Sunday, September 13, 2009

Love in the age of Cenomar

UNLIKE other serial philanderers, Jun does not rely only on sweet words and favors to woo the woman of the moment. (Real names are not used.)

He presents a Cenomar to prove that he is what he claims: unmarried, without impediments. His honeyed technique clinches the deal.

The Cenomar is the Certificate of No Marriage Record issued by the National Statistics Office (NSO).

Bigamy (contracting a second marriage before the first has been legally dissolved) is a crime punishable under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code. The second marriage is considered null and void under Article 35 of the Family Code of the Philippines.

The Cenomar is not required for marriage. But this piece of paper may bring peace of mind to those mulling to get hitched or, at least, probing the seriousness and honesty of a lover’s intentions.

But opportunists like Jun warp the law’s best intentions. Jun received his Cenomar after applying online at the e-Census and paying a fee of P400, which includes courier charges.

Gabriela, Jun’s common-law wife of more than 20 years, is sure Jun did not yet use the Cenomar in winning his No. 2. But No. 3 and No. 4 were quick to brandish the NSO certificate as part of their arsenal during their confrontation. Their point: since Jun did not marry Gabriela, she had no right to consider herself as No. 1.

It’s not only in telenovelas that love is deathless for the Pinoy. But so is its abuse.

Gabriela met Jun when he was just an apprentice and she, a clerk. Their two children came before the savings that could have sealed their union in civil or church rites. While he hopped from company to company, she earned extra money by accepting subcontracting work for accessories. Her funds kept the children in school, with occasional handouts for his mother when she came to her, not him, for aid.

Finally, Jun found steady employment. He rose up the ranks and became chief. And discovered, Gabriela recalls, that the world was “full of other skirts.”

At first, she fought the usurper, struggled to keep their family whole.

But the women’s names changed too fast to track. Jun himself kept a killing schedule, coming home after dinner with No. 3, leaving after to fetch No. 4 as she went off from work. He would leave her and the children for weeks, then months, without explanation. In every quarrel, he stressed that they were not married, that he owned the roof over their heads.

Still holding a clerical post and a clerical rate in her mid- 40s, Gabriela cannot afford to gather her tattered dignity and live apart. When their eldest challenged Jun after he hit Gabriela with an empty bottle during a fight, Jun stopped supporting the child’s studies.

Now, when Jun calls to arrange a pick-up of his allowance for the youngest, Gabriela grits her teeth and prays he will give enough this time.

She stopped counting after No. 4. She is civil to Jun when he shows up at home, in between affairs, because their youngest is graduating soon. Not too far behind, their eldest works at the college where he studies. When they learned that Jun fathered a third child, the children tell their mother they will find work soon so she will have the last laugh.

Sometimes, Gabriela doubts if she is the best mother/father she can be. Her children reassure her; I tell her to listen to the only judges worth heeding.

Gabriela and her girl friends laugh when I mention that the Magna Carta of Women and other laws protect women and children from physical, psychological and economic abuses in marital, dating or common-law relationships.

The same laws put a Cenomar in the hands of men like Jun, giggles Gabriela. The best revenge is to see your children succeed, retorts a friend. The best revenge is to find Mr. Right, asserts another.

After the giggles dissipate, I wonder aloud: if you don’t move out, what are the chances that Mr. Right will turn out to be Mr. Wrong all along?

In these tales of deathless love, don’t you smell a whiff of rot? 09173226131

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s September 13, 2009 issue of “Matamata”

No comments: