The Philippines is famous for mail-order brides. Poverty and the lack of employment in the Philippines have forced millions of Filipinos to find work abroad and some to seek marriage with foreigners, most with hopes of a better life and being able to support their families back home.

Jonathan M. Hicap wrote in the Korea Times, In May 2009, “Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin found himself the target of criticism in the Philippines when he quipped on the Late Night Show with David Letterman about letting a Filipina mail order bride in order to expand his family and have more kids. His comments sparked outrage, with one Filipino senator threatening to beat him up if he sets foot in the country. Baldwin later apologized but the Philippine Bureau of Immigration still banned him from visiting the country. The issue of mail-order brides has been a contentious issue in the Philippines for years. Yearly, thousands of Filipino women who seek a better life are getting into brokered marriages arranged through matchmaking but many end up as victims of domestic violence and abuse. [Source: Jonathan M. Hicap, Korea Times, 2009]

Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “ With the advance of information technology, foreigners seeking brides with traditional values can now surf the Internet for a modest fee. Companies also advertise “mail order brides” in different magazines and specialty journals. There are currently about 100 companies competing to lure mail-order bride customers, such as “Cherry Blossoms,” “Asian Rose,” and “Exotic Girls.” The service charge can range from a basic $150 to upwards of $2,500. For $150, the bridegroom-to-be will receive a brief biographical sketch and a photo or video of the woman. He can correspond with her in letters or even phone calls. He can arrange to go to the Philippines and see her at his own expense. For $2,500, the services include airfare, hotel accommodations, and a two- or three-day tour to personally interact with the candidate bride(s). The client is introduced to different women during a party and the couples can interact socially. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]

“A major shortcoming of this venue for finding a mate is that the interested males are not screened properly. These men can be psychopaths, criminals, or worse. In some cases, a syndicate of “Internet bride-merchants” sells young women aged 14 to 18, oftentimes with fake birth certificates, for a mere $3,000. These women are admitted to the United States on a fiancée’s visa. Parents with severe income hardship frequently sign the contract believing that their daughters will either be given a job opportunity or be future brides of these unscrupulous foreigners. Recently, a congressman from the state of New Jersey sponsored a bill in the United States Congress to severely restrict the issuing of these “fiancée’s visas” and to stop the practice of “bride-to-be/sex slave” businesses. Newspaper reports and embassy communiqués have documented that many young Filipino mailorder and Internet brides are held captive, raped, divorced, and then pressed into prostitution.” |~|

Filipino Wives in Japan and South Korea

Many single rural men in Japan have chosen wives from picture from catalogs of poor women in the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China and even Brazil and Peru. The men usually travel to the home country of the women, who invariable can't speak Japanese,

Filipinos are the forth largest ethnic group in Japan after Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians (most of which Brazilian Japanese). Of the 105,308 Filipinos in Japan in 1999, 89,645 of them were women and half of themm were married to Japanese. At that time about 300 to 350 Filipinas entered Japan each month. Many initially worked as hostesses. Some were looking for a sugar daddy husband. See International Marriages in Japan

These days many Korean men seek Filipina wives (See Below). A number of Australians and Europeans have also married women from the Philippines. Thousands of Filipina mail order brides have also found their way to the United States. Philippine brides have been the victim of murder in the United States. Filipinas once dominated the American mail order bride business. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the business has been taken over by women from Russian and the former eastern bloc.

Jonathan M. Hicap wrote in the Korea Times, In May 2009, “Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin found himself the target of criticism in the Philippines when he quipped on the Late Night Show with David Letterman about letting a Filipina mail order bride in order to expand his family and have more kids. His comments sparked outrage, with one Filipino senator threatening to beat him up if he sets foot in the country. Baldwin later apologized but the Philippine Bureau of Immigration still banned him from visiting the country. The issue of mail-order brides has been a contentious issue in the Philippines for years. Yearly, thousands of Filipino women who seek a better life are getting into brokered marriages arranged through matchmaking but many end up as victims of domestic violence and abuse. [Source: Jonathan M. Hicap, Korea Times, 2009]

