A symbolic union
MARRIAGE WITHOUT RECOGNITION
It all started with a chit chat in a busy barbeque stand along Escario St., Cebu City.
Michael Cano, 31, and Jay Lugo, 34, met sometime in 2014 when they shared a conversation about the slow service at the food stand as they waited for their orders to be served.
The delay in the food service that night opened the door of friendship between Michael and Jay who also happened to be neighbors.
Michael recalls that Jay had become his go-to-guy whenever he had problems in his long-term relationship with another man.
Soon, they began to consider each other as bestfriends.
In 2015, Michael finally decided to end his troubled relationship.
At that point, he felt that he had no one else but his bestfriend Jay, who did not think twice about giving him a new home.
“After that, everything was history,” said Michael as he fell in love with Jay whom he describes as timid and affectionate.
Jay and Michael have since been living together for more than three years now.
They call each other “Boss” and throughout their relationship, they could not recall a single major disagreement.
Last December, Michael proposed marriage to Jay as he hoped to bring their relationship to the “next level”.
In the presence of their friends, Jay agreed to his partner’s proposal even though he did not expect that an actual marriage would come at all.
“I was not expecting any marriage at all. Ang ako lang is I have someone to grow old with, niya wala’y cheating (I just wanted to have someone to grow old with and without cheating), ” Jay said of his feelings when Michael proposed, adding that he was very much aware of Cebu’s traditional Christian values and the island’s reputation as the “Cradle of Christianity in Asia”.
However last June, on the month celebrated by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queer or questioning and intersex (LGBTQI) individuals globally as Pride Month, the couple tied the knot, so to speak.
Before more than a hundred guests, Michael and Jay exchanged their vows in a ceremony officiated by Michael’s close friend, Ramon Cynch “Arcy” Chavez Yuson.
While admitting that he was not an ordained minister nor a government official authorized to solemnize weddings, Yuson said that the ceremony which he officiated was genuine in its truest sense.
“I explained that under our country’s laws, same sex marriage is not recognized. Regardless, Michael explained that experiencing an exchanging of vows, albeit legally nonbinding, was very import for them to validate their relationship,” said Yuson.
The couple chose June 18 as their wedding day because the date was considered lucky in Feng Shui and it fell on Pride Month which serves to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York — the turning point for the gay liberation movement in the United States.
Clad in white polo shirts, Jay and Michael exchanged vows in a Hamptons-inspired ceremony held at a private beach resort in the midwestern town of Balamban, Cebu, approximately 52 kilometers from Cebu City.
Without any same-sex marriage ceremony publicly performed in Cebu for the past years, the celebration, according to Michael, can be considered as one of the rarest same-sex marriage ceremonies performed in the province.
“I promise to lift you up when you are down. I promise to remain faithful to no one else but you. I promise to grow old with you. And above all, I promise to love and cherish you till my very last breath,” said Michael in his wedding vow.
“Hindi ako magsasawa na pagsilbihan ka, susurpotahan kita sa lahat ng mga plano mo para sa pamilya mo at para sa atin, magiging kaabay mo ako sa lahat ng bagay. Bubuin natin ng sabay ang ating mga pangarap,” Jay responded.
While the event was substantially different from recognized Philippine marriages with the absence of a legally-recognized solemnizing officer, it had an entourage consisting of family members and closest friends just like traditional weddings.
It was also performed in a more secular tradition filled with Judeo-Christian readings and prayers, as well as literature from remarkable wordsmiths such as Pablo Neruda and Walt Whitman.
Their maid of honor, Nesil Carmelo, who is Michael’s colleague at work, took charge of the wedding preparations.
Carmelo said that the whole ceremony cost nearly P300,000; but the newlyweds were able to save because of voluntary financial contributions from friends and family.
Saying that the couple was simple and low-key, Carmelo described Michael and Jay’s relationship as exemplary.
She said the two men were lucky to have found each other at a time when most gay relationships end up as short-term.
“They have been so sweet ever since, and it’s a rare sight for gay couples,” said Carmelo.
On Facebook, Michael shared glimpses of their wedding day in a video that ran for nearly four minutes.
The post drew support from friends and family with almost 300 reactions, 36 shares and nearly 4,000 views over a three-week period, as of this writing.
Michael and Jay told Cebu Daily News that they were surprised that their FB wedding video did not draw a single hate mail nor any discriminatory remark from anyone.
Although absent during the wedding ceremony, the couple said their parents wholeheartedly accept the union.
Michael said his mother thought that he was merely joking when he told her that he was marrying Jay.
“My mother did not believe at first because same sex marriage is not allowed in the Philippines,” recalled Michael.
“Kung asa ko malipay, pwede ra gyud kuno magminyo, matod pa sa akong mga ginikanan (My parents told me whatever makes me happy, if I want to get married, it would be okay),” Jay, for his part, said.
While the couple recognized that their wedding was simply a symbolic event that did not produce any legal effect, they said it was the best way to profess their love and commitment to each other.
“Dili na nako siya ganahan buhi-an (I’m never letting him go), I want everybody to know that I love him,” Michael said.
For Michael’s friend Yuson, who officiated the ceremony, the wedding was not only a testament of how far the community has come in achieving levels of acceptance; but also of how far people still need to go.
“Their wedding therefore, is not just a celebration of their love and devotion for each other, but their contribution to the movement of achieving marriage equality,” said Yuson.
(To be continued…)
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