I was going boing boing boing at 4 a.m. a while ago because efavirenz high is taking over me. Until a fellow pozzie (let's call him A, hereafter) messaged me, "Si partner na stroke."
There was a sudden stop to whatever fantasizing I'm having in my head. It turned out that what I read was real and A's non-positive partner is in the hospital's ICU--already revived twice.
If that is not already heartbreaking, what was more devastating is that A (as I grasped it from his story) could be somewhere in the waiting room of the hospital because of a "family-only" policy. Sakit 'di ba? For eight years of love and bliss, still you are not a "family."
At 4 a.m., while I am floating in my head with stupid ideations, here I have a friend whose heart is crushed when he told me: "I don't know what to do without him." The weight of those words decimated my entirety.
It didn't take too long when I recalled this one discussion the class had in Persons and Family Law--area of civil law where we discuss relations of the family from cradle to grave. We were already at the last stretch of the course, talking about "Provisions on Funerals" when I, in my curiosity and operating from a same-sex point of view, asked my professor if only legal spouses are allowed to have the finaly say about the funeral rites of their beloved.
My professor agreed. Jurisprudence-wise, the Supreme Court in the recent case of Valino v. Adriano (G.R. No. 182894, 2014), the Court said that "Even if a deceased person has validly expressed his wish to be buried at the mausoleum of his paramour’s family, the deceased’s legal wife has the legal right to bury the deceased elsewhere, because the deceased’s wishes are compulsory only with respect to the ‘form’ of his funeral" (Link here).
The reason is simple: Philippine family law does not recognize common law unions, except in the case of co-ownership. But in the sentimental and often highly emotional area of funeral and last wishes, it will be the legal spouse which will have the final say.
At this rate, who are those who should fix the funerals? In the strict order given by the Civil Code (Art. 305 in relation to Art. 199), the following are: (1) The spouse; (2) The descendants in the nearest degree; (3) The ascendants in the nearest degree; and (4) The brothers and sisters.
Unfortunately, the "spouse" there must be the legitimate civil spouse, not the common-law spouse. So imagine yourself being entrusted with your lover's final words and after your lover's passing, you tell his mother (your "mother-in-law), "Tita, gusto daw po niyang ipa-cremate." With a blink of an eye, you can expect that what you just said will be thrown at the backburner because being only the gay lover of your gay husband, you are not the legal spouse. Sounds like, Mano Po, right? Yes'm.
It's not a stretch of thought to consider that two men living under one roof beneath the banner of eternal love is still common law union. Common law unions are those only consented between two people without the benefit of any law. Short to say, they just shacked up; cannot avail of tax breaks, the surviving spouse do not have the strong right to enforce what the deceased spouse said in articulo mortis (at the point of death), and other benefits accorded to man and woman who tied the knot with the sanctity of law (i.e. civil union). Nil. Nada. Zilch. Because they're only common law and the law still looks at their civil statuses as "single" persons.
The few slivers of my wakefulness went out to A and his partner on the context of civil unions. I've had too many what if's that tired my brain and fortunately lulled me to sleep. But the fact remains that sometimes, even if no matter how proud we are to put into Twitter trending #LoveWins, still Love is short when the might of Law is flexed.
For common law unions (and here is where same-sex unions are right now because we don't have same-sex marriage or civil unions yet) even if, say, I can attest to the truth that my hubby wants to be cremated, I have no right if my words are pitched against the family of my lover, who may want the body of my hubby otherwise like buried in their family lot or wherever.
My point being is, factor in the sentimentality of "til death do us apart" in most marriage vows, same-sex unions cannot fully have this advantage because Philippine laws do not recognize them. And I think that let alone the squabbling over tax, co-ownership, adoption and whathaveyou's, the bitter end of it all is that, isn't it human nature to leave our final words about what to do with our corpse to the person who has this infinite and immeasurable respect and love for us from deathbed and beyond?
Let's not quibble over what it's supposed to be called: same-sex marriage, legal partnerships, civil unions. The lawmakers are off to that debate. But what we need just about now is the protective mantle of law so that at the end, whatever happen to our bodies, that one great love in our lifetime is honored enough to do it for us--respected by the people around us and supported with what the law vests.
P.S. A's partner is now in a better condition. And his story is posted here with proper permission.
P.P.S. Dami kong feels while writing this. Shet.