“I married young and quick, from a place of love and hope, but without a lot of discussion over what the realities of marriage would mean. Nobody advised me on my marriage. I had been raised by my parents to be independent, self-providing, self-deciding. By the time I reached the age of twenty-four, it was assumed by everyone that I could make all my own choices, autonomously. Of course the world was not always like this. If I’d been born during any other century of Western patriarchy, I would’ve been considered the property of my father, until which time he passed me over to my husband, to become marital property. I would’ve had precious little say in the major matters of my own life. At one time in history, if a man had been my suitor, my father might have sat that man down with a long list of questions to establish whether this would be an appropriate match. He would have wanted to know, “How will you provide for my daughter? What is your reputation in this community? How is your health? Where will you take her to live? What are your debts and your assets? What are the strengths of your character?” My father would not have just given me away in marriage to anybody for the mere fact that I was in love with the fellow. But in modern life, when I made the decision to marry, my modern father didn’t become involved at all. He would have no more interfered with that decision than he would have told me how to style my hair.”
from “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, p. 380, Penguin Books 2006.
June is traditionally the month of weddings in the Philippines, although it is already being superseded by December, so I think that the subject of “marrying well” is timely…
“Marrying well” is not only marrying rich. Of course it’s the point, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. In its fullest sense, it is marrying a partner who has high career potential and prospects [ somebody who will be president or chairman of the company, CEO, COO; somebody who will succeed the father at the helm of the conglomerate; somebody who will start a successful, billion-peso fastfood chain; at least somebody who will head the Finance department of the corporation... correspondingly, somebody with substantial brains [ and preferably with considerable beauty ] to infuse into the genetic pool and to serve as a competent and suitable partner to her husband in his occupations and businesses, or at the least a trustworthy assistant in her husband’s business affairs; somebody who was expensively educated here and abroad, with the resultant savvy in the ways of the world; somebody who will bring her large inheritance into the marriage; somebody who will run the city residence, the country houses, and the houses and apartments abroad — with all their contemporary and old master art, antique furniture and objets, contemporary artisanal furniture, and all the other useless requisites of the charmed life — to showcase one’s wealth and highly-educated, flawless taste; somebody who will look beautiful on one’s arm and serve — through her exquisitely-maintained, expensively-dressed, and magnificently-bejeweled self — as proof positive of one’s superior professional accomplishments, at least somebody who will produce beautiful children ], is financially productive, of good moral character, good manners, intelligence, and similar qualities. Often, such a partner comes from a family that has long nurtured those sterling qualities and sustained those moral values through the years. But it is ironic that often, such a partner also comes from a family that is tainted with inbreeding, genetic abnormalities, various health issues, inheritance wars, corporate struggles, endless lawsuits, kidnapings, if not outright murders, and other interesting and amusing attributes. Last but not least, it would also be nice if the partner has good looks. However, marriages to partners who look like aliens from outer space, with equally freakish characters to match, are very much tolerated and even desired when there are EE or USD $$$ billions, or even just Php billions involved.
Actually, I don’t know what to make of it… “Marrying well” seems to be the furthest thing from the minds of the eligible bachelors and ladies these days. Outwardly, great sex seems to be the deciding factor, but then one never really knows. On the other hand, “marrying well” will always be the concern of parents, be they conservative Opus Dei, ascendant career professionals, or flower children, hippies, or even drug addicts during their youth in the 1960s to the 70s. Because one still needs considerable resources to smoke grass, snort coke, and live an “haute boheme” lifestyle. “Boheme” sans “haute” is “La Boheme” as in the tragic Rodolfo and Mimi of Giacomo Puccini fame, and that’s definitely no fun at all.
“… Soon she will turn eighteen, and this is the age when she will be regarded as a legitimate marriage prospect. It will happen like this — after her eighteenth birthday, she will be required to attend family weddings dressed in a sari, signaling her womanhood. Some nice amma [ auntie ] will come and sit beside her, start asking questions and getting to know her: “How old are you? What’s your family background? What does your father do? What universities are you applying to? What are your interests? When is your birthday?” Next thing you know, Tulsi’s dad will get a big envelope in the mail with a photo of this woman’s grandson who is studying computer sciences in Delhi, along with the boy’s astrology charts and his university grades and the inevitable question, “Would your daughter care to marry him?” …
“But it means so much to the family, to see their children wedded off successfully. Tulsi has an aunt who just shaved her head as a gesture of thanks to God because her oldest daughter — at the Jurassic age of twenty-eight — finally got married. And this was a difficult girl to marry off, too, she had a lot of strikes against her. I asked Tulsi what makes an Indian girl difficult to marry off, and she said there were any number of reasons.”
“If she has a bad horoscope. If she’s too old. If her skin is too dark. If she’s too educated and you can’t find a man with a higher position than hers, and this is a widespread problem these days because a woman cannot be more educated than her husband. Or if she’s had an affair with someone and the whole community knows about it, oh, it would be quite difficult to find a husband after that…”
from “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, p. 239, Penguin Books 2006.
Most Filipinos, because of their nonconfrontational culture, refrain from openly discussing the prospective partner’s financial capabilities in the light of a forthcoming marriage. But don’t fool yourselves, because they certainly bitch bigtime among themselves in private… and how!!! Of course they’re very, very, very concerned about it [ specially if the bride is theirs and there's this impecunious, opportunistic, carpetbagging, "ne'er-do-well" coming! ], which is only normal for chrissakes, but they will go to great lengths to pretend they’re not. You will hear such heartwarming hypocrisies and fallacies as “As long as you love one another.” “Love is all you need.” “As long as he provides for you.” “As long as she will be supportive of your goals.” “As long as he is honest and works hard for the family.” “As long as she can raise the children well.” “As long as he puts food on the table.” Well, what happens when all he can put on the table are potato chips and sodas???!!! And what happens when she decides she’s bored with him and the children, resolves to do an “Eat, Pray, Love” thing, and runs off to Bali… or to Baguio if she has less Php cash???!!!
