October 20, 2006

Something Like Life

I DON’T mean to sound like an economist today. But the latest slew of data out of the National Statistics Office (NSO) makes very interesting read, and probably says a lot about the state of romance and relationships in the country.

Based on data culled from January 2003 to March 2004, the results of which were released in August:

• Most couples get married in May

According to the NSO, one out of nine couples chose May because they were probably “riding on” the fiesta season. But of course…everyone’s happy and stupid drunk while making merry during the fiestas, so any bride with the hots for a man can just get him to say yes. Or is it the other way around? Will they be surprised when they wake up the next morning with their hangovers!

Seriously, an average of 2,189 couples got married daily in May 2003, compared with 2,051 in December, and 2,042 in January. The leanest month was August, I supposed because of the rainy weather, and perhaps due to the Chinese superstition that this is a “death” month.

• More people are getting married

There were 593,553 marriages recorded in 2003, up by almost 2 percent from the 583,167 who got married in 2002. (The data is pretty comprehensive as it includes couple who were married by a recognized and lawful officiant. He can either be a priest or pastor, judge, mayor, etc. The data, of course, only includes marriages registered at the Office of the Civil Registrar.)

Despite our heavily Western-influenced ways where “living in” is now generally acceptable, I guess most Filipinos still see marriage as the ideal situation to be in when involved with another person. It is the consummate proof of their love and commitment to each other as a couple. Blame it on our Catholic upbringing. I know gay men and women who are also desperate to get married to their significant others and if only they had enough financial resources, would probably move to a country where such marriages are legal.

• More couples get married under civil rites rather than religious rites

This is an interesting phenomenon as the data shows 41.3 percent of marriages were solemnized by lay officiants. But the Catholic Church should not be worried as there were still many who got married under Church rites, recorded at 37.1 percent. The rest of the marriages were solemnized under other religious rites (Islamic, other Christian, or tribal rites).

I wonder if more couples are getting married under civil rites because they think it is easier to break this off than if they were married under a religious ceremony? After all, being married by just an ordinary man, like a judge, is nothing compared with being married under God’s watchful eyes. Does this mean then that, sure, we want to show our commitment to our significant other, but we still want a mode of escape just in case the marriage doesn’t work out?

Or is it because most people can’t afford religious ceremonies so they just opt for a civil wedding? The concept of the engrandeng kasalan has been so ingrained in our female DNA that it will always be the ideal to achieve for most of us. But if the couple can’t afford such a wedding, they will settle for the town mayor and just a family salo-salo at home. The data didn’t show an income demographic, so we can’t say for sure why there is a trend toward civil rites.

• Women marry earlier than men

“The number of teenage brides [under 20 years old, 80,085, or 13.5 percent] getting married was more than four times the number of teenage grooms [19,829, or 3.3 percent],” says the NSO. I think this is because most teenage brides are pregnant. There is government data that shows that about 35 percent of women get pregnant before marriage.

I suppose parents of these pregnant teenagers still think of the anak sa pagkadalaga as a source of shame and embarrassment for the family. So they would rather marry off their pregnant teenagers, never mind if many cases have shown that such forced marriages only lead to the couple’s separation later.

On the other hand, parents of teenage boys would move heaven and earth for their sons not to get married, no matter how many girls their sons have gotten pregnant. Parents still put a premium on the males to achieve all that they can, no matter the personal circumstances.

The NSO data shows most men marry when they reach 27 years old, while for most women it is 25, up from 24 the year before. Yes, perhaps more women are postponing marriages in favor of their careers.

• More men beyond their golden years get married than women in the same age group

Now this is awfully cute. The data specifically cites “grooms aged 75 years old and over were three times more than the brides in the same age group.”

I think that this just proves that men really can’t live without us women, and that they need constant companionship to make the rest of the years worth living. And, of course, they would want to make an honest woman out of their old gals. How romantic!

Corollary to this is the finding that:

• Remarriage is more common among men than women

Of the registered marriages, the NSO said, 2 percent were grooms whose spouses either have passed on, or they are divorced/separated from their original spouses. In contrast, only 1 percent of the registered marriages had women who were either widowed, or divorced/separated.

I guess women generally are able to bounce back from their grief and depression (either from death or separation from a spouse) and lead very interesting fun-filled lives even without a man. Many “suddenly single” or separated women have told me that remarrying is far from their minds, more so if they have kids. They would rather spend their time in nurturing their children and devoting more energy to their career than finding the next Mr. Right.

The rest of NSO’s marriage statistics deal with intermarriages and showed that the highest number involved Filipinas married to Japanese, with American grooms a close second. Filipino grooms, on the other hand, were likely to marry Chinese brides, followed by American brides. Still and all, our romantic Pinays and Pinoys still prefer each other over foreigners. Sigh!

The marriage data can be found on here.

(My column Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life Section of the BusinessMirror.)

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