Maria Regina Angela Galias, head of the Migrant Integration and Education Division of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), told the Korea Times that lately, South Korea and Japan have become the top destinations of Filipina mail-order brides. Filipino women who get married under the mail-order bride scheme are usually between 18 and 25 years old and want to help their families in the Philippines. In most cases, we learned that they agreed to enter the scheme to help their families for economic reasons. For some, mail order was the only choice they had to marry a foreigner and live or work in another country, Galias said. [Source: Jonathan M. Hicap, Korea Times, 2009]

Filipino Law and Mail-Order Brides

Jonathan M. Hicap wrote in the Korea Times, “Today, the global mail-order bride industry has evolved. On many Web sites, you will see Filipina and other Asian women being advertised as prospective brides. The scheme was outlawed in the Philippines with the passing of Republic Act 6955, or the Anti-Mail-Order-Bride Law in 1990, which banned the practice of matching Filipino women for marriage to foreign nationals on a mail order basis and other similar practices, including the advertisement, publication, printing or distribution of brochures, fliers and other propaganda materials. However, illegal marriage brokers continue to operate underground in the Philippines and victimize innocent Filipino women. [Source: Jonathan M. Hicap, Korea Times, 2009 +=+]

“The Philippine government regulates the marriage between Filipinos and foreigners by requiring Filipinos to attend counseling. Under Philippine law, Filipino women who are going overseas as fiancees and spouses of foreign nationals are required to attend the CFO's guidance and counseling program to help them make informed decisions regarding their marriage to foreign nationals and to prepare them for their adjustments in cross-cultural marriages. Attending the program is a pre-requisite for the issuance of a passport. +=+

After the counseling, the CFO issues certificate and registration stickers to the applicant before they leave the country. The counseling program proved to be an effective tool in identifying Filipino women who are mail-order brides. Galias said that in the recent conversations they had with those involved, many revealed the questionable means used as to how they met their foreign husbands.In the counseling, Filipinas are required to talk to the counselor and fill in a form in which they are required to state how they met their husbands. "When you think about it deeply, it constitutes a mail-order bride scheme because there was matchmaking involved and a fee was paid by either party,'' she said. These, she said, are clear violations of the Philippines' anti-mail-order-bride law. During the counseling, the females involved in the practice tell lies in order not to be caught by the interviewer. But they eventually fail when they can't even answer simple questions like the job of their husbands. In some cases, they admit that a third party introduced them to their husbands. +=+

“Galias said Filipina women who are identified as mail-order brides are subjected to in-depth counseling. Under the counseling, we try to educate them about the situation that they are going into, she said. In succeeding counseling, the CFO learns that someone was coercing them to contract marriage with a foreigner or they don't really know the situation they were facing, including not knowing that the Philippines has an anti-mail-order-bride law. "They know they have the wrong reason in marrying a foreigner but still they did it,'' Galias said. Galias said the CFO is providing the Philippine embassy with a list of Filipinas who went through CFO so they can contact them and ask about their situation and give them services. +=+

Filipinas Make Great Wives

Joe Smith wrote in the blog “Filipinas make great wives, which I can speak from personal experience. Here are a few things to consider if you want to look for love in the Philippines. 1) Filipinas are not “mail-order brides.” This term (often used by those bitter about Westerners seeking foreign wives) is neither fair nor accurate. It’s true that in past decades men would buy mailing addresses of women in catalogues. But even then they weren’t “ordering” a wife. They were simply getting contact information and it was up to the woman to respond or ignore letters from long distance admirers. Now the term is completely antiquated. I first met my wife online and we met in person some time later. Most of the guys I’ve met with Filipina wives have very similar stories—none of them “bought” their wives. [Source: Joe Smith,]

2) Filipinas are very open to dating and marrying older men. I’m significantly older than my wife. Some of my friends who found love in the Philippines married women 20 or more years their junior. Not all Filipinas marry older men, of course, but they are much more open to it than Western women. Let’s pretend a Western bachelor in his late 30’s or 40’s is thinking about settling down and getting married. His options in his home country may be limited to women who past their prime in terms of beauty and fertility even if he is successful and reasonably attractive. He won’t meet many women in their 20’s who are interested in romance with him unless he is rich and famous. His options are much, much different in the Philippines. This same bachelor would probably have 19-year-old women telling him he is “guwapo” (handsome). Filipinas are especially attracted to Caucasian features, so this average-looking guy would find he has suddenly been promoted to rock-star status as far as his dating options go.

