TN 31 (08-05)

GN 00307.769 Tribal and Muslim Marriages in the Philippines

A. Background

1. Marriage after June 3, 1930

Philippine law permitted the marriage of non-Christians according to their own customs and beliefs if they resided in non-Christian provinces. Usually, the parties did not get a marriage certificate or register their marriage.

2. Marriage after December 17, 1899 and before June 4, 1930

Philippine law had no provision for tribal or Muslim custom marriages during this period. It does, however, recognize such marriages performed prior to June 3, 1930 if the marital relationship is “substantial.”

B. Definition

A non-Christian province is one which has a significant tribal or Muslim population. The following provinces are considered non-Christian:

  • Abra,

  • Benguet,

  • Bukidnon,

  • Cotabato,

  • Lanao,

  • Misamis Occidental,

  • Misamis Oriental,

  • Mt. Province,

  • Nueva Ecija,

  • Nueva Vizaya,

  • Zamboanga del Norte, and

  • Zamboanga del Sur.

C. Policy

1. Marriages after June 3, 1930

The provisions for tribal and Muslim marriages also apply to marriages of non-Christian males and Christian females. However, a Christian male cannot contract a marriage by tribal or Muslim custom but must meet the provisions of the Civil Code to contract a valid marriage with a non-Christian female.

Factors other than baptism may be considered in determining whether a male is non-Christian. Individuals who were baptized but never knowingly accepted Christianity can contract a valid marriage under tribal or Muslim custom. Whether a male would be considered a Christian depends on the facts of the case and his acts. The following are some considerations in determining if an individual knowingly accepted Christianity:

  • Age at the time of baptism—A male who was old enough (e.g. 12-14) to recognize the significance of the baptismal act has effectively abandoned his former religion. He cannot, for the purpose of entering a valid tribal or Muslim custom marriage, later reject Christianity.

  • Subsequent actions after infant baptism—A male who was baptized as an infant but never acknowledged himself as a Christian or practices as one, can enter into a valid tribal or Muslim custom marriage.

2. “Substantial” marriage

There is no set period for which a “substantial” marriage has to have existed. Each case is viewed on its own merit; the time the relationship existed is just one factor. A marriage which existed for a long period of time may be “substantial” under one set of circumstances but not “substantial” under another set of circumstances.

Some factors to be considered in determining “substantiality” are:

  • Evidence of a marriage in accordance with tribal or Muslim custom;

  • Prior marriages;

  • Children born of the relationship;

  • Duration of the relationship;

  • The conduct of the parties while living together and when separated (e.g., whether either entered into another relationship, etc.)

D. Procedure

Develop for secondary evidence of marriage since these marriages are usually not registered in the civil records.

Include the following points when getting statements from the claimants and third parties:

  • The couple's tribal affiliation;

  • When and where the ceremony took place;

  • Whether the groom is a Christian, and if so, when he became a Christian. If he became a Christian before the marriage, develop fully to determine whether he knowingly accepted Christianity;

  • Whether the couple continued to hold themselves out as husband and wife, and if not, whether they divorced or just separated. Get details about when and where any divorce took place;

  • Information for determining whether the marriage was “substantial” if it occurred before June 4, 1930.

Make a special determination in all cases explaining the establishment (or failure to establish) a valid tribal or Muslim tribal marriage.

If a claimant states a province not listed in GN 00307.769B. is non-Christian, refer the question to the Foreign Service Post (FSP) in Manila, Philippines.

E. Kinds of secondary evidence

Secondary evidence of a marital relationship can include, but is not limited to, the following: