by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
(Editor’s note: The real identities of women in this story are kept confidential as they requested)
QUEZON CITY (OFW Journalism Consortium)–TWENTY-year-old Rita pointed to the words stretched on her tight-fitting mid-rib t-shirt as the reason she’s marrying 66-year-old Endo: “Sweet Love,” it says on her chest.
“Love? Who is she kidding?” whispered one of the women at the seminar on inter-racial marriages sponsored by a Catholic group where Rita, a former garments factory worker, spoke.
However, some who share similar state of affairs or maybe feel the same way as Rita nodded.
After a break, Rita saunters over to a group of women and admits “love” is the farthest reason for accepting the proposal of Endo, who is 46 years older than her.
“I don’t really love him. I want to work there (in Japan) and help my family here,” Rita says almost in a whisper. That revelation brought her words of sympathy, quick hugs, and light squeezing of hands.
She is not alone.
Rita and other Filipina brides-to-be admit that marrying foreigners is the easiest ticket for possible overseas work and settlement overseas, as well as income for the families they would leave behind.
Based on government data, Rita is adding to the rising number of Filipino women marrying Asian nationals nearly thrice their age.
The number of Filipino women marrying spouses of various nationalities is rising as of late, says Director Minda Valencia of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. The commission’s 18-year data showed there are now 309,745 Filipino spouses who have married foreign partners, and some 92 percent of them are women.
Valencia says she can’t count the lectures she has given to women like Rita, as required by her job in government.
Her agency’s data shows more women marrying nationals of East Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are becoming younger and less educated than their foreign spouses.
Valencia forecasts this trend would continue in the next three years.
THERE is an “international marriage market,” Valencia, CFO’s Golda Myra Roma and demographer Nimfa Ogena said in a paper released last September.
And this market “appears to further expand (this) decade,” the authors said citing government’s recent years’ figures as basis for that view.
The authors point to record highs (see Table 1) in the history of the government agency’s handling of permanent residents: 24,904 spouses registered in 2006 and 21,100 in the year 2005.
The year 2006 also had historic record-high numbers for spouses going to the United States (10,190), Japan (8,601), Canada (988), and the United Kingdom (619). The increase for Japan alone is 2,279 spouses from 2005 figures (6,322).
The rising number of Filipino women going to countries such as Taiwan, Japan, and Korea are “significant” and even reveal an Asian marriage migration trend that’s also on the rise, Valencia, Roma and Ogena wrote in their paper on marriage migration to the said countries.
The authors also noted the gaps in age, educational attainment, and work status between the Filipino and the Taiwanese, Korean, and Japanese spouses. These gaps were culled despite the CFO data citing that many Filipino women have found foreign spouses of similar characteristics.
Based on 1995 to 2004 data, the odds are high for Filipino women marrying Japanese and Koreans decades older than they are. Meanwhile, educational similarities among Filipino and Taiwanese, Korea, and Japanese spouses are “declining”.
In Taiwan, the odds of the Taiwanese spouse being less educated than the Filipina (called as “marrying up”) were nearly cut into half of the 4,862 registered Filipino women from 1995 to 2004. But for spouses who went to Japan and Korea, there is a rise of Filipino women who are less educated than the foreign spouses (called “marrying down”).
Valencia says that most of those going to Japan and Korea are high school graduates and undergraduates.
BEFORE, they were called mail-order brides, because of relationships and arrangements brokered through the traditional postal system.
Today, Filipino women are meeting their future foreign spouses through mobile phones, the number referred to by a friend of a friend, Internet-based chatting, and the facilitation of a relative overseas.
According to Valencia, everything goes back to motivations: of the Filipina for marrying a foreigner and the latter for marrying Filipino women.
Former entertainer Sharon, 26, asserts it was “love” that moved her to marry 44-year-old taxi driver Hiroki.
Still, Sharon, a hotel and restaurant management graduate of a central-Philippine college, says she also wants to earn money her own way: going back to the nightclub in Hiroshima where, she said, she and Hiroki met.
Sharon married the Japanese at a civil marriage here, and will mark her third trip to Japan given her marriage.
She claims Hiroki has approved of her plans.
For her part, 21-year-old Elizabeth was introduced by her cousin working in Seoul, South Korea to a 37-year-old Korean cab driver.
She says the Korean went to their hometown of Nasugbu, Batangas. On the 11th day of his stay, Elizabeth and the Korean got married.
She says she entered into matrimony despite having been told by her husband that she cannot work in Korea and that she’ll have to go along with his family.
“I am amenable to that,” Elizabeth says.
Valencia, Roma, and Ogena deemed the decision of these women were of their own volition.
The authors said Filipino women choosing to marry foreigners capitalize on opportunities for overseas migration that they believe “could dramatically change their lives.”
The marriage situations of Filipino women such as Rita’s, the three authors contend, reveal “desperate moves of women who would rather risk settling in a foreign land (which they know little about), than cope with a future life in poverty and/or solitude or loneliness which comes with a social stigma for being labeled as ‘non-marriageable’”.
Even if she only had days-long acquaintanceship with Endo, Rita hopes to beat the odds of living in a foreign country and being a Japanese wife.
ONE odd to beat is language. Rita says she doesn’t know Nihonggo while Endo can’t speak Filipino. Both go by with sign language to emphasize some common English words or phrases to understand each other.
While Endo has been to the country, Rita’s trip to Japan would be her first overseas sortie. She admits she has yet to find out how things would go between her and Endo.
She says that would be the easiest part because she has learned from mistakes of a previous relationship to a Filipino when they were both 16.
“I can learn to love Endo,” Rita says.
Her first step to that was participating in a discussion-forum by the St. Mary Euphrasia Foundation-Center for Overseas Workers, a project of the Roman Catholic institution Religious of the Good Shepherd.
In partnership with the CFO, the foundation requires Rita, Sharon, Elizabeth and other Filipino women marrying or has married foreigners to undertake these seminars that included tips on “surviving” the marriage.
One how-to is getting the marriage registered in the nearest municipal office in Japan. Another is divorce.
Pat Posadas, a counselor, told Rita and the women their husbands can do so just by making the wife sign a document that would be submitted to the nearest municipal office.
As of the year 2005, Japanese government data showed that 3,931 of the 10,242 Filipino women have divorced with their Japanese partners.
It’s another story when the marriage is to Koreans, says social worker Jhane Lery Noche.
“If you marry a Korean, you are marrying his entire family. You (Filipina) are the hope of his family,” Noche said.
Noche and Posadas glosses over the differences that can come out from the age differences between these nationalities and their Filipina wives. They admit they can’t do anything about it.
“It is the decision of the Filipina to marry this foreigner. The migration is marriage-related, but is in the guise of earning a living,” Noche said.