3) Filipinas consider the practical implications of marriage. Some may argue Asian women are only attracted to Western dollars, not men. There are gold-diggers everywhere, but I think this is an unfair assessment of Filipinas. Money does play a role, but it does so in virtually every woman’s decision of whom to marry. I think Asian women in general understand the practical implications of marriage that the Western world largely ignores. An older man can offer stability and maturity while a younger woman will usually be more beautiful and fertile. A Western man may be able to offer a level of financial stability that an Asian woman could not find with a man in her own country.

4) Filipinas are slim, petite, and attractive. Someone recently posted an article here about obesity among American women and reached this conclusion: “The rise in the desirability of Asian women is due to their lower rates of obesity.” I can’t really argue with this author’s assertion. The obesity rates in the Asian countries I’ve been in are nowhere near the 50 percent you’d see in America. Most guys who visit the Philippines are simply blown away by the beauty of the women. Their dark hair, dark eyes, naturally tanned skin and slender figures are a welcome change of pace for many.

5) Filipinas tend to be conservative in terms of sexual values. This is not to say that all women in the Philippines are virgins until they marry (though it is not unheard of), but most Filipinas tend to express their sexuality only within some kind of committed relationship. They are, generally speaking, not promiscuous and very faithful within relationships. 6) Filipinas value family and motherhood. Feminism and secularism has convinced Western women that the 20-something years are best spent climbing the corporate ladder and riding the sexual carousel. Women in the Philippines, by contrast, place a high value on becoming wives and mothers. Filipinas can and do work outside the home, but she’ll always consider her family the first priority. 7) Filipinas are proficient in English. A typical woman in the Philippines speaks at least two or three languages: Tagalog/Filipino (the national language), English (taught starting in the elementary school years), and one or more local languages. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to other Asian countries and I found the people in the Philippines much easier to understand. This can be a big advantage if you are thinking about finding romance.

Filipino Brides in the U.S.

Mae Ryan wrote in Off-Ramp: Brenn Holiday and Bonna Joy Holiday met online four years ago. Bonna feels blessed to live in the States with her husband, but hopes that they will move back to the Philippines one day. Richard Novac was done with dating American women. After a failed 18-month marriage and forays into the L.A. dating scene, he decided that women here were too independent. So he turned to the internet for a foreign bride. After five years of research, Richard ruled out Eastern European women because he wasn’t rich enough, but Filipino women fit the bill; English is their first language, Catholicism promotes traditional values, and they are petite. “I came to the conclusion, correct or incorrect, that our culture has been doing a disservice to women,” Novac said. [Source: Mae Ryan, Off-Ramp, September 26, 2012]

“The search for supplicant brides often leads American men to the Philippines, but interviews with brides and husbands show that the search for a mate can often lead to cultural consternation. Dr. Annalisa Enrile, a Filipino professor in social work at USC and a board member of the Mariposa Center for Change, said these marriages last because of a value in the Philippines called Utang Na Loob, which roughly translates as a debt of gratitude. “They feel that they owe this man something,” Enrile said. “And they owe it to him to make the relationship work.” The Mariposa Center for Change helps about 50 Filipino women every year who came to the States through dating websites and end up victims of abuse and domestic violence. Thousands of Filipino women marry American men every year and it’s difficult to measure how many end up in abusive marriages and how many find the right mates, but there’s a spectrum of results, Enrile said.

“Enrile says that these women often stay in the marriages because they don’t know where to turn for help in the U.S. and they worry they won’t be able to get their papers to stay in the country. Novac sorted through thousands of online profiles on Cherry Blossoms, an online dating service that connects Asian women and foreign men, before finding his wife Evangeline. Today, Evangeline and Richard have been married for seven years, are raising a daughter, and expect another baby. “I was just focused,” Evangeline Novac said. “I wanted to meet an American guy because that’s my dream.” Their marriage was mutually beneficial; she gained a loving husband, financial stability and US citizenship, while he got a more traditional wife and a strong family.

