Relationships In The Philippines: Part 1

Relationships In The PhilippinesPart 1:  MARRIAGE IN THE PHILIPPINES

Over the last year I’ve spent much time speaking with men online regarding relationships here with Filipina women.  Since arriving here my eye has been keen to observe the various couples I see throughout the day.  Given the narrow stereotypes I’ve heard from others over the years I felt it would be good to take some time to look at how love, dating and marriage works in a different culture.  In this first part of a series of articles on the topic I will begin with ‘Marriage In The Philippines’.

I’ll begin with the basics that I believe apply world-wide.  Here in the Philippines, much like anywhere else, people do still simply meet and fall in love.  It happens between Filipinos and it happens between Filipinas and Foreigners whether they be from the US, Australia, Canada or wherever as their paths meet here.  And just like in any other country, sometimes people find they no longer want that marriage to continue, usually for the same standard reasons.. infidelity, financial stress, abandonment or other abuse.   The key difference here in the Philippines is that there is no divorce.  That’s right.  Here marriage is considered, legally, to be a lifetime covenant that cannot be dissolved by divorce.  The courts will not grant it and the government will not make provision for it.  When you marry here, it is for life.

There is only one way two married persons can walk away from a marriage.  It is to prove to the courts, with strict requirements, that the marriage was never and should never have been considered binding in the first place.  A move for Annulment.  So, technically, even in such a case the court is not ‘dissolving’ a marriage.. it is ‘annulling’ a marriage that should not be considered valid.  What reasons would qualify for an annulment?  One way is proving that the two persons are blood related.  Another would be if one of the parties happened to be insane/mentally-incapacitated at the time of marriage.  Or that either one was under the age of consent.  Another would be if the marriage could be proven to have been committed under duress (threat of harm).  Even so, proving duress is not a valid reason for annulment if the marriage is not contested right away.  It is not an easy thing to prove to a court the case for annulment.

Now, nobody in official capacity is going to tell you this, but annulments are granted.. even when the requirements have not been met.  How can that be?  Well, as in many other countries, sliding the right amount of money under the table to the right people just might get your annulment on the fast-track to approval.  Notice that I said, ‘might’.  A person could grease a clerk’s palm with an envelope hefty with a very large amount of Pesos , but the documents still have to go to another court (often in Manila) for secondary review.  If his contacts don’t get the ‘word’, or the clerk never had contacts to begin with and is just making some easy money.. your submitted case for annulment will still get denied and you remain married.

So what happens when two Filipinos are married.. but no longer can stand to be near each other?  One option is simply to make the best of it.  Here it is very common for men to have mistresses and affairs while married.  It might be the cute sales-girl at the mall, a college student who needs help with her rent or even the maid.  Many wives simply accept the fact that they are financially dependent upon their husband and that the laws here favor a man’s infidelity as a lightweight misdemeanor while her infidelity can not only bring stricter legal punishment.. but a distinct social stigma that is exacerbated by a  thriving gossip chain that is endemic to the culture.  And thus many Filipina women may dislike it but reluctantly accept it as part and parcel of marriage in the Philippines.

When the Filipino man is the one who is unhappy with the marriage it is not uncommon for him to either put his wife ‘out’ to return to her parents or move out himself and abandon his duties as husband and father as he goes about from woman to woman.  He cannot marry any of them, for he is still legally married to his wife as long as they both live.  Fortunately in such cases, because the men are given so much control over family finances (see the article on ‘Filipino Law Differences’).. they can be held accountable to continue providing for their family even if they decide to ‘separate’ indefinitely.  This requires the woman to file a case with Social Services and pursue it.  Much like the United States, it is a long and tedious process that does not provide the immediate assistance often needed.  Add to this the possibility of bribing a DNA lab to ‘disavow’ men from the fact that they are the biological father and it can be a daunting situation indeed.  In poverty stricken countries, corruption is always a factor to take into consideration.

And so it is that many Philippine husbands and wives are living separately, but unable to re-marry even if they meet someone else they may come to love.  Or, many live together in a situation where one is abusing the other with their behavior as they continue to share the same roof in a sham marriage.  Statistically it looks great on paper that the divorce rate is 0%.  But as I’ve disclosed, this does not mean there are 100% happy marriages as a result.  I suppose women here could hope for legal changes in the future.. which first have to be approved by a panel made up almost entirely of men.

This is the situation for those couples made up of two Filipinos married in the Philippines.  But what about a Filipina who marries a Foreigner?  From what I understand of the law after having gotten some feedback from an attorney in the United States, here is what I Relationships In The Philippinesunderstand of what the couple are looking at in such a marriage that does not work out.  If the marriage goes sour there is still no divorce option here in the Philippines for this couple of mixed nationalities.  However.. the Foreigner can return to his native land (let’s say, the U.S.) and file for a Dissolution of Marriage there.  He still needs to have his wife ‘served’ in the Philippines and if she contests it could state the hardship of travelling to the U.S. in order to attend the divorce proceedings.  That won’t stop the divorce but will slow it down if she opts to do that.  If, when, the U.S. then grants the divorce of the couple who were ‘married abroad’ based on the Foreigner’s return to his local county for a period of 6 months to have his filing received.. the Foreigner (in this case, an American) would then be free to remarry.  If the Filipina orders (online) a copy of the divorce decree she can then use that to remarry in the Philippines.  This is covered much more in detail in the article; Re-Marriage In The Philippines: What You Should Know, due to laws that were changed allowing for re-marriage for a Filipina if the husband divorces her in his home country.  Prior to these changes in law it made for a strange situation in which the American could, conceivably, return to the Philippines.. marry a different Filipina while legally married to his first wife.

So, after taking a closer look at the issue of marriage here in the Philippines it behooves any ex-Pat foreigner to take his time regarding marriage before suddenly finding himself overwhelmed with the first ‘exotic beauty’ he meets  after getting off the plane to be his new wife.  This is not Vegas.  There is no 72-hour ‘do-over’ annulment just because you claim you were drunk at the wedding Elvis presided over.  Here, when you’re married you’re making a life-long LEGAL commitment.  My strong advice to anyone moving here is that you do what you should be doing anyway.. take the time to get to know, as well as romance, the woman you are courting in your relationship.  Get to know her family situation because they will inevitably play a pivotal role in your marriage.  This is not the US where your marriage is entirely insulated from the in-laws.  But that’s another topic for another day.

For now, suffice it to say that you need to take the time to really get to know the person you intend to marry, through thick or thin, ‘til death do you part’.  For these are not just platitudes to fill air-time during a ceremony.. it is the reality of marriage here in the Philippines.

Click here to read; Part 2 – MEETING FILIPINAS ONLINE

Henry V.


Earn Money With Your Digital Camera

Author: Reekay V.

Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat and spent 1999 living in Vietnam.

Share with me my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Hopefully you find my observations helpful in your own adventures.
— Reekay


  1. “NO DIVORCE” is 1 of the biggest reasons I came here. I saw how often people were getting divorced in U.S. and decided I didn’t want to take another chance with American wife (I had 2 wives leave and then divorce me) so the no divorce is ideal for me

    1. I have mixed feelings, myself, about the whole no-divorce issue. From our own, ex-pat perspective it’s an advantage to know that the woman we decide to marry here takes marriage as a lifelong commitment, the way it should be. However, for the Filipinos marrying each other I have already met several women who are stuck in a ‘nowhere’ zone.. legally married, but the ‘husband’ has already knocked her up with 2 or 3 kids and moved on to some other younger woman. If she gets a boyfriend both the law and society are harsher on her for it. If the man has a mistress, no big deal. Meanwhile, the women can’t marry the next man they fall in love with. It’s sad that they can’t rebuild their life with a new marriage just because there’s no way out of the ‘sham’ marriage on paper they’re stuck in. Annulments are hard to come by and even then only with bribes, and even that’s not a guarantee. And all that takes money most of these women can’t afford. For this reason, I really wonder if the no-divorce policy doesn’t cause simply a different sort of misery than the flippant-divorce situation we have in the States.

      1. yes it all can become very complicated, especially when there are dependents. I was left with three children under 12 and I never was blessed with a good man who would love and accept me and my three boys. yeah, well, suck it up filipinas, cause thats the way life is. If the old man hikes, then put on your heart armour because you, like me, may never find the true love you always deserved and wished for. Life isnt a Cinderella story. sorry

        1. What I’ve found over the years, after plenty of heartache of my own, is that it is a win-win plan to become happy as a single person. Even though I wanted to find love, enjoying my own company and pursuing my own interests.. being ‘whole’ as a person on my own not only made my single life happier, it made me more secure to focus on giving love to someone else. It’s kind of counter-productive I’ve found to want a mate because we feel we ‘need’ them. Nobody can be the unfailing source of our happiness. And we can’t be the unfailing source of anyone else’s happiness either. We are bound to disappoint them at some point. But when a person is ‘whole’ and happy on their own two feet.. then, whether single or with someone, they have the balance to be happy either way.

