I'm "Single" and Married

Here's why we're fighting for marriage equality in the Philippines.
by Christa I. De La Cruz
June 07, 2023
Adobe Stock War Espejo

(SPOT.ph) "Will you marry me?" The proposal went as many public proposals go. Well, minus getting down on one knee. It was an ordinary day in 2017—at least, as ordinary as birthdays can be. I was turning 28, after all. Not 20, not 30. Just that gap between not that old to afford a house or a car, but also not that young to party until the sun is up.

J invited me to catch a movie at a nearby microcinema. I had a long day at work, it was hard to book a ride, and we already watched the same film months prior. But J was insistent. Two hours later, I found out why. 

Closing credits rolled on the screen. Moviegoers trickled out of the venue amid closed lights. And just after the all-rights-reserved clip, the million-dollar question in big, bold, and black letters appeared on the white screen, in front of an unexpecting group of strangers and right before my unsuspecting eyes. "Maaari mo ba akong pakasalan?" A violinist played our song, house lights were switched on, and our closest friends suddenly emerged from the dark.


A big gay wedding was coming up.

Half a decade before that was another ordinary day—at least, as ordinary as coming out stories can be. At least a week’s worth of clothes was folded neatly in a backpack, a wad of cash was in my pocket, my phone was fully charged, and a couple of friends were ready for a get-me-out-of-here call. After about an hour of busting all the gay myths and counterarguing all the misconceptions of Bible-thumping Boomers, I was—fortunately (or unfortunately)—not kicked out of the house. And so, my parents’ less-than-favorable feedback after the proposal was nothing out of the ordinary.

A big gay wedding was still coming up.

First, when to get married? We were keen on having a long engagement—a big gay wedding, after all, doesn’t come cheap. May 20, 2020, we said. The day we met on the island of Catanduanes in the Bicol Region.

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Second, where to get married? As a gay couple, we can’t get married in a Catholic church. This meant we don’t have to follow the Catholics’ requirement to get married inside the four walls of such an ominous structure. We also can’t get married at the mayor’s office, the city hall, or a courtroom. But we can get married anywhere else—a restaurant, a garden, a rooftop bar, a cabin in the woods, a beach, an island. The possibilities are endless. We zeroed in on an underrated beach destination where we met: Puraran Beach. We’ll walk down the aisle with sand on our feet, exchange our vows with the surf town’s famous barreling waves in the background, and dance under the stars. It will be a very cliché destination wedding, minus the marriage contract.

Third, who can officiate our wedding? As a gay couple, we can’t be wed by a Catholic priest. We also can’t be wed by a ship captain, airplane chief, judge, city or municipal mayor, or—even if we’d want to—the Supreme Court Chief Justice. We can, however, ask a babaylan, a close friend, a parent, an aunt, an uncle, a mentor, or even a random passerby to bless our union. We can choose anyone. We got a pastor from a progressive Christian church called Open Table Community Church, headquartered along Sierra Madre Street in Mandaluyong City. I would often see their group at the annual Metro Manila Pride March, where they officiate Holy Unions—as they call it—for interested LGBTQ+ couples. They also hold Holy Unions at their chapel (which is more of an office), or at a restaurant, a garden, a rooftop bar, a cabin in the woods, a beach, or an island. Open Table's Rite of Holy Union is not legal, but it is also not illegal. More than anything, it is a spiritual joining of two persons. But, of course, putting it on paper would not hurt (anyone).


Fourth, what are the requirements? Not much really. Just love—as clichés go. Except for some proofs of identification (birth certificates, CENOMAR, and valid IDs), we didn't have to apply for a marriage license from the local civil registrar, photocopy all the documents in four copies, retrieve our baptismal certificates and confirmation certificates from the baul, get interviewed by a priest we barely know, attend a pre-marriage seminar where wives are told to submit to their husbands (as per the Bible, of course), or participate in a weekend retreat for Catholic couples. Not because we don't want to, but just because we can't.

Fifth, what will the ceremony look like? It is not a Catholic wedding, so it was shorter than a Catholic mass. It is not a civil wedding, so it is longer than a legal proceeding. But it has all the essentials: The walk down the aisle as a couple (none of that “giving away of a daughter’s hand”), the exchange of rings and vows, the blessing, and the kiss.


Sixth, who will attend? We invited about 100 people: our immediate family, the extended clan, officemates, college classmates, high school classmates, classmates from kinder, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. We invited anyone we can think of—knowing that not everyone’s willing to fly to a remote island where flights are only three times a week, traverse winding roads in a jeepney, and spend at least three days in a kubo-style accommodation with no air-conditioning. As expected, less than 50 people confirmed their attendance. We had extra bucks to spend on string lights, throw pillows, beach mats, and other knick-knacks inspired by Pinterest, hashtag aesthetic.

The venue, papers, guests, food, and design. All systems are go for this slow burn of a plot—then, the pandemic happened.

The big gay wedding on May 20, 2020, with our closest friends in front of my conservative Catholic parents did not come up.

People rushed their loved ones to hospitals, stayed behind glass doors as a family member was wheeled into ICUs, or worse, went home with the cremated body of the person they used to wake up next to every morning.


COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. And should anything happen, J and I have no legal paper to prove that we’re each other’s next of kin. But maybe, just maybe, a Certificate of a Holy Union signed by a pastor may have some bearing.

A year into the COVID-stricken uncertainty in 2021, we got married at Open Table’s chapel (which is more of an office) with three guests, and a violinist that played our favorite song. The wedding went as many pandemic weddings go. Contrary to popular belief about the implications of marriage equality, no one got hurt.

And, yes, my civil status still says single.

Also read:
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