However, some families are direct, and they’re usually the superrich ones. As the young ones say: “They don’t make any bones about it.”
The superrich youth are routinely sent to the Ivy League universities — Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, U-Penn, Yale [ also Stanford, UC Berkeley, Duke, et. al. ], to Oxford and Cambridge, to the Sorbonne, not only for their undergrads and postgrads, M.A.s and Ph.D.s,, but also for what is jokingly referred to as their M.R.S.s and M.R.s [ wives and husbands ]…
In fact, one wonders why there are few, if any, intermarriages between the last remaining Old Filipino, non-taipan fortunes [ although there certainly were/are/will be: there is a forthcoming marriage of a Vicente Madrigal great-grandson and a Jacobo Zobel great-granddaughter early next year, January 2012; Madrigal and Zobel were contemporaries --- Madrigal was a self-made shipping tycoon and Zobel was a military career man from the distinguished Roxas-de Ayala-Zobel-Soriano clan ] — the Zobel, the Madrigal, the Lopez, the Cojuangco, the Ortigas, and the Aboitiz families. One doesn’t hear of them marrying into the big taipan families either, in which case one will wonder who is achieving “mejorar la raza”…
During the various heydays of the sugar industry in Iloilo and Negros [ periodically interrupted by decades-long, near-fatal hiccups ] which created many of the country’s great fortunes, the sons and daughters of grand families ricocheted from one to the other, from one “hacienda” to the next, giving rise to the popular, albeit somewhat flawed, perception of aristocratic Ilonggo intermarriages and even “inbreeding.” The Lopez, the Ledesma, the Jalandoni, and the Soriano families in Iloilo and the Lacson, the Lizares, and the Montilla in Negros Occidental were well-known in their circles for contracting “successful” marriages.
A generation of rich Lopez bachelors were cheerily advised by their elders to marry “beautiful girls with lots of money.”
A generation of beautiful Soriano ladies, all with a considerable inheritance, were married off to rich and promising young men of “good” Iloilo families.
The legendary Lizares matriarch “Tana Dicang” Enrica Alunan de Lizares ensured that most of her children married their financial and social peers.
A generation of Madrigal granddaughters and grandsons were advised by their eldest aunt that “It is as easy to fall in love with a rich person as it is with a poor person. So make the right choice.”
Manila is cruel in the sense that everyone knows, among husbands and wives, which side of the bread is buttered, more buttered, or make that generously slathered… and the subject does come up during conversations, sometimes without reservations…
“Yes, Spanish mestiza, very pretty, even striking, but not rich. She took all sorts of good, decent jobs when she was young: kindergarten teacher, bank teller, etc.. He came sailing along. Happy marriage at the beginning. Now there’s just too much success and too much money. As long as she’s Mrs. there will be no problems. Even with all the mistresses she has to sit with through dinner…”
“Both grand families were very happy when they married. ‘How suitable! A wedding of equals!’ Big real estate married big real estate. But there’s a glitch: he’s a first-rate philanderer. Doesn’t spare anybody, even ‘las muchachas.’ Has children with various maids. She is in complete denial, preferring to cook her problems away in a house in wonderland…”
“You would think he’s so proper, aloof, and all… No. Like so many of his peers, he likes fooling around with ‘las criadas y muchachas.’ Has children with them. Que horror!!! But she’s not leaving him anytime soon. Why waste all those Php billion Manila properties???!!! She’s just making sure that none of his bastards will be legally recognized, despite the new Family Code.”
“There are all those rumors… But I think they’re just mistaking him for his father, who was notorious for picking up the caddies at Manila Golf… And as for his wife, she wouldn’t know one from the other, and if she does, she certainly will never say.”
“I don’t know why she married him. He was introduced to our group at a resto one night and he was some sort of penniless backpacker… He even smelled. Then he’s repackaged as ‘the this of the that’ and she marries him!? Hardly ‘mejorar la raza’…”
“How can she allow him to treat her like that??? He treats her like a maid. Sometimes, he’s embarrassed by her and has to explain to peers why she’s not from the ‘hood, although she is certainly ‘de buena familia.’ The truth is that no sane girl in his immediate set would have married him, cautioned as they were by their parents of his family’s eccentricities and downright weirdness. Well, she comes from a crazy family too — her siblings are all rare birds — so one of these days she just might casually walk out on him and he won’t know what to do…”
“When they became engaged, she was trumpeted as ‘la heredera de muy buena familia’ and his oddly bedazzled family, also very rich, pulled all the stops to welcome her. ‘Que guapa! Que simpatica!’ they cooed. That was before they found out how fractious and leveraged her family was and she found out how miserly, miserable, and weird they were. Now, it’s simply ‘No comment.’ on both sides.”
Marriage. As Tina Turner sang in that long-ago song: “What’s Love, got to do, got to do with it???”
The whole idea of marriage is a tad complicated for my limited comprehension. It is one of the reasons why I have opted to stay single. All that winding and unwinding: too many wind-ups as it gets on its way and too many wind-downs as it gets out of the way. In that light, I’m perfectly happy with the comfortable menage a trois of I, Me, and Myself.