I came across a viral video of the Cebu parish priest who humiliated a single mother during her child’s baptism. I write this as an expression of support for the poor unwed mother and to speak on behalf of all the illegitimate children who are bullied, demeaned, and abused in this country and the rest of the world.
“Bastarda. Anak sa labas!" (Bastard! Illegitmate child!)
These words came from my third-grade classmate, a boy who knew little about the world but was a master of discrimination. I vividly remember that I wiped out the smug expression on his face using all the strength that my tiny hands could muster.
My classmates fearfully informed me that he was the godson of Caloocan’s San Roque Parish Rector.
As a child, my family explained that I was an illegitimate child, but that this will not define what I will become in life.
I studied in a Catholic school and regularly went to the nearby parish. I continued to do so until the parish became a cathedral and seat of power for the Caloocan diocese – the church of my childhood where I had baptism, confirmation, and first communion.
I always perceived the cathedral as a safe place.
I was wrong.
Last week, I went to the parish office to secure certificates requested by another church for my forthcoming marriage. Apparently, a clerk misspelled my surname 28 years ago. It was Labas instead of Labao.
I previously managed to get it correctly spelled on my baptismal certificates during my enrolment in kindergarten and before my board exam. At the time, the parish office never bothered to correct their record.
I only had to get a new certificate because there was a 6-month validity period for the document, similar to an NBI clearance.
I didn't expect the trouble this would cause me.
The parish clerk in charge of making the correction asked for proof that my surname was Labao and not Labas. After providing documents (NSO birth certificate, diplomas, PRC license, etc) and confirming the names of my ninongs and ninangs, the parish clerk said that it was still not enough.
He asked me to provide a copy of my parents’ marriage contract. When I said that I had none, he insulted me and insinuated that the error in my records was due to the fact that my parents were unmarried. He did that loudly and in the presence of complete strangers.
A few days later, my mother and fiancé, who had to drive from Rizal to Caloocan, went to the parish to explain that my father did not have a birth or baptismal certificate. But they presented my father's SSS ID and BIR TIN ID. Still, these were not enough.
Aside from making my mother and fiancé wait for an hour because he was fixing his financial balance sheet, the parish clerk practically humiliated my mother.
As an ultimatum, he asked my mother to issue an affidavit explaining in effect that she was a mistress and that this caused the discrepancy in my baptismal record. He even asked them to get the marriage certificate of my father's legal wife to verify his identity.
He simply refused to give my records.
Invitations were handed out. Hotel reservations were made. Vacations were filed. Venues were booked. Gowns were fitted. Half a million pesos was spent. Seminars were attended.
This clerk declared that even if I was baptized and confirmed, I could not get my requirements unless my mother finds my father's original copy of his marriage certificate or constructs the affidavit stripping her of her dignity.
I stopped attending Mass.
My mother, on the other hand, was permanently disenchanted with the church. Worst case scenarios were imagined all because of a typographical error further compounded by an abusive, power-tripping parish clerk.
My fiancé went to the church where we were to get married to explain the situation. They were horrified and explained that the requirements were only needed to confirm that I had received the sacraments. Publicly prying about my parents’ lives was no longer required.
Ticket to heaven?
One night, I saw the clerk at a tea shop. He had the same smug expression that my third-grade classmate had. I took his photo and asked around for his name. I googled and found that he proudly authors Facebook posts of rubbing elbows with Cardinal Tagle, makes badges for the Knights of Colombus, and goes on group dates with the hardcore church fanatics.
Externally, one would say that he has a passport to heaven, but he possesses none of the mercy or understanding of Pope Francis, who is making sure that children of unwed mothers get fair treatment.
I told my mother that we can file an administrative/civil case for damages. My mother, who chose to raise me instead of abort me 28 years ago, said that I should just do the Christ-like thing and forgive the parish clerk.
Happily, I realized that even when self-righteous bigots roam the planet to tell me that I am an illegitimate church bride, I am 101% certain that God loves me because He gave me a legitimately good person for a mother. - Rappler.com
Helen Mary Labao is a geodetic engineer, freelance writer, and web developer.
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