Church weddings have been declining in the Philippines over the past decade according to the latest figures from the Philippine Statistics Office. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
A Catholic priest says the absence of a divorce law in the Philippines may be playing a role in the declining number of marriages, especially in his own church.
Couples are afraid of commitment said Father Melvin Castro, former head of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Philippine bishops' conference.
Although couples usually cite poverty as the main cause for not getting married, the priest said: "I think the true reason is the fear of commitment and responsibility since the Church does not recognize divorce."
Catholic church leaders in the Philippines do not recognize divorce and have repeatedly raised their opposition to proposals to pass a law legalizing it.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has said in the past that when divorce is an "easy option," marriages and families are bound to break up.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority released last month revealed that there has been a decline in weddings in the Philippines over the past decade.
The total number of weddings in 2017 went down to 434,932 from 486,514 in 2008.
Father Castro said the unfortunate trend in the number of marriages had been going on for years.
Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan has blamed the dwindling number of marriages on movies and television shows that do not promote matrimony.
The prelate, who heads the Catholic bishops' National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal, said the difficulty in obtaining a marriage license from local government offices was another reason.
"Sometimes you even have to resort to bribery in order to get one," said the archbishop. "Then you have to pay the judge who will perform the civil rite."
"When you go to the church, there are also a lot of requirements, from your baptismal (certificate), to your first communion, and so on," he said.
Archbishop Cruz said although churches held mass weddings, very few couples participated as they preferred to have their own ceremonies.
In the past decade there were more civil marriage ceremonies (40.1 percent) than those officiated in the Catholic Church (38.2 percent), according to government data.
Other marriages were performed in the Muslim tradition (1.5 percent), tribal ceremonies (0.6 percent ) and other religious rites (19.6 percent).
It was also revealed that Filipinos no longer prefer June as the best month to get married.
At least one-third of the total number of marriages were recorded in May (11.6 percent), December (11.5 percent), and February (10.4 percent).
The month of November was the most unpopular for marriage, recording the lowest rate of 5.0 percent.