“On a warm August night, 15 Filipino women gathered with their husbands in The Bungalows, a gated community in Orange County with identical facades and potted plants, for a birthday party. Bisaya, a Filipino language, and salted fish filled the air as young kids run through the quiet streets, and their fathers pour mixed drinks. Most of these men are 10 to 30 years older than their Filipino wives, but many of the women in attendance say that the age gap doesn’t bother them as much as the cultural gap. “If my husband is ready to move [to the Philippines] today, I’ll go,” Bonna Joy Holiday said. She has been in the states for four years and met her body builder husband on She loves her husband but often feels isolated when he goes to work and she’s home alone without a network of friends to fall back on, Bonna said. Other women at the party have full-time jobs, pursue educational opportunities or just enjoy taking care of their kids. “If not for my parents [in the Philippines] I wouldn’t go home,” said Emma Holden, who used to talk with her husband Joel for an hour every day when they were dating online.

“Cherry Blossoms, one of the prominent dating sites for men to meet Asian women, started as a mail-order bride catalogue in the early ‘70s. Today, the site has online profiles. “I am looking for a woman who believes in God, home oriented, likes to cook, go to church and help others. I believe in Jesus Christ and I am his follower,” a user calling himself Tim S. wrote on the site. Men on these sites sometimes misrepresent themselves as good Christians, but are actually in the market for subservient women, Enrile said. She also noted that Filipino values can create a culture of servitude for women. Another Filipino value called Pakikisama roughly translates to maintaining smooth interpersonal relationships and loyalties, and Dr. Enrile thinks that this cultural norm keeps women from leaving their marriage. “These dating sites make me feel like we’re a commodity and you can buy and sell us like anything on eBay,” Enrile, a Filipino herself, said.

Californian Man Meets Filapina 33 Years Younger Than Him Online

Divorcee David Haldane of Orange County married a Filapina women 33 years than him in 2008 when he was 59. Describing how they met online he wrote in Orange Coast magazine, “Because I was deeply frustrated by my dating experiences in America, I one night impulsively did an Internet search for “Asian women” and up popped Aimed at fostering long-term relationships between Western men and Filipino women, the site allowed any man willing to pay a modest fee to advertise, respond to women’s ads, or engage in live video chats. Initially, I admit, it all felt strange. Then I began noticing the stunning friendliness of the women I found there. More important was their willingness—no, eagerness—to commit to someone like me. [Source: David Haldane,Orange Coast magazine, April 11, 2012 -]

“The online flirting began as a lark. I started spending evenings on the website chatting with interesting women. Some were obviously looking for handouts; I quickly learned to ignore anyone mentioning sick relatives with unpaid hospital bills in the first conversation. Most, however, seemed like decent folk with good family values, honest about what they were seeking. My search gradually narrowed during the next several months. One night, glancing at a chat box on my screen, I saw the image of a young woman resting her head on a desk at what looked like an Internet café. What got my attention was that she wasn’t trying to get my attention. And so our conversation began. -

What impressed me immediately about Ivy, then almost 24 to my 57, were her detailed responses to the questions I posed. Rereading them now, I’m struck by the directness of our initial emails. “I’m looking for someone who will stay with me for the rest of my life,” I confessed barely two weeks into thetalk. The next day came her reply. “David, we have to realize that love is not enough to make a relationship work; we need trust, respect, time, effort, and total commitment … I believe you can fall in love after you marry because … we should not let passion but wisdom decide.” Part of me thought it was crazy to even consider someone so young. There were 33 years between us; had I completely lost my mind? What would my friends and family think? I raised the issue with Ivy on several occasions. “You say that I am young,” she responded, “but I am fixed in my mind and know what I want. Don’t worry about the age gap because it doesn’t matter; most important is that I meet a real person who can be trusted and loved.” At times I wondered whether I was just being played. But as the discourse continued, her message remained consistent. And so I decided to go find out. -

Californian Meets His Young Future Wife on a Small Philippine Island

The girl lived in the village of Caridada on the island of Siargao off Mindanao. David Haldane wrote in Orange Coast magazine, “I had never heard of Siargao, a remote tear-shaped spot of land comprising about 170 square miles off the eastern coast of Mindanao, a region known among other things for its nascent Muslim insurgency. Fortunately, Ivy’s home island is more famous for its excellent surfing, large mangrove forests, and gorgeous white-sand beaches. When the time came for us to meet, though, I had some serious travel planning to do. Here’s how it shook out: a 16-hour plane ride to Manila, followed by a shorter flight to Cebu, then an overnight ferry ride to a small city where she met me with a chaperoning cousin in tow. Before exchanging even a dozen words, the three of us had boarded a boat laden with pigs and bananas for the three-hour trip to the island. [Source: David Haldane, Orange Coast magazine, April 11, 2012 -]

“I can’t honestly say it was love at first sight. The truth is that Ivy, so effusive in her emails, was too shy in person to even look me in the eye, supporting my hunch that people who meet online often are less bold when face to face. Her cousin graciously took up the slack during awkward lulls in conversation. But as we approached the pristine shore of the beautiful place where she was born, the look of the world began to change. The first thing I noticed about Caridad, one of several rural villages on the island and home to about 1,800 souls, was its multitude of children. They were everywhere, playing amid water buffalo-drawn carts. Nobody seemed overly concerned with where each child belonged. When they got hungry, they knocked on a door and were fed; it was simple as that. Several, in fact, were doing just that at Ivy’s home when we arrived. -

“So,” her mother inquired, getting right to the point in halting English after showing me a seat, “you want to marry my daughter.” The truth is, we hadn’t made any such plans. “Well,” I responded, not wanting to be disagreeable, “what would you think of that?” It was then that I noticed the crowd outside, perhaps 30 people of all ages grinning at me through open windows and doors. “Who are they?” I whispered to Ivy. I wasn’t prepared for her response: “They’ve never seen a foreigner up this close.” The rest of the conversation passed in a whirl. What were my goals? Where did I live? Who were my relatives? What did I do? And—my favorite—what had gone wrong in my first marriage that would be fixed this time around? The questions, all from Mom with Dad and several relatives looking on, were merciless. As much as they made me squirm, however, they also commanded respect; here was a family that took seriously the admonition to protect its own. -

“I must have passed muster because Ivy, referred to locally as “black beauty” because of her lovely dark skin, eventually was allowed to accompany me alone on a stroll. We weren’t alone for long, though; on the beach we encountered a second round of questioning, this time from a large group of smiling locals represented by a teacher who conveyed their inquisition in English. Obviously, the town was not inclined to let one of its favorite daughters—or any of its daughters—be whisked away by just anyone, or without serious scrutiny. -

“The next morning, safely ensconced in a small bedroom with Mom, Dad, Ivy, and her three siblings, I was awakened at 6 by a bloodcurdling scream, the cry of one of her father’s pigs giving its life for some crazy visiting foreigner—me. That afternoon the family, along with the majority of its neighbors, enjoyed a feast of lechon, the roasted pork traditionally offered only on the most special occasions. In truth, this was the beginning—not the end—of our discussions about the future. While already an adult who had left home and finished college, Ivy was required by Filipino custom to get her parents’ blessing before proceeding further. She did, and I made several more trips to the Philippines during the next two years of courtship. -

“Once I sat behind Ivy on her father’s motorcycle as she gave me a tour of the island. During that ride, with the smell of the ocean and her long black hair streaming back across my face, I believe I fell in love. Later, on a stretch of white sand once owned by her grandfather, we built a crude wooden shelter with a heart carved into its ceiling. And finally, at the end of a long pier called Cloud 9, I asked Ivy to be my wife.” -

Fifty-Nine- Year-Old Californian Man Marries His 26-Year Old Filipina

David Haldane wrote in Orange Coast magazine, “On February 3, 2008, she arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, an event followed within minutes by a loud bang. That’s because, driving home on the 405 Freeway, I couldn’t help paying more attention to the lovely young woman beside me than to the car in front of us. It stopped and we didn’t. So my fiancée got her first glimpse of Orange County from the cab of a lumbering tow truck dragging my crumpled Mazda behind. [Source: David Haldane, Orange Coast magazine, April 11, 2012 -]

“Despite this inauspicious beginning, we were married two months later. I vividly remember Ivy’s first impressions. She had never seen streets so wide; for a time, she was afraid to cross. Operating a washing machine and microwave were skills she had to acquire. And, accustomed to the continuous sounds of crowing roosters, barking dogs, and squealing children, her most difficult adjustment was to the pervasive silence surrounding our house. “It’s as if we have no neighbors,” my wife often complained. -

