In Broadways’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” three impoverished sisters in a turn-of-the-century Tsarist Russian village plead with Yenta: “Matchmaker… find me a catch/ And make me a perfect match.” Wedding rings are visas out of grinding penury. Some 309,745 Filipinos married foreigners, within an 18-year span. Nine out of ten (92 percent) were brides.
Yenta would feel at home in Philippines 2007. An “international marriage market” is bustling here, says a Commission on Filipinos Overseas study.
This market could “further expand (this) decade,” assert CFO’s Minda Valencia and Myra Ramos, with demographer Nimfa Ogena, in their paper on marriage migration. The Overseas Foreign Workers Journalism Consortium circulated a study summary.
Some spouses-to-be admit: marrying foreigners “is the easiest ticket for possible overseas work and settlement overseas,” the Consortium’s Jeremaiah Opiniano writes. Marriage for convenience also provides income for families locked into poverty.
Last year, 24,904 marriages to foreigners were registered – up from 21,100. Destinations for the brides, and occasional grooms, in 2006 were United States (10,190), Japan (8,601), Canada (988) and United Kingdom (619). These countries screen out marriages of convenience.
An Asian marriage migration trend is surging, Valencia, Roma and Ogena point out. The rise in the number of Filipinas flying to Taiwan, Japan, and Korea is “significant.” CFO data from 1995 to 2000 shows more Filipinas marrying nationals of these three East Asian countries.
Brides tend to be younger and less educated than their foreign spouses. “There is a rising number of Filipino women marrying Asian nationals nearly thrice their age,” Opiniano writes. As Yenta sang: “Hodel – I made a match for you./ He’s handsome. He’s young./ All right, he’s 62./ But he’s a good catch. True? True.”
That’s light-hearted Broadway. But it shows two different worlds collide, when young Filipinas, often from remote barangays, pair up with elderly foreigners, says Philippine Studies. In 1999, the Ateneo de Manila University quarterly analyzed psychological fallout from 20,164 Filipino-Japanese marriages over five years.
“The Filipino wife was not prepared for the setup in the Japanese household, (nor) of the obedience expected by her in-laws,” writes University of the Philippines’ Leslie Buazon. There’s a flipside. “The Japanese were unprepared for the independent spirit of the foreigner wife.”
Tokyo data showed that 3,931 of the 10,242 Filipino women divorced their Japanese spouses. In the Yamagata study, most Filipina wives were Catholics but didn’t have access to church. Ties to the faith of their fathers weakened. To please in-laws and ensure “harmonious relations,” they join rituals of their Japanese families.