This is a story of two cities, and how I, for two days, shuttled from one to the other, hoping to accomplish personal and political stuff.
From Tuesday to Thursday last week, I went back and forth from the Manila City to Hall to the Makati City Hall, hoping to get my marriage license and at the same time, extend political support for beleaguered Makati Mayor Jojo Binay who was illegally suspended by the Arroyo administration.
While Binay was waging his fight for due process, Beng and I were coming to terms with the legal processes of getting married.
One of the things engaged couples soon learn about getting married is that it involves a ton of paper work. The list of documents to produce is mind-boggling especially for those who do not have the luxury of time (e.g. activists on the go). There’s your NSO certified birth certificate, your baptismal and confirmation certificates (if you’re planning a Catholic wedding), the so-called certificate of “singleness” (don’t know if that’s even grammatically correct) also known as the certificate of no-marriage which you get at the NSO, and then finally, the marriage license. Most of these require you to line up in government offices and pay a hefty amount of money for pieces of paper whose only distinction is that they have some sort of unique certification on them.
And off to Manila City Hall we went. With the help of some acquaintances. we were guided to the process. First we go to the civil registry, get the forms, fill them up, get other required documents, then go back to City Hall for processing. Couples are required to undergo a seminar on reproductive health with the City Health Department. Since our documents were not completed yet, we had to reschedule filing our papers.
Not bad since I did have to go to Makati City Hall because Mayor Binay had been suspended and it was time to show support for an ally in the anti-Arroyo movement. And so we arrived around noon in Makati. Outside the building, supporters were massing up and holding a program. Earlier that day, around 1000 police men surrounded the City Hall compound in a shock and awe fashion reminiscent of the invasion of Baghdad.
Despite the situation, people inside the Makati City Hall were apparently calm and going about their preparations as if there was no impending war outside. Binay’s children were there, offering people food and drinks, and just basically talking to the guests about the current situation and how they were exposed to such realities at a very young age. A day earlier, I talked to one of Binay’s son-in-law and all we discussed family life and having kids! The atmosphere seemed relaxed even in the face of a possible siege of the 21st floor.
Unlike the Manila City Hall, the Makati City Hall was an example of efficiency, where things seemed to run smoothly even in an actual crisis situation. In one part of the Manila City Hall, there were tables and chairs lined up in the corridors, not because they were gonna barricade the area, but because that’s were the employees held their office.
We went back to the Manila City Hall on Thursday, ready with our documents and prepared to wage our own little battle if need be, against bureaucratic red tape. To be fair to the city hall employees, things went smoothly. We got our forms, filed them then proceeded to a “seminar” for couples.
Yes, the seminar proved to be the highpoint of our stay in Manila. Beng asked if it was possible NOT to undergo the seminar since she’s a practicing physician anyways, and she herself gives these kinds of seminars to communities during her clinic days. Unfortunately, her request was denied. We were told that what we were going to attend was not just a “seminar” on reproductive health. There’s more to it than that.
And so we went to the City Health Department and seated ourselves near a TV. They were going to show a short film. I was curious of course, and looked around to see if they were selling snacks too. True enough, there was a vendor and Beng bought cashew nuts. So we were all set for the “film”, which turned out was about the “evils of abortion”. I’m not gonna get into any discussion on pro-life vs pro-choice, but I found the seminar laden with religious undertones. So much so that I began to wonder where the separation of church and state actually starts.
One couple during the open forum made the mistake of saying that they planned to use pills for contraception; a big no-no as far as Mayor Atienza is concerned. The honest answer elicited a frown on the face of the facilitator. The mayor of Manila has been at the forefront of the pro-life campaign.
The preferred family planning method of the Manila City Hall is the mucus method. You have to attend the seminar to find out what it means, though I think the concept is pretty self-explanatory, hehe.
After that one-hour session at the health department, we were all set to go to the civil registry where we would sign the papers under oath and well… get our marriage license in 10 days, which Beng also says is already a legally binding document. That kinda surprised me at that time because it’s like saying that we’re practically married.. and I wasn’t even in the right mindset. I was answering calls regarding the Makati stand-off and the farmers’ Lakbayan, and when i put down the phone, Beng and I were legally married?!
That was fast.
Beng and I went home happy that day. At least she did. I had to go back to Makati City Hall and get some updates first. The folks from Bayan Southern Tagalog had just left the City Hall grounds when I arrived. There was a lot of commotion going on in the 21st floor. Turns out, Mayor Binay had won Round 1 of his battle with Malacañang. Word got around that a temporary restraining order has been secured from the Court of Appeals. Everyone was happy.
I again got to talk to Binay’s children and I told them what da heck I was doing the whole day. They were laughing inside the library.
They asked me why I didn’t just apply for a marriage license in Makati.
Why not indeed?