BE careful about what you wish for.
Local civil registrars require Filipinos applying for a marriage license to submit a Certificate of No Marriage Record (Cenomar) issued by the National Statistics Office.
This paper is at the root of many a woman’s lament. I’ve written about the Cenomar in the Sept. 13 and Sept. 20 issues of this paper.
Here’s the pattern of the Cenomar’s misuse and abuse, as shared by readers:
- Jun uses a Cenomar as a pièce de résistance to start affairs. His common-law partner, Gabriela, endures the emotional abuse for the sake of their youngest child, whose college studies Jun still supports.
- In reaction to the Sept. 20 column, Tonette Rellin posted in the Sun.Star Cebu website that her common-law husband secured a Cenomar to apply for permanent residency in Canada. He now lives with and supports a woman, who is legally married to someone else, after abandoning and denying support for his children with Tonette.
- Applying for a boyfriend’s Cenomar, V. receives a Cemar instead. Knowing he can’t marry her is not as bad as realizing he lied to her.
Yet, despite the philanderers using the Cenomar to camouflage their abandonment of partners and children, Tonette believes women should “be smart enough not to be fooled (by) so-called ‘love,’ they have to use their common sense.”
Tonette and Gabriela are actually fortunate because their common-law partner’s Cenomar guarantees them the same freedom: they can marry another person.
This is the encouragement made by lawyer Rosemarie Olaño-Versoza, a member of the Cebu Media Legal Aid (Cemla). When I recently met the GMA news anchor and fellow Mass Communication lecturer at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas Cebu College, I asked Rose to share her advice as a lawyer and social advocate, as well as a happily married wife and mother.
Rose says a woman’s course of action depends on her honest answer to the question, “What do I want to do after I accept that my partner is comfortable about The Others (women and/or family)?”
We believe that couples can work to save their marriage after an infidelity if the unfaithful partner is repentant and desires to reform. But a serial philanderer not only scars a woman but also their children. Worse, ignoring or forgiving infidelity makes a woman a conspirator in her own abuse.
As the saying goes: “the first time he plays around, shame on him; the second time, shame on me.”
Like wedded ones, common-law wives deserve their partner’s fidelity and support or, at the least, the honesty to end ties before starting others.
In making decisions about her future, women must think long and hard about their children, adds Rose. It’s not only because children bear the effects, often lifelong, of abusive and failed relationships. The “bloodiest” legal struggles are waged over the custody and support of children, she warns.
But enduring a partner’s abuse “for the sake of the children” is a mistake that ruins not just marriages but parenting ties. A monster of a husband can be a saint to his children, who may blame their “workaholic” mother for pushing their father to stray.
Honesty about the reasons behind the decision to separate and civil behavior in working out support and visiting arrangements is the ideal, difficult but not impossible in typically inarticulate, indirect Filipino families.
Lastly, Rose stresses that a woman must earn her own money to cut free from abusive relationships. This financial independence buttresses her will and sustains the long, expensive legal struggle to live without compromising one’s dignity or the future of one’s children.
L. didn’t need a Cenomar to wake up from the “perfumed nightmare” of marital betrayal. Though childless, L.’s peace of mind and work suffered following the abandonment by her doctor-husband after six years of marriage. He was already unfaithful when they were newly wed.
When he denied that they were legally wed, L. secured a Cemar from NSO. Her suit against him is now being handled by a non-government organization offering legal alternatives for abused women.
“i love my husband but I also hav 2 luv myself more,” she texted after reading the Sept. 13 column. “lyf s 2 short 2 spend… with a person not worthy of my trust and (devotion).”
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*First published as the “Matamata” column of the Oct. 4, 2009 issue of Sun.Star Cebu