Satan Versus the Jews?
May 27, 2024
Ode to a Good Friend
June 10, 2024
Show all

Philippine Divorce: To Be or Not to Be?

By David Haldane

June 3, 2024



It’s no fun.

As I’ve previously written, it feels like you’re falling down a dark hole. You don’t know how soon you will land or what you’ll find when you do. In fact, you surmise, there’s a strong possibility you may never land at all.

I’m talking about divorce, a subject I know something about, having survived two. Now it seems to be back on the agenda in the Philippines, where the House of Representatives recently approved an absolute divorce bill following its third and final reading.

Whether House Bill 9349 ultimately becomes law is still up for grabs. Those pushing for it suggest that its enactment could represent “the imminent liberation of Filipino wives entombed in toxic, abusive, and long-dead marriages.”

I don’t doubt that for a second. And I certainly would never stand in the way of liberating anyone from a toxic marriage. That said, however, let me also add that I have always secretly admired the Philippines’ stubborn insistence on remaining the world’s only country outside the Vatican outlawing divorce.

Why? Because where I come from—namely California—divorces are so easy and common that they’re almost the rule instead of the exception. Which, over time, has severely downgraded marriage as a sacred and lasting institution.

Legal divorce would “weaken the commitment to marriage,” argues Fr. Jerome Secillano of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which, not surprisingly, opposes it. And in the United States, unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happened.

Once purported to be as high as 50 percent, US divorce rates are finally declining, but so is the number of marriages. About 60 percent of American men aged 18 to 29 are now single, according to the Pew Research Center, up from 50 percent just five years ago. In fact, the US marriage rate is lower than it’s been in a century, with 25 percent of adults under 40 never having been married at all.

That’s not to say, however, that they don’t still cohabitate and have babies. Such arrangements are increasingly common among young people these days, both in America and the Philippines. And there are no statistics on how many of those unmarried couples eventually break up.

To be honest, it was the Philippines’ traditional family values that first inspired my notion of marrying a Filipina, and I suspect I’m not alone. But that was a long time ago. And now, it seems, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a’-changin.”

The House-approved bill sanctions a range of acceptable motives for divorce including domestic abuse, psychological incapacity, irreconcilable differences, gender transition or reassignment surgery, and separation of the spouses for five or more years.

All of which—forgive me—seem fairly reasonable.

Because, like Americans, Filipino couples argue, disagree, abuse each other, and sometimes drift apart. I know several, for instance, in which the husband has disappeared, leaving his wife to support and care for the children. Or, worse, stayed with the family, resorting to alcohol and/or physical abuse to salve his soul.

And then there’s this: though divorce can be the dastardliest experience in a person’s life, it can also be the most liberating. My own divorces, for instance, opened the gates to a wholesome new life with a wholesome new partner in a (mostly) wholesome new culture. And, looking back on it, it’s not the pain I recall but the progress.

“Not allowing divorce as a legal option,” one of my favorite columnists once wrote, “is like not allowing emergency exits in a building. Imagine a building infested with toxic mold that you were not permitted to evacuate.”

And so I have reluctantly surrendered to the flow of social evolution and the inevitability of toxic mold. The Philippines, I expect, shall finally have its absolute divorce. My fondest hope, though, is that never again will it darken my door.





David Haldane is an award-winning American author, journalist, and broadcaster with homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines. His latest book is, A Tooth in My Popsicle, is available on Amazon. This column appears weekly in The Manila Times.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *