CEBU CITY, Philippines – A first-ever Sama-Bajau civil mass wedding sponsored by the Cebu City government was held on Thursday, October 26, in celebration of the National Indigenous People’s (IP) Month.
A total of 18 Sama-Bajau couples received the union of matrimony at the Cebu City social hall, with hopes of legalizing their marriage and obtaining a marriage license.
Jenifer Abastillas, the IP focal person of DSWD-Region 7, highlighted the profound impact of this event on the Sama-Bajau community, as their unions will now be officially sanctioned by the law.
“Dugay na sila nagpuyo pero wala lang silay dokumento. Wala sila’y record sa PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority) and LCR (Local Civil Registry),” Abastillas said.
Abastillas explained that the cultural union within the Sama-Bajau community is not yet legally recognized, as their leader is currently in the process of applying to become a solemnizing officer.
“Mao na siya nga gahunahuna mi nga amo ipakasal ang mga dugay na nagpuyo base sa mga naka kompleto sa requirements sa LCR,” she noted.
According to Abastillas, the Sama-Bajau couples were required to furnish birth certificates, certificates of no marriage (CENOMAR), proof of completed pre-marriage counseling, along with an affidavit of consent from parents if they were 22 years old below, and parental advice if they were 23 years old above.
Abastillas emphasized that this civil wedding not only grants legal recognition to their unions but also helps them meet employment and government agencies’ prerequisites.
“Daghan na sa ilaha nga so far naa nay trabaho. Kinahanglan naman na kay mo apply naman sila ug SSS ug PhilHealth, of which kinahanglan mana ug documents like marriage contract. Wala silay magamit kay wala man silay dokumento,” Abastillas said.
The civil mass wedding was a collaborative effort between the Cebu City Government through the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS), Local Civil Registry (LCR), Nano Nagle Child Care and Learning Center Inc. -Cebu National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Regions VI and VII, and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) Region VII, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region VII.
Meanwhile, Paulita and Samari Daomani, one of the 18 Sama-Bajau couples married at the event, shared that a swirl of emotions enveloped them as they, after a decade, finally have their marriage in papers.
“Happy [ko] nga nakulbaan nga excited. Kay sa amoang tribal community sa mata nila, kasal mi. We’ve been living (together) for 10 years pero karon ra na legalize amo marriage,” Paulita Daomani expressed.
Daomani asserted that every citizen is entitled to the provision of an identity, birth certificate, and the opportunity to obtain a marriage license.
Moreover, Marah Leyo, who was also among those married at the event, expressed her gratitude for the opportunity extended to the Sama-Bajau community.
“Happy ko kay finally, legal na gyud mi nga married [sa amo asawa],” Leyo said.
Initially, 186 couples applied for the civil mass wedding, but only 18 spouses successfully met the required conditions.
Nevertheless, the IP focal person assured that the remaining couples will have an opportunity for a civil wedding, potentially in early 2024.
“Karon kay nakabalo naman mi sa process basin next year, amo e-early ug kuha ang mga requirements and ug naa pa mi budget,” Abastillas said.
The Sama-Bajau community is situated in Barangay Alaska, Mambaling. They are the biggest indigenous Bajau tribe in Cebu City.