MANILA -- It has been nine months since John Gallana tearfully stood at the altar as his bride Martha walked down the aisle.
On that fateful day in May 2016, John and Martha sealed their relationship with the exchange of rings and vows in front of their loved ones, and a promise to remain together until death.
The ceremony was the culmination of their three-year relationship, which came after John’s efforts to pursue Martha for six years.
"Sinabi ko sa sarili ko na hindi ko hahayaang balewala lahat ‘yun (I told myself I will not let those years go to waste)," John said.
Not all love stories end this happily. The Gallanas are just one of the decreasing number of Filipino couples who still believe in formalizing their union through marriage.
"A commitment is, you have to do something about it. Kasi we decided na magiging kami in that relationship...Magandang i-seal ‘yung commitment na ‘yun with marriage. Lifetime," Martha said.
(Commitment means you have to do something about it. We decided to be together in that relationship. It would be nice to seal that commitment with marriage.)
Since 2005, there has been a 20.1% decline in the number of marriages in the country, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Data shows that there has been a general downward trend in the number of marriages in the last decade.
Demographer and University of the Philippines’ Population Institute Prof. Nimfa Ogena said this shows the changing attitudes of Filipinos toward marriage.
"Malaki talaga ang ibinaba ng marriages in the Philippines (The number of marriages in the Philippines really went down), even among the young people… especially among the young people," Ogena said.
Data shows that people in the older age bracket are more likely to get married than teenagers and those in the early 20s.
The median age among people who enter marriage has shifted from 24 for brides and 27 for grooms in 2005, to 26 and 28 in 2015, respectively.
Fewer teenage brides and grooms were also recorded in 2015 than in the years before it. Despite the general decrease in the number of teens marrying, teen women are still more likely to tie the knot than young men.
But Ogena said this could be because younger people opted for cohabitation rather than marriage. Such is the case for Dan Dungan and Honey Medina.
Dan and Honey have been together for 11 years, with seven years spent living together under the same roof.
“Kahit na hindi pa kami kasal, strong pa rin kami. Sa mga pinagdaanan namin sa buhay, okay naman kami (Even though we are not yet married, our relationship is still strong. We have through a lot together),” Dan said.
"’Yung iba diyan, bago lang, kinasal agad tapos sa huli malalaman na may lokohan pala, may mga problemang hindi pa alam,” Honey said.
(Others rush into marriage even if the relationship is new, then they would end up cheating, or would find out problems which should have been known before marriage.)
Cohabitation is an arrangement that is almost similar to marriage, Ogena said. Couples sometimes opt for cohabitation because they wanted to test what it will be like to be married to each other.
“Hindi pa sila sure. So they wanted (to) know first the person they wanted to live with for the rest of their lives. Trial and error. Kung okay, some would opt to marry.”
(Some are not sure yet. So they wanted to know first the person they wanted to live with for the rest of their lives. Trial and error. If everything went well, some opt to marry.)
While most people say marriage is a celebration of love between a couple, Ogena said some marry for various reasons too.
Family values and culture play a big part on marriage, which is ingrained in the culture of the predominantly Catholic Philippines.
Ogena said this fact plays a big role in the decision to get hitched. “Sumusunod pa rin sa kultura na naiimpluwensiyahan ng magulang na kailangan magpakasal (Some still follow the culture influenced by their parents that they need to marry).”
However, religion alone is not as strong a factor nowadays. One thing for sure, Ogena said, is that “others would change religions to marry someone they love.”
Ogena also listed exposure to different culture and practices through media as an encouragement for people to live together.
In some Western societies, cohabitation is a stage after being boyfriend and girlfriend, and before getting married.
Ogena said two in every three married couples went through cohabitation before getting married. She added, however, that there is no assurance that cohabitation actually leads to marriage.
Financial stability could also be a reason to marry.
“The theory of marriage, ang sinasabi dito, economic contract (The theory of marriage states it is an economic contract). Two people [marrying] means putting together financial resources,” Ogena said.
On the other hand, personal finances are also among the leading reasons why other people cannot marry.
Honey and Dan admitted that tying the knot has crossed their mind but had to set aside the idea because they cannot afford it yet.
“Dati nangangarap kami na gusto naming ikasal sa isang simbahan, ‘yung magarang kasalan. Lahat ng kamag-anak namin nandoon (We used to think about getting married in a church, a grand wedding with all our loved ones there).”
Marex Gaba, the president of the Philippine Association of Wedding Planners, said many couples spend from P700,000 up to P5 million for a wedding.
Gaba said the amount covers the marriage license, wedding rings, invitations, wedding gown, clothes for the entourage, wedding cake, and reception.
But other couples could pull off a wedding for P100,000, he added.
Ogena believes the number of people marrying would continue to drop.
“If we don’t do anything, it will continue. Unless there is a policy change na magbabago ng kasalukuyang situation (Unless there is a policy change that would alter the current situation).”
But despite the decline in marriages, the Philippine population growth shows no sign of slowing down. The Commission on Population has projected that there will be 105.75 million Filipinos by the end of the 2017.
Ogena explained that in the current social climate, marriage and childbirth no longer has anything to do with each other. “Dati, kailangan ‘di ba, mag-asawa muna, sex, tapos anak? Ngayon, hindi na ganu’n. ‘Yung sequencing of events ay may pagbabago.”
(Before, people have to be married first before having sex and having a baby. Nowadays, it’s not like that anymore. The sequencing of events has changed.)
But she added that it is not a point of concern. “It’s a moral challenge… Ang sa amin lang naman, ipakita na ito ang nangyayari. Kasi kanya-kanyang desisyon pa rin ‘yan (For us demographers, we just show that this is happening. In the end, it is still an individual decision).” -- with reports from Ernie Manio and Charity Temple, ABS-CBN News