By Troy Espera, ABS CBN North America Bureau
May 28, 2013
San Francisco – Bay area fans of Fil-Am literature gathered for the launch of “The Mango Bride”—the Palanca award winning first novel by Marivi Soliven that tells the story of immigrant women who came to America for different reasons.
“One comes from a wealthy family and is under the pall of scandal. The other is an impoverished waitress who becomes a mail order bride,” Soliven said.
Soliven folds in topics like love, class, immigration, and domestic violence into her book—which resonated with her Filipino audience.
But while ‘The Mango Bride’ is a work of fiction, it delves into the very real issue of the mail order bride industry—a business that is difficult to regulate, which experts say, exploits thousands of immigrant women each year.
Between 1999 and 2010, the number of international marriage broker agencies doubled from 200 to 400, with the number of coordinated marriages more than tripling from 4,000 to 15,000.
The numbers are so compelling that Alec Baldwin once joked on the David Letterman’s show that he’d love to have more kids and was thinking of “getting a Filipino mail order bride.”
Immigration attorney Rodel Rodis pointed out however that this is no laughing matter.
“How they see filipino women as mail order brides, as objectified commodities to be bought and sold–that’s a reason for us to be concerned as a community,” Rodis said.
Rodis has helped abused Filipino mail order brides, whose American fiances and husbands threatened not to complete their petitions for green cards.
“They were living in places like Georgia, Oklahoma, or Arkansas, small towns. They were repeatedly abused physically, sexually, and there was no one they could talk to,” he said.
Rodis had helped them file self-petitions and obtain green cards under the Violence Against Women Act—which expands protections to immigrant women victims of domestic abuse.
Back at her book launch, Soliven agrees that more awareness is needed about the plight of real life “Mango Brides”.
“Has it reached the level of awareness like the breast cancer walk for a cure? No. This is not something the victims themselves really want to speak about,” Soliven said.