A story of love and loss
(READ: Part 1: The annulment business)
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Like most love stories, Ronnie’s (not his real name) story begins with two.
“Maliit lang ang bahay naming nun. At konti lang ang laman: dalawang plato, dalawang baso, dalawang unan. Pero punong-puno kami ng pangarap,” he said.
(We had a tiny house and all we had inside were two plates, two cups, two pillows. But we were so filled with dreams.”)
He and his wife Lucille (not her real name) were both young. She was 22 and he was 26. They were so in love and so eager to start a family – or at least Ronnie was.
Lucille wanted to wait. They did not have enough money and Lucille had always been the breadwinner of her family.
It was a blow to Ronnie’s pride. “She doesn’t think I can be a good provider,” he thought.
But it made Ronnie work hard to prove her wrong, to show that his ambition and his vision for the family they were going to have was as clear and as solid as his love for her.
When Ronnie's office job reaped the financial rewards of a promotion, he wanted to celebrate by having “the baby talk”.
“No, not yet,” Lucille insisted. Both of them were making more money now in their jobs in finance and education, and were more comfortable. Appliances and other home furnishings had been added to the two plates, cups, pillows and blanket that they had started their home with.
But Lucille’s parents were also more financially dependent on her now. “We can’t afford a baby yet,” she said, her usual argument now accompanied by the justification of supporting her own family.
Ronnie was confused and dejected, but acquiesced. It would be best to wait until they were more financially secure and could give their baby everything he or she could possibly want and need.
Not ready to start a family
After Ronnie’s next promotion, he again broached the topic of adding a little one to their family “Mag-pamilya na tayo.” (Let’s start a family.)
It was not a question this time; it was more of a call to answer his gnawing desire to be a father.
“I’m not ready. I don’t want to...yet,” Lucille said.
Ronnie was devastated and stunned. In their 5 years together, it was the first time he had heard Lucille say that she did not want to have a family.
Panic began to creep in and doubt settled in his mind. More anxious and worried about the passage of time withering away their chances to have a child, every year after that, Ronnie would ask Lucille, cajole her to start a family. Always, the answer was the same, becoming more forceful as Ronnie became more desperate.
By the time their 9th wedding anniversary came around, Ronnie was general manager of the small company where he worked. He was 36 and wanted to have a child. It was now or never, he thought.
This time, the baby talk was met with silence. Lucille’s silence was clearer than any answer she could give or any argument Ronnie could make.
“May be it’s time we thought about this – separately for a while,” Ronnie ended up saying.
Lucille moved out, leaving Ronnie in their home alone.
That was almost a year ago.
“I thought she would come back, that she would come to her senses,” said Ronnie, who is still struggling to make sense of their 9 years together.
Ronnie is now on his own, hoping for someone who can share his desire to start the family he has wanted for so long to have. He wants to get an annulment, but cannot afford it.
“If you think about it, my salary is ok. But the lawyers I’ve talked to ask for P250,000, sometimes P500,000 for an annulment case. Where will I get that kind of money?”
He feels betrayed – by Lucille, by the system that makes annulments attainable only by the moneyed and by his Church which does not allow divorce.
“I don’t understand it. I have been a good Catholic all my life. Why can’t the Church that I have loved and served all my life give me another chance at happiness?"
He has stopped going to Mass and receiving communion. He still goes to Church on Sundays, but from a safe distance. He stands outside in the churchyard, listening as the mass spills over from the loudspeakers. Ronnie remains lost and broken.
“Buti pa yung mga babae, may Gabriela, may mga babaeng senadora na makikinig sa hiling niyo sa divorce. Sa aming kayang mga lalaki, sino ang makikinig sa amin?” (The women are lucky, they have Gabriela and women senators who will listen to their clamor for divorce. But what about us men, is there anyone who will listen to us?)
Ronnie feels that he is not the only man who feels this way. There are many others who are constrained to maintain the macho image, inhibited by the stereotype of philandering husbands.
“Now I just want to start over again and make things right," Ronnie said. "Why can’t the Church allow me to be happy again?”
Below is the English transcript of what Ronnie says in the recording above:
As a Catholic, I view marriage as a very important aspect of one’s life.
I want a child. I want a wife who when will take care of me, a child who will welcome me when I come home. It’s what everyone wants. Family is the reason why we work so hard.
We met around 2005. Then after a few months, we got married. I rented a small house. I told her she could stay home and we would try to get pregnant. We would start a family.
Her reply surprised me. It was a simple reply of, “I can’t yet.”
I waited for around 9 years.
Many of my friends ask me why I waited so long. Well, I loved her.
I was raised as a Catholic who believes that a Church wedding is the most important thing you can give your wife and I needed to stand by that obligation, that responsibility. I fought hard to keep our marriage intact. For 9 years, I didn’t give up.
Finally, I just asked her to go home (to her parents) first. I told her to give herself time to think about where we are really going as a couple, as a family.
I got really depressed. I reached a point where I did not want to get up in the morning.
What was painful was around April, I found out she was already dating. That did it for me. I knew then that was the end of the road for us. We weren’t going anywhere. We were finished.
I have tried to seek an annulment, but two issues kept coming up. The main reason is that it is so expensive. My income can be considered mid-range but I still can’t afford it. All the lawyers I talked to did not ask for less than P250,000. Some even ask for P500,000.
That’s the problem. Our lawmakers don’t understand. They don’t know what I am going through.
Ever since I got married, I only asked for one thing: a happy family. But I became a victim.
I am not mad at the government. I am not mad at the Church. But I am harboring ill feelings against the system. It’s time that we stop playing deaf.
I just want two things. First, I want peace for myself. Legally, I cannot be at peace until I end my first (marital) obligation.
Second, it’s a matter of respect (to a new partner). What woman would not want to get married?
Let us not let Filipinos think that this is only an issue for the rich. Let’s talk about annulment and divorce as an issue for many Filipinos who are suffering because of the wrong view of our lawmakers who are maybe also pressured by the Church.
We should look at the Church and bang on their door. It is souls that we are talking about here.
I just want peace for myself. Having a family is the only thing that is missing. – Rappler.com
This story is part of the series, "The annulment business", on annulment mills and annulment scams. Reporting on this project was supported with a grant from the Journalism for Nation Building Foundation.