MANILA (AFP) - Marriage is losing its lustre for many in the Philippines, with an increasing number of couples starting families out of wedlock, the government census office said on Friday. More than 37 percent of the 1.78 million babies born in Asias Roman Catholic outpost in 2008 had unmarried mothers, it said in a statement, citing results of the latest population census. This was 12.5 percent higher than the previous year, and compared with a 2.0 percent increase for all births, the census office said. A growing number of Filipinos now treat marriage as an option, rather than a requirement, for starting families, said Nene Baligad, a member of a unit of the National Statistics Office that licenses people who officially get married. Nowadays, some couples just live in and only get married after having four or five children, she told AFP. You cant really say its for practical reasons, since you can be married on the cheap. Its more like, we Filipinos tend to follow what is in fashion. Eight out of 10 Filipinos are Catholic, and the Philippines is one of only three territories in the world, along with Malta and the Vatican, where divorce remains illegal. However the census showed that many couples were defying the nations powerful Catholic bishops by not only on having babies out of wedlock, but also by shunning church weddings.