“We filled that silence with friends much like us. In the absence of the large family and community structures of the Philippines, we have created a substitute family here in the wilderness of America. That hasn’t been difficult given the West Coast’s proliferation of Filipino Americans, including nearly 700,000 in Southern California, with enclaves in Anaheim, Cerritos, Carson, and Long Beach. Consisting mostly of American men with younger Filipino wives and, increasingly, the children they have produced, our group—which began when some of the women connected on the Internet—has evolved into an active, though informal, association with frequent gatherings at various homes. -

“We are acutely aware, of course, that others outside our group often look at us askance. We have theories as to why, but mine boils down to this: They don’t consider us legitimate. In a society that values—no, practically invented—love as the only valid basis for marriage, anything even suggesting other motives is suspect. And though online dating has become increasingly popular, many still don’t approve of relationships that seem arranged. There’s a reason some people persist in calling them “mail-order brides,” a term most of us find deeply offensive. True, some men and women have literally found their mates in catalogs, but that process bears little resemblance to the reality we know. -

“For starters, U.S. immigration law prohibits bringing a foreign fiancée to America without proof that you’ve actually met. More to the point, modern transportation and the advent of the Internet have put such relationships well within reach. Today it’s not only possible, but practical, to get to know someone intimately across several continents. I’m not saying there aren’t transgressions. Everyone has heard of cases in which women “imported” from abroad have been seriously abused. Or, conversely, the women pretended love just to sidestep immigration laws or get a green card. I believe those are the exception rather than the rule. Most transnational couples we know enjoy real relationships marked by genuine affection. And, while establishing economic security is certainly a motive for many women from underdeveloped countries, there’s evidence that the resulting unions often succeed. -

Life of 63 –Year-Old Californian Man with His 30-Year-Old Filipina Wife

David Haldane wrote in Orange Coast magazine, “Today Ivy and I probably know more than 100 mixed couples scattered throughout Southern California, including many in Orange County. Like us, most met online. Many also have age gaps, though not always as great as ours. And almost all of the couples, at one time or another, have been misunderstood by their peers. Like any family, this one has its share of squabbles. But it also forms the core of our social life, functioning much like Ivy’s village back home. Within this circle we celebrate holidays, baptisms, birthdays, and baby showers. When one woman has a baby, the others take her food. And on the rare occasions that tragedy strikes, we grieve with them as one. [Source: David Haldane, Orange Coast magazine, April 11, 2012 -]

For Ivy and me, like any couple, we’ve had ups and downs. Many of our disagreements turn out to be misunderstandings caused by the language barrier. And contrasting cultural backgrounds occasionally become a source of conflict. For the most part, though, I find the differences appealing, and each day still seems new. That has been especially true since the birth of our son in November 2010. As children will, Isaac has brought whole new dimensions to our lives. We are doting parents, to be sure. But our baby also seems to have conferred new levels of acceptance and respect among doubters in ways we never foresaw.

One of the many who has come around is my daughter, now 27. She never harbored moral or ethical objections to the marriage. But, having inhaled generous whiffs of local “wisdom” that it could never survive, she did have concerns for her father’s future, serious enough to create some reticence about meeting his new bride. “I’m just not ready,” she told me several times for about a year. Though she eventually did visit us, I could tell she still had her doubts.Then along came Isaac and the needle gently shifted. Here, apparently, was evidence that we intended to see this thing through. My skeptical daughter fell in love with her little brother. And even her mom—my former spouse—is now Isaac’s gushing godmother.

At last, after some dark decades, I am once again part of a happy American family.Ivy and I have lots of dreams; later this year we hope to take Isaac on his first visit to the Philippines, and one day we’d like to build a little beach house on that gorgeous stretch of white sand. We’d also like to stop being a nuisance to our Orange County neighbors. To that end we have a plan. This month Ivy and I will be celebrating our fourth anniversary. There will be another party with lots of foreign-born friends, an open garage and, yes, a big roasted pig on the table. This time, however, we will do things differently. First I will call the police to assure them of our complete intention to follow the law. Then we’ll print up a batch of invitations for some of our neighbors. We sincerely hope they’ll come.

Filipina Mail-Order Brides in South Korea

The Philippines government has estimated that about 10,000 Filipino women have married South Koreans. Jonathan M. Hicap wrote in the Korea Times, “While matchmaking companies are illegal in the Philippines, they are legal in South Korea. Every year, thousands of Koreans sign up for matchmaking with the hope of meeting their future spouses. Philippine Ambassador to South Korea Luis Cruz told The Korea Times that marriages contracted through these illegal matchmaking agencies don't involve courtship and there is an exchange of money. These become the root of problems between the mail-order brides and their husbands as language and cultural differences clash and the Filipina women are regarded as commodities bought by the Korean men. [Source: Jonathan M. Hicap, Korea Times, 2009 +=+]

“Based on data from the Korean government, there are 6,191 Filipinos in South Korea who are married to Koreans. However, no data was available on how many of these marriages were products of the mail-order bride scheme. Maria Regina Angela Galias, head of the Migrant Integration and Education Division of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), told the Korea Times the majority of Filipina mail-order brides met their husbands by attending show-ups. Under this, several Filipinas attend a meeting to meet a Korean client who is looking for his future wife. In the show-up, the Korean picks a prospective wife among the group, and in just a matter of days, they get married. That's the mode of introduction to their Korean husbands. It becomes a problem since when they go to Korea, there are a lot of cases when the wives leave their husbands and run away. They abandoned their husbands because they couldn't bear the situation, Galias said. Some illegal brokers in the Philippines also forge CFO certificates so that the Filipina mail-order brides won't have to go to the CFO for counseling. The Korean embassy in the Philippines requires Filipina applicants to submit their CFO certificates for the issuance of visas. +=+

“Galias said that in early 2000, most of the Filipino women who were married to Koreans were college graduates. But, in 2007, most of the brides were high school graduates, an indication that they are mail-order brides. her study on Filipina wives and multicultural families in Korea, assistant professor Kim Min-jung of the department of cultural anthropology at Kangwon National University said Korean men are often greatly influenced by bias and misunderstanding when choosing their foreign wives. She said Korean men characterize Southeast Asian women, including those from the Philippines, as coming from poorer countries; as strangers to Korean culture and language, which will prevent them from running away; as people from a tropical and agricultural country who have good personalities; as docile and obedient; able to speak English; and as familiar with Korean patriarchal culture. +=+

“Kim said Filipino-Korean couples who met through matchmaking agencies and religious organizations are the biggest in number and the center of public attention in relation to human rights and multiculturalism issues. The profile of Korean men who marry mail-order brides belong to the lower-middle class, in their late 30s or older, in need of housewives who will take care of them and their children from failed former marriages, or their old parents, according to the study. Kim said, generally, these men found it difficult to marry Korean women who are younger or obedient to their mother-in-law so they try to find girls in poorer countries have inferior qualifications and circumstances. +=+

Filipinas Warned of Becoming South Korean Mail-Order Brides

Xianne Arcangel wrote in gmanews, “According to a consul from the Philippine Embassy in Seoul, some Filipinas end up working in South Korea as entertainers after being brought there by illegal marriage brokers. “As soon as the women reach South Korea, their passports and other personal documents are taken from them by the employers, husbands or in-laws. Some are even not allowed to use or own a cellphone,” said Second Secretary and Consul Aian Caringal at the Second Multicultural and Law Forum held in Ansan City, South Korea, last November 27. [Source: Xianne Arcangel, gmanews, December 12, 2013]

Although facilitating fixed marriages between a Filipino woman and a foreign national for business purposes is considered illegal in the Philippines under the Anti-Mail Order Bride Law (Republic Act 6955), Caringal said many Filipinas still end up forcibly marrying foreign nationals because of false hopes dangled before them by illegal marriage brokers. The latest data on foreign marriages from the National Statistics Office show that for the years 2004 to 2008, the average ages of Filipinas marrying South Korean men were between 22 and 25.

In June 2013, a team led by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) rescued 29 Filipinas from a mail-order bride syndicate in Cavite servicing South Korean men. PAOCC Executive Director Reginald Villasanta said the women were lured to accept marriage proposals in the hope of having a better life in South Korea. However, he said most of the Filipina brides are abused, resulting in divorce and estrangement from their South Korean husbands. — TJD, GMA News

Filipina Mail-Order Brides in South Korea Vulnerable to Abuse

The Philippine embassy in Seoul has reported receiving many complaints from Filipino women abused by their Korean husbands and whose marriages have ended in abandonment or divorce. It said that the women, who were given false information about their husbands' family backgrounds, were wed through illegal "marriage brokers" in the Philippines, the embassy said in a statement. [Source: Associated Press, June 27, 2013]

Jonathan M. Hicap wrote in the Korea Times, In 2009, Philippine Ambassador to South Korea Luis Cruz warned Filipinos against marrying Korean nationals through illegal matchmaking agencies. He said in recent months that the embassy has received complaints from Filipino wives of abuses committed by their Korean husbands that caused separation, divorce and abandonment. Cruz said that in 2009 the embassy received complaints from 11 Filipino women who are married to Korean husbands. In 2008 it handled 12 complaints. Cruz said in the majority of the complaints, domestic violence was the number one problem involving mail-order brides. [Source: Jonathan M. Hicap, Korea Times, 2009 +=+]

“The study by Kim Min-jung of Kangwon National University revealed that the situation for mail-order brides become a problem because the groom pays thousands of dollars in agency fees, travel, expenses and wedding ceremonies, which give them unconditional rights to choose brides and plan life after marriage. Some unreliable agencies cheat both Korean grooms and Filipina brides, wrote Kim, which is why mail-order bride schemes are described as a form of human trafficking by non-government organizations. +=+

“Galias said Filipina mail-order brides are subjected to abuse as they are regarded by their husbands as a thing or possession. The increasing number of abuse cases involving Filipina mail-order brides in South Korea has alarmed the Philippine government, which has alerted Korean authorities. The Korean government knows that we have a big problem regarding mail order brides bound for South Korea, she said. +=+

“Many Filipina mail-order brides are unable to live happily with their Korean husbands because of cultural differences and abuse. "Based on the report we got, the victims said they felt that they were being abused. The language and culture differences become a main problem for the spouses. It causes misunderstanding. Some of them were really physically and sexually abused so they had to leave their husbands,'' Galias said. Cruz said the Philippine embassy provides counseling and repatriation to the Filipina victims. +=+

“In its 2008 Human Rights Report, the US Department of State said rape and violence against women in South Korea remain a problem. It noted that while trafficking in persons is illegal in South Korea, women from Russia, other countries of the former Soviet Union, China, Mongolia, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries were trafficked to the country for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. In addition, some foreign women recruited for legal and brokered marriages with Korean men ended up in situations of sexual exploitation, debt bondage and involuntary servitude once married, the report said. +=+

“Galias said some complaints the CFO receives include language barrier and adjustment to the Korean way of living. Some had quarrels with their Korean husbands because they don't know how to cook Korean food or they don't eat Korean dishes. Others can't get along with their in-laws. Cruz said problems arise because Filipina-Korean couples are not prepared for marriage. "Their expectations don't match,'' he said. +=+

South Koreans Arrested in Philippine Mail-Order Bride Gang Bust

In June 2013, Associated Press reported: “Philippine authorities have rescued 29 women after busting a mail-order bride business and arresting two South Koreans and their four local partners, a police official said Thursday. Police raided a house Wednesday in Bacoor city near Manila used by the syndicate and found the women, including a 16-year-old girl, said Chief Superintendent Reginald Villasanta, executive director of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission. The syndicate collects thousands of dollars in fees from Korean men seeking Filipino wives, telling them falsely that the money will go to the women's families, Villasanta said. [Source: Associated Press, June 27, 2013 ==]

“Villasanta says the women are promised a prosperous life in South Korea but often end up abused or in unhappy marriages. "We have rescued 29 (Filipino women) who were duped into promises of an instant wealthy life thru marriage with Korean gentlemen although in most cases, they ended up in the losing end after becoming victims of grave abuses," Villasanta said. ==

“Villasanta said the police were tipped off by victims. He did not give details of the police operation. He said the suspects will be charged with violating the human trafficking law, which carries a 20-year prison term, and another law that prohibits mail-order brides, punishable by six years in prison. ==

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.

Last updated June 2015

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