Online dating: EV women’s boon or misfortune?
Miriam Garcia Desacada (The Freeman) - March 17, 2015 - 12:00am

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – There are as many faces of poverty as there are ways for women to tackle these economic lows.

In Eastern Visayas, the devastation of Yolanda in 2013 drove women in the region, further down the depths of poverty to the point of desperation but with the resolve to do anything just to rise above the waters, notwithstanding the social views or norms.

The women in the region want employment in the city, but with the lack of it, some of them instead move to other places, such as Cebu City or Metro Manila as the most viable course to escape, if not at least alleviate family poverty.

Many take another daring route: seek for jobs abroad. But this has been too expensive and usually takes a longer time, thus most women go for the easiest albeit riskiest option: Online dating, or catching a foreigner for a husband who could provide them financial stability, or so they think.

Before the advent of electronic dating, which sometimes led to inter-racial marriages in the past, many women have fallen into the so-called mail-order bride services during the early ‘80s. Studies during these times showed that a “significant number of these women came from poorer provinces in the country” who simply wanted a “way out of poverty.”

Among these provinces are in Eastern Visayas, and there is where many women have gone into online dating and have shown to the rest that they succeeded. Many are now relatively stable financially, have good businesses and have their own house and lot to boast, with their foreigner husbands or partners to back them up.

The research also revealed that more than half of these women, with the median age of 27 years, who had been into online dating were either unemployed or underemployed from their place of origin or current residence. Citing the traditional practice of a close-knit family, over 70 percent or majority of these women are expected to “contribute or help with their family income.”

The number of women from poor provinces in Samar, Leyte, Biliran and Southern Leyte, seeking for foreign mates, has increased over time. The younger lot, especially after the Yolanda devastation, has found the road of the Internet a promising pathway for a “jackpot” of having a rich, even if old, foreign husband.

However, not all women are lucky, as there are some of them who fell victims of spousal abuse and even prostitution, although this dire outcome did not deter others from being lured to the same route, like getting themselves into a gamble, for better or for worse, for as long as the future offers some option or maybe hope.

There were unfortunate instances when these women fell into the hands of foreigners who have criminal records or have psychological ailment behind their dapper physical appearances.

The discovery comes too late for these women who normally have a preconceived notion that a handsome foreigner is a well-off person with lots of brigth promises to offer. Despite this inversion,  however, many women seem unfazed in placing their bets on uncertain tomorrows. Comes what may.

A recent survey revealed that 90 percent of Internet establishments in Eastern Visayas have a daily clientele of at least 30 women, aged 15 to 50 years old, who are into online chatting with foreign nationals such as American, British, Australian, Japanese and Koreans.

These women come from diverse backgrounds: students, professionals, separated or widowed and even married ones who are trying to get out of their “bad marriage” with local partners. These online dating eventually ends up with marriage or at worst, prostitution perpetrated by foreigners with “criminal intent.”

Dianne, 42, a resident of Borongan City in Eastern Samar, got married to a 73-year-old Italian boyfriend. She told The Freeman she resigned from her work after tying the knot with her boyfriend of three years. “At least, I received $50 to $70 every four days after. It’s a big help for my daily expenses and my 5-year-old son. Yes, my husband allowed me to leave work. He is already 73, and he is also for my future,” she said.

Karl Wood, an American national who recently got married to a 21-year-old woman from Burauen town in Leyte, said his fellow foreigners who choose Filipinas for a wife, could not be blamed. “They (Filipinas) are sexy, loving, warm and hospitable and are good conversationalists, unlike other women from the west or other countries who are only focused in their work or money,” he said.

Tacloban City Vice Mayor Sambo Yaokasin defended “chatting resulting in marriage,” saying there is nothing immoral with this practice, although he cautioned women by being selective to avoid falling into the wrong man.

Some “chat” stories have resulted in more unfortunate if not lamentable relationships. Miranda, whose husband presently works in Saudi Arabia under contract, became enamored with her Australian chatmate who eventually became her fiancé after a year of swapping electronic love lines.

When the Australian came to visit Miranda six months after Yolanda, her husband caught them when he barged into their room in a first class resort, causing a scandal. The traumatized Australian hastily severed the romantic liaison with Miranda and returned to his country.

There were also instances when somebody instead plays as an “agent” between a local woman and a foreigner date, in what is known as woman or child trafficking. Rona (not her real name) was recently sentenced to eight years in prison for three counts of human trafficking cases filed before the local court here.

Rona found her American boyfriend on-line, but she allowed her boyfriend to sexually molest her minor children in exchange for P30,000 weekly remittances. Rona pleaded guilty to the crime after she was arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation.

NBI special Investigator, Ben Panican however warned women, involve in chatting, to be more vigilant on who they are dealing with online.

Planning, Research and Policy Immigrant Services officers, Cherry Veniles and Maria Kimberly Joy Dizon, said that two-thirds or 2,336 of the 3,665 persons from Eastern Visayas, who sought immigration, said they found their fiancés from online chatting.

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