Filipino couple wed again following priest's gaffe

Ruth and Florido Salem renew vows 48 years on after priest at first wedding failed to file legal documents
Filipino couple wed again following priest's gaffe

Ruth and Florido Salem get married after living together for 48 years without realizing that their marriage was not legal. (Photo by Divina Suson)

Ruth and Florido Salem had been living as husband and wife for 48 years only to discover that their marriage was not legally binding.

The reason: The priest who officiated at their wedding in 1970 did not sign the marriage contract and did not submit the documents to the Office of the Civil Registrar.

On Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, Ruth, 61, and Florido, 64, decided to get married again at a mass wedding officiated by the city mayor of Iligan, in the southern Philippines.

The couple are blessed with two children, one of whom is an engineer working as a migrant worker.

Ruth and Florido first wed in Ruth's hometown in Salay, Misamis Oriental province, during a mass wedding in a church.

The couple, however, found out later that the officiating priest did not sign the marriage certificate and did not submit the document to the government.

When Ruth inquired how to make her marriage to Florido valid, the civil registrar said the process would be long and costly because the couple would have to look for witnesses and a lawyer.

"We really wanted to legalize our marriage because government transactions, including application for social security services, require a marriage contract," said Ruth.

The announcement that the mayor was to sponsor a mass wedding was an answer to the couple's prayers.

"We are happy to be married legally," said a smiling Ruth.

Gina Mascarinas of the City Civil Registrar's Office said the Valentine's Day event was one of the highlights of the city's observance of what the authorities called Civil Registry Month.

A total of 109 couples, including Ruth and Florido, took advantage of the opportunity to take their vows.

A total of 109 couples, including Ruth and Florido Salem, took part in a mass wedding ceremony in Iligan City on Valentine's Day. (Photo by Divina Suson)


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Ruth at first wanted to marry Florido again in church, but she said, "we are already old."

"What is important is our marriage is now legal, and we are not just living together. We already have the papers to show," she said.

The couple said the secret of their lasting marriage is patience. "If one is angry, the other should be calm. If one is fire, the other should be water," said Ruth.

The couple invited old friends to be witnesses at the wedding.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority  fewer Filipinos are getting married.

"In a span of 10 years, reported marriages decreased by 20.1 percent from 2005 to 2015," the report noted.

Registered marriages declined by 2.9 percent in 2014 and 3.6 percent in 2015.

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, head of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Philippine bishops' conference, noted that a lot of Filipino couples are opting to just "live in."

The prelate blamed what he called an "invasion of un-Christian values" for the decline in the number of people getting married in church.

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