“Sila kasal sa huwes, yung iba, Kasal sa kama?” (They are civilly married, the others, married in bed?)
It has been months since this question was asked by a priest during a public baptismal ceremony in our place. I was a bit shocked with the bluntness of the priest. But, I must admit, he makes sense.
Out of the seven couples present in the celebration, only one couple raised their hands, when the priest asked who among them were married. The couple who raised their hands was not even married to the church, thus the remark of the priest.
I just can’t imagine the embarrassment that the six couples might have been feeling at that time but I can clearly see how they avoid the taunting gaze of the priest.
The problem in this situation is very obvious. The couples present in the celebration are a clear representation of this problem.
Catholics pay so much regard to the sacrament of baptism but fail to recognize the sanctity of marriage. I wonder if Filipinos today are afraid of getting married. Or are we just considering marriage not as important as the other sacraments?
Poverty prevents marriage
In year 2000, around 2.4 million Filipinos were cohabiting (an arrangement where two people are not married but are living together in an intimate relationship particularly in an emotional and/or sexual way, on a long-term or permanent basis). Majority of the couples is between the ages of 20 to 24.
According to the census, the primary factor that led to the cohabitation of Filipinos is poverty.
When I was young, I found out that one of my titas is not yet married. Having three kids, I asked her what seems to be the reason why can’t she be married to my tito.
As a child I know that the main components of marriage is love. So for a second I doubt if my tita really loved her husband.
But then, she just frankly answered, “Wala kaming pera.” (We don’t have money.)
Her answer saddens me. I know, taking care of three young kids is not at all easy, especially if your family is not well-financed. Thus, wedding will become something of a least priority.
Considering the culture and tradition being practiced and observed by Filipinos, getting married may really cost a hefty money. From the church, reception, coverage and what to wear, getting married in the Philippines is not just expensive but can also be very tedious. No matter how couples limit the number of attendees to a small one, being too hospitable and generous, declining a guest even if it is a long-distant cousin of your neighbor is something difficult. Renting decent gowns and photographers can also cost a significant amount of money.
No wonder most couples opt to go for a civil wedding to save them from all the stress and expenses that they may incur.
But does marriage really need to be that expensive? I understand that something like this should be celebrated. However, spending a hefty amount of money is something impractical especially for financially-challenged couples. As long as there is a priest, a witness, the family and the couple and some pancit, we can have a successful wedding.
Moreover, there are a lot of mass weddings now that are being conducted in every locale to promote the sanctity of marriage. And if you are lucky you might even have the mayor as your godparent.
However, considering the kind of culture and tradition being practiced and observed by Filipinos, a marriage with 500 attendees seems to be the norm.
Marrying by accident
Marriage because the girl is pregnant has become a growing problem in our society. Filipino parents cannot sometime fathom the taunts of other people for the fact that they have a “disgrasyadang anak” (disgraceful child).
Last year, our whole family clan attended the wedding of one of my cousins. He was just 19 and was already getting married with her 18 year old girlfriend. Apparently, my cousin has knocked up the girl and my tita insisted that they get married soon.
Sometimes, marriage is not always the answer to solve a problem. It is not the reason to correct something that is wrong. It is a sacrament that should be taken seriously by two persons who promised to be together.
I know a number of women who got pregnant but refused to get married. Not because they are afraid of the commitment of being a mother but because they are not yet ready to fulfill the duties of a wife. They may not have a choice in being a mother, but they can still decide if they want to be tied.
Of course, fornication is a sin, so is abortion. So the least thing that they can do is to be responsible and take the consequences.
For us Catholics, we may have different views on the matter. The numbers may speak for themselves but it does not solve the issue of cohabitation in this country.
We may defy social or religious norms as much as we want, but being Catholics, we have this invisible bond to follow and observe what we deem is correct in the church’s eyes.
I may not be sure of the reason why Filipinos fear marriage. It can be because it is expensive. It can be because they are not ready. It can be because they think it is not for them. It can be because they think it unnecessary. But perhaps the absence of divorce in this country, is another factor. However, this is another story.