Updated: January 01, 2020 02:20 AM GMT
Maricel Kuyog inside her house in the village of Capacuan in the northern Philippine province of Cagayan. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
This article was first published on July 19, 2019
Maricel Kuyog wanted to share her story with someone not from her village. She had the chance when a group of humanitarian workers came for a visit.She took them to her house, which was partially damaged by a typhoon that hit the northern Philippines in 2018. The house was relatively bigger than the other houses in the village, but it was dark and empty. The only place that seemed to be in order was the kitchen. "I love to cook," said Maricel, who claimed that she learned at a very young age back in a village in Naga on the other end of Luzon island. She was 13 when she left her village to try her luck in Manila as a housemaid. "I wanted to get away from poverty," she said.She came from a family of farm workers who do not own the land they till. Her parents gave up a long time ago on their dream of sending their children to school. "I thought that if I worked in the city things would change," said Maricel. "I thought life would be better, but I found myself in a more difficult situation," she said. She had to endure waking up in the small hours to prepare breakfast for her employers. She said she missed home but decided to stay in the place she could not call home.Life in the city was without color. One day the young lady met a man who made her blush. "He was a few years older than me," she said.
In some regions of the country, early marriage is justified by culture and religion.In the southern city of Marawi, Marah (not her real name) said she agreed to marry a boy who was chosen by her parents "because it is our tradition and it is accepted in our religion." She was only 14 when she was got married in 2016. She was already pregnant when the 2017 conflict erupted in the city, displacing about half a million people.The dowry her husband's parents gave for the wedding was gone after the war destroyed the small store she set up in her village.Under Islamic law in the Philippines, early marriage for boys who have reached the age of 15 and for girls who have had their first menstruation is allowed.Amanah Busran Lao, a Muslim lawyer, said the law was crafted in the 1970s. "It is already obsolete," she said. "While it allows child marriage, it also violates the rights of the child that are guaranteed by the Philippine constitution." Lao said, however, that religion and culture should not be blamed for child marriage in many parts of the country. "We can amend the law and break tradition, but if we do not address poverty, child or arranged marriages will continue as a practice," she said. She noted that many Muslim families think that marrying their children off at a young age will resolve poverty. "It does not. It only worsens the situation," Lao told ucanews.com.Maricel and Marah got married at a young age to break free from poverty. Today, they continue to live in a situation that can only be resolved by social reforms.