  2. Remember, up until 1970 or so, divorce in the U.S. was not easily obtained; easier than in the Philippines of course, but not easy and certainly not no-fault. When divorce laws were loosened it was considered a good thing. Now marriages where one partner or the other is cheating, an alcoholic or drug addict, abusive, etc. could be ended. Unfortunately that’s not what happened. The cheaters and abusers (or those abused and cheated on) often still stay married. Often it’s good partners who end up divorced because their spouses simply decided they were unhappy and wanted to trade in or up.

  3. Hello Henry. First found you through your YouTube vids. Nice blog and very informative sight.

    About remarriage in the Philippines. Yes, if a foreigner who is married to a Pinoy citizen obtains a divorce in another country then said foreigner may remarry in the Philippines. However, the Pinoy citizen spouse can also remarry according to the Philippine Family Code, Article 26 which states;

    “Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (As amended by Executive Order 227) “

    1. Yes. I am glad they at least made that provision for Fil-Foreigner marriages. Currently legislation is changing regarding an allowance for divorce between Fil-Fil marriages as well. They are also considering taking a positive role in support of birth control, which all this time has been frowned upon both socially and religiously here.

      I won’t go into a long soap-box, but I do believe that having a legal allowance for divorce and birth-control IS the most compassionate position a government can take so as to give women more options that prevent much of the grief and sorrow I see here. Abusive marriages and unplanned kids don’t do anyone any bit of good is how I see it. Fortunately, many Filipinos are seeing it that way now as well.

  4. My case is like that. I am a filipina and my husband is an american, we got divorce in us. My exhusband can only remarry while im stucked in our marriage in philippines. Im still young and i cannot remarry anymore because of that UNFAIR LAW IN THE PHILIPPINES! I hope they will revise the law.

    1. Jane.. I have good news! Back in 2005, the President of Philippines issued a revision of the Family laws which now accepts a foreign divorce decree with a foreigner (as in your case) as valid for allowing the Filipina to remarry in the Philippines. There is more info in the article; “Re-Marriage In The Philippines” located at this link; and there is more on the actual law located here; “Recognizing A Foreign Divorce In The Philippines”.. I hope this brings some relief to your situation and I have updated the article here with a link as well. Wishing you all the best! 🙂

  5. Thank you so much Mr. Henry! 😀 I’m so glad to hear this information. 😀 I’ve been worrying about this.. I’m glad I’ve founded your website Mr. Henry, your articles are very interested and so informative and realistic! I love to read all your article. God bless you and more power. 😀

      1. Henry, your knowledge and generosity to share it has saved the heart of at least one person here. Henry, you are the MAN. making Jane happy has put a huge smile on my face.

  6. after my fiance found out 5 years ago her philippino husband was already married to another philippino and had kids with his previous wife…. she never found out until she had to get some surgery… than they said it was not covered since her husband's first wife was listed with his social security… since then… my fiance tryed to get the bigomy case recognized in Calbayog City… two judges there played games for the last three years with us…… even after bringing the witness to court about 7 or more times… they postpone… and just make a fool out of us… I guess we have to go to another city where we can get the records corrected… I'm sad that the justice in Calbayog City with that particular judge who loves cock fighting more than doing his respect is more important.

    1. Sadly, while there is corruption in any country’s courts.. here it seems to be up for sale. I advised recently that, when dealing with contractors here, to protect yourself financially as you’re conducting business because looking to get your money back in a civil case is a complete waste of time. Time lost on attorneys and filings, time lost on appearances that get continued, and all to get a judgment (maybe) that is impossible to enforce in getting money back from a guy who spent it all months ago and has nothing to garnish. I hope you and your fiance can find a resolution. Perhaps she will need to move to your country where you can get married with no reference to the PH situation. (?) Or move to have the case reassigned to another jurisdiction if possible? Just be careful about thinking of ‘living together’ in the PH as it could cause jail time for both of you based on the technicalities of her marital status if the ‘paper-husband’ decides to be vengeful. Video on dealing with Contractors/Money in PH;

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