Despondent bride forced to marry older man after 'being caught seeing him around their village'

This is the disheartening moment an underage bride was forced to marry an older man - after locals caught them seeing each other around their village.

The 17-year-old girl, named Lay, had been accused by fellow tribespeople of having feelings for the 'outsider' after they were seen in conversation several times in recent weeks.

Locals in the remote part of Bukidnon province in the southern Philippines feared that if the pair became too close it could bring shame on the girl’s family.

While the man, named Jay and a settler known as a Cebuano from outside the indigenous group of people, faced having to give her family a whole buffalo plus a dowry if she fell pregnant outside of marriage.

With that in mind, villagers arranged for the pair to have an illegal wedding - the country prohibits marriage until girls are 18 - in a small wooden house.

Wearing a white dress and veil, the girl appeared to be despondent throughout the process.

She looked gloomily at the ground barely raising her eyes for much of the ceremony. While her new husband in traditional white and red clothes had a broad smile.

The marriage was finally confirmed with the blood of a ritually sacrificed chicken being dripped onto the wrists of the bride, groom and their families.

The newlyweds then sat on the ground and ate the barbecued bird before dozens of locals from the Lumad people joined in with the reception, drinking whiskey and eating rice and pork.

The documentary maker, who has been living among the tribes for several months and was invited to cover the wedding, said: ''The legal age for marriage in the Philippines is 18. So when a minor gets married there are no legal papers.

''When she turns 18 they will get all of the documents. The man is older, maybe in his late 20s.

''The indigenous communities, especially the Lumads, are full of superstition and some still preserve the ancient ways that are handed down to them by their ancestors despite the strong influx of modernisation and change.

''The teenager is a member of the tribe. The guy is a Cebuano, one of the Visayan settlers in Mindanao.

'’They were wed because they kept seeing each other around the village. They didn’t want neighbours gossiping.

''The way we look at it, she is being forced to marry by our perspective of weddings.

''It is to prevent damages, like getting pregnant or engaging into premarital sexual activities.

''If the woman became pregnant before she is married, then the man would have to pay the family.

''He would have to compensate them with a four-legged animal, either a carabao, cow or a pig, in addition to the dowry.

''Unlike Christian weddings, the couple were tied with a veil and a rope.