Before ‘I do’
Are you married yet?” is a staple question that a Filipino twentysomething gets asked by older relatives and distant friends. By now, I’ve mastered my responses to it, alternating among “No plans yet,” “Not ready yet,” and a well-rehearsed grimace. Invariably, they get surprised by such a response, and I get the urge to mention the Philippine Statistics Authority’s latest report showing that the number of marriages in the country has been continuously declining for the past 12 years.
Apologies to our folks who may be looking forward to having grandchildren soon, but my contemporaries and I are not too anxious to get married and start a family now. Is this yet another way that our generation is veering away from tradition? Perhaps. Is this a sign that we are more selfish and less family-oriented? Quite the contrary.
Many of the reasons that young people cite for putting off marriage seem to come from a more prudent awareness of the obligations of family.
Among the most common are financial reasons. Both civil and church weddings in the Philippines cost thousands of pesos, an expense that unmarried Filipinos are weighing against other concerns. For those who have already formed family units, that kind of money is better used to provide for their children and make ends meet. It’s a tough exercise on prioritization, but the family’s day-to-day survival and welfare always have to be No. 1.
For many childless singles, that’s something that should be carefully prepared for. The catch is that we are taking more time, struggling to arrive at a financially stable stage even for our own selves. Perhaps that is a reflection of the greater economic landscape in the country, perhaps it’s a generational quirk. Regardless, we want to do better, to obtain a sense of security for the future before bringing a family into it.
Even when financial concerns are set aside, there are still apprehensions about the future that make some of us second-guess our capacity and privilege to start a traditional family. Would you want to raise a family knowing, for instance, that the world is on track to have largely uninhabitable temperatures by the end of the century?
It sounds alarmist and even silly at first glance, but scholars, organizations, and ordinary individuals across the globe are promoting this perspective as the climate issue worsens. For them, it’s not simply a matter of practicality—it’s a moral duty to think twice about rearing a future generation knowing that we are spoiling that future now.
That moral duty applies to other issues close to home as well: soaring murder numbers, ecological scarcity, war. Such issues make it seem like creating a new family is actually what’s selfish at this point.
I mull over this food for thought every now and then, but I am always optimistic. I still hold marriage and family as sacred institutions to strive for, not just because they are pillars in my religion, but also because I believe they are socially essential. But precisely because they are sacred, I will not rush to say yes to the first man who gets down on one knee in front of me.
Before I make a lifelong commitment, I want to be certain that I am doing it not merely to fulfill tradition or to give in to social pressures, but because I have reflected on it and decided deliberately. Before I opt to bring new life into the world, I want to know that I have done the world good with mine, and that I am helping repair the future for the ones who will live in it.
I don’t agree that it is selfish and less family-oriented to think this way. This is, on the contrary, putting more significance to the milestones of getting married and creating a family. So before I do, dear family members, please know that I’m taking my time.