 209, article 36). The Family Code has adopted the grounds of “psychological incompatibility” as a basis for civil annulments. This was the criterion for annulment articulated by the Catholic Church forty years ago after the Vatican II Council, when annulments became much more common. A civil annulment dissolves the marriage and leaves both parties free to remarry. With the incidence of annulments clearly increasing in the mid-1990s, Filipino Senator A. D. (Nikki) Coseteng introduced in the legislature a pro-marriage anti-divorce bill (no. 179), which now legally defines marriage as an inviolable social institution and the foundation of the family. |~|

The incidence of remarriage is not presently known. However, both in the rural and metropolitan areas, cohabitation is on the upswing because of Western influences and financial problems. In major cities, younger, more sophisticated, and affluent women have more chances for remarriage, but priests will not officiate at a second marriage ceremony unless the Catholic Church has annulled the previous marriage. Despite liberalization in the dissolution or annulment of marriages, the main reason why the divorce rate is still relatively low, when compared to the industrialized countries, is most likely the pervasive influence of the Catholic Church and parental moral values. The importance of extended family norms derives, not only as a source of emotional support and the context for the development of profound personal relations, but also for many other aspects of social life, from financial support to finding a job. Legal separation, divorce, and annulment are still frequently perceived as evidence of personal failure and as a “social anomaly.” The end of the relationship is not viewed as freedom and independence, but as the beginning of a different period in one’s personal life. |~|

How to Split When Divorce Is Banned

With divorce, Kate McGeown of the BBC wrote: “as in many aspects of life” in the Philippines “people have found ways to get around the rules. The main way, if you have got the money to do it, is to get your marriage annulled. It is as if someone waves a magic wand, and both the wedding and the unhappy-ever-after simply never happened. All you need is a psychiatrist to say that there is something wrong with either you or your partner, leaving you unable to fulfil the essential obligations of marriage. Exactly what those obligations are remains somewhat vague - a loophole that has not gone unnoticed by warring couples and their lawyers. [Source: Kate McGeown, BBC, June 11, 2011 \*/]

“Joey's story is typical. He works in PR in Manila's business district, and is bright, articulate and confident. Yet in order for his first marriage to be annulled, he had to declare that he was psychologically incapacitated. Now I am no expert, but Joey does not look psychologically incapacitated to me. He has a broad smile and a ready wit - and he even manages to find our meeting place despite my appalling directions. But a psychiatrist said he was psychologically incapacitated, and a judge agreed. Six months later, and more than $1,000 (£600) poorer, Joey was free to marry again. It is a legal fudge that seems to work quite well. Many celebrities have gone down the same route, sometimes more than once, but success is not guaranteed. I have heard of cases mired in the courts for years, others which have cost $5,000 (£3,000) or even more, and some which have been refused outright. \*/

“And it is hardly an option available to everyone. This is a country where a third of the population live on less than a dollar a day. An annulment is simply too expensive for the vast majority of people. The result is a two-tier system, where rich people can marry again and poor people cannot. I have visited many of Manila's slums in the course of my job. Almost everyone is Catholic, and almost everyone attends Sunday worship - large families filing out of the rabbit warren of precarious structures they call home and piling into the churches. But, even here, it is not hard to find people who have circumvented the church's rules. Many of those whose marriages have fallen apart simply move on to live with someone else. \*/

So why does the government not just accept that some marriages fail, like they do everywhere else - and that divorce is sometimes the only option? Because that would be to ignore the strong feelings people have toward their faith. The majority of people here are not just lip-service Catholics, but fasting, praying, regular-attending members of the church. And when the bishops say that divorce is anti-Filipino, and to legalise it would be to cheapen the institution of marriage, people take that message seriously. What really surprises me is that out of all the people I've spoken to who are separated, or have had their marriages annulled, few say the Philippines is ready for a divorce law. Annulment should be accessible to everyone, they say - laws should be passed to make it quicker and simpler, broadening the criteria for when it can be granted, and dispensing with the need for a psychiatrist. So, basically, divorce by another name - a uniquely Philippine solution. \*/

Querida System

According to laonlaan.blogspot.jp: “What divorce is to the Westerners, querida system is to a few Filipino males. This is a way of life wherein a married man maintains a mistress, sometimes to the extent of including a second home. The Filipino married male who keeps a querida provides the mistress subsistence and goes home to her once in a while but he is ever careful to keep the relationship a secret from his lawful wife. If his mistress bears him a child, he usually supports the bastard but is very careful not to acknowledge the child’s paternity. This is not only because his wife might discover it but also because he might be accused of immorality especially if he is a government official or employee with civil service eligibility. [Source: laonlaan.blogspot.jp, June 24, 2010 ^^^]

“This behavior is generally considered “normal” since it goes along with the concept of “machismo.” The “machismo” complex somehow encourages the Filipino male to take on a sexual role which could only be verified by the peer group to which he belongs in terms of the number of affairs he maintains and children he sires either with his legitimate wife or his mistresses. In fact, it is not surprising to find a laborer or jeepney driver earning hardly P300 a month, to have two or three kabits (mistresses). ^^^

“For the mistress, having a child means a sure source of income. A man may not support his mistress but he can be coerced into supporting the child. Since being a mistress is a temporary affair wherein youth is dissipated in the process, without a child, she gets into a pitiful situation in old age. Philandering by the Filipino male is not very much looked down upon in the Filipino culture. Because he is a man, he can be forgiven for taking too much sexual freedom. He just wants to prove his masculinity. On the other hand, Filipino wives feel that sex is primarily the husband’s pleasure, so it can be denied him if he misbehaves. Outside the “kulambo” (mosquito net) is a punishment meted out to a husband who has been caught by his wife having an affair with another woman.” ^^^

Staying Married in the Philippines Even After Being Threatened with a Knife

One Filipino woman wrote in the Huffington Post, “My friend Anna was seven years old when her father entered their room with a knife and threatened to stab her mother. That night, Anna and her mother ran away from their home, leaving Anna’s father and her siblings behind. Eleven years later, Anna still remembers that night extremely clearly. Anna says her mother had to run away to escape from her father since their marriage could not be dissolved legally. [Source: Huffington Post, October 24, 2013 +/+]

“In Anna’s mother’s case, the beatings started when she discovered that her husband had a mistress, a woman he had met at a beer house. Anna’s mother confronted him, and he responded by regularly punching, kicking, and throwing hot coffee at her. He would go home drunk and beat her. Anna’s mother’s case is not an isolated one. The Philippines’s National Statistics Office (NSO), through the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), found that one in seven married women experienced physical violence from their husbands. They also experienced other forms of abuse including sexual, emotional, and economic violence. +/+

“Anna’s mother, like many other Filipino women, will not file for legal separation or an annulment because it’s a long, time-consuming, and expensive process. She says she might as well spend the money on food. For Anna, the separation of her parents brought distress and confusion to her life as a child. Her siblings didn’t take the separation easily either. They rebelled against their parents and did not finish their studies.” When asked about her feelings on divorce, Anna remains indifferent. “For me, marriage doesn’t really matter, and neither does divorce,” she says.+/+

Pushing for a Divorce Law in the Philippines

The Huffington Post reported: “Representative Luzviminda Ilagan is a member of the Philippine Congress, representing Gabriela, a women’s group. She believes that domestic violence alone is a strong enough reason to push for a divorce law in the country, and she says she will be refiling the divorce bill in the current congress. “Divorce, when introduced into our laws, will provide an alternative for couples in irreparable marriages,” says Ilagan. “The extent of domestic violence and abuse in the Philippines is one of the main reasons in pushing for divorce in the Philippines.” Ilagan believes the bill will bring about change in the way Philippine society views women in general. She says the low regard for women and children makes them highly vulnerable to abuse. She believes the bill will empower women. [Source: Huffington Post, October 24, 2013 +/+]

James Imbong, legal counsel of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), says that pushing for a divorce law in the country is unconstitutional. In his explanation, he quotes article 15, section 2 of the Philippine Constitution that states: Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State. “To ‘protect’ means to prevent anything from destroying something. That is not even a legal definition and you do not have to be a lawyer to understand what that means,” Imbong says. +/+

Ilagan says divorce will not destroy marriages and family bonds. “It will not weaken marriages and families in the Philippines. We cannot deny the existence of abusive and irreparable marriages,” she says. “And we cannot deny the fact that couples have and will get separated with or without a divorce law.” Ilagan maintains that the existing law on dissolving marriages is not enough. “These options have their respective limitations and loopholes and are insufficient responses to the needs of couples in unhappy and irreparable marriages and/or abusive relationships,” says Ilagan. “Legal separation does not allow couples to remarry, while annulment abolishes the marriage and does not recognize that the marriage ever existed.” +/+

“Imbong argues that divorce strips children away from their parents and deprives them of good parental upbringing. “A child is called a child precisely because he/she needs the help of adults to mold him/her into a mature person fit to be called an adult and ultimately become a productive citizen,” says Imbong. Meanwhile, Ilagan says that the divorce bill will clear questions about conjugal property and children’s legitimacy. She says that it will also contain details on child support mechanisms after a marriage has been severed. +/+

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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