Thursday, June 9, 2011

Divorce: Sink Your Teeth into Why I Feel We Need It

This is something I haven't written about yet despite having placed the advocacy badge on my blog for a couple of days now.  I'm not writing this entry because I feel obliged—you know, being quite vocal about it on Twitter and Facebook.  I'm writing because it has dawned on me that I need to share a story that people could sink their teeth into to explain my opinions.

My parents haven't been under the same roof for 9 years now.  My mother moved out of the house when I was 12.  It wasn't a very peaceful thing back then.  Yes, hearts were broken and there were buckets and buckets of tears.  There was immense grief on both parties.  And, yes, I did, of course, feel very sad that the marriage had ended after only 12 years.  No more Christmas Eve celebrations with just the three of us feasting on a big native basket of fresh fruits and ice cream while watching a live filming of Cats the Musical—closing our eyes in unison when Elaine Paige belted out “touch me,” from the show tune, “Memory.”  No more walks to the car after seeing a play where we’d talk about how amazing the story was and how bad some of the actors were.  No more late nights of telling jokes and sharing stories and no more mom to go all, “Oh my gosh, it’s two hours past your bedtime!”  No more asking mom for her opinion one second and asking dad for his thoughts two seconds later.  All those moments are now but mere memories to be cherished, but, alas, I knew that my mother had made a wise decision by leaving.

Was there abuse involved?  Probably.  It was not a one-sided thing, though, and I'm not partial to either of them.  I'm also not going to delve into the reasons because that would be an invasion of both my folks' privacy.  I love both of them equally and I'm not bitter about their separation, so there will be no trashing from me.

What was wrong, you ask?  There was nothing wrong with either of them.  What was wrong was the fact that they were silently forcing their union to work because they didn't think I would be able to handle such a drastic change at such a young age—more so because I was an only child and they feared I would get the feeling that I needed to divide myself for them.  They were mistaken, of course.  I had already understood what was going on.

In the heat of the conflict “season,” as I term it, they would take turns explaining the on-goings.  Of course, since I was a child, they had to sugarcoat things, but they never lied.  It started off with the usual “mama and papa aren’t seeing eye-to-eye these days,” to “mama and papa are having some sort of misunderstanding,” until the dead giveaway that went something like “we hope you understand that this could bring about certain changes,” because of this and that and what not.  It’s interesting to note that, as honest as they tried to be, they couldn't resist employing a vulnerable tone of voice when explaining things to me.  They obviously did it to gain my "vote of sympathy."  However, they understood that I was a thinker to begin with and that I was more than capable of extracting the truth on my own, so they didn't do it for very long.

I understood back then that they feared I would think of either of them as "the bad one."  Whether or not I did isn't an issue anymore.  What's important was that I knew in my heart and mind that their being together was not meant to last and what was very wrong with the picture was the fact that they were burning themselves in a marriage that was no longer working.  It was not at all hard for me to figure that out.  In fact, my words paved the way for mother's final decision to leave.  I was the one who said, "I'm not going to choose between you both.  I understand.  I can manage being shared and it's not going to damage me like you think it would."  After all, being shared doesn’t mean I’m going to have to divide myself—not that it’s even possible.

Two weeks later, my mom left the house.  While I was busy in school, she silently packed her stuff and drove away.  I only learned she had left when I got out.  5PM on the dot, she phoned me in tears and told me she was somewhere else.  I went to her instantly and decided, with blessings from my dad, to stay with her for a while knowing that she was the more fragile between them.  She moved in with grandma and grandpa (her parents).  And, not long after, the whole family—as in my mom's and dad's parents, siblings and friends—fell into utter chaos.  They were so worried for me that they took huge chunks off their daily work clock to talk to me in tears (them, not me), "trying" to console me and make me understand while at the same time trying to get me to do something to patch the marriage up.  One of mom's not-so-intelligent friends even went as far as to urge me to throw a tantrum just so they'd get back together.  In my mind, I said, "oh, you have no idea!"  They didn't know how relieved I was to begin with.  I finally lost it in a fit of irritation and yelled, "I get it and I believe it's better this way!  Leave me alone!  You don't know anything!"

That left them in a bit of a shock for a couple of weeks.  Nobody reached out to me.  I had to go through a full hour of silence each time I’d dine with other family members.  My only comfortable moments in the home were the ones I’d spent alone with either mom or dad.  I had to put up with the awkwardness for nearly a month until the issue finally started falling silent and people started talking to me.  The whole thing eventually returned to normal, thank goodness.  And it must have been that long since my cousins expressed how unusual it was for people to be talking around me.  Strange.

Over a few years, wounds gradually healed.  My mom came to recover fully and my dad moved on.  So did I.  The sadness disappeared over time and a lot of epiphanies.

Today, my parents remain friends—if not for voluntary interest, then for my sake.  I demanded that from them, at least, and they have no problem staying civil in each other's presence.  It’s also a wonderful thing that they’re clearly not holding anything back anymore.  Goodness forbid we ever go back to those times when mom would suppress a screech.  She wasn’t very good at pretending to be okay, so it was always obvious back in the days.  Now, however, they don't fight anymore and they don't exchange painful statements.  The discussions between them are much, much healthier even if their ideas don't lie on the same plane.  Plus, I'm happy.  Nothing will change the fact that they're my mother and father and nothing will ever make me love them any less.  Heck, I'm even the one surprised that it didn't take any effort on their part to accept me for everything I am when I came out to them as a bisexual.

Who doesn't think it's better this way?

Yes, I am happy, but there's something still not right with this picture.  The fact that society still addresses them as husband and wife is something that compels them to lie every single day.  The truth is they're not married anymore.  They have not been married since 2002 and they have no legitimate grounds for annulment because the fact is they really were married.  They are honest people and they refuse to lie by nullifying it.  Everyone knows how in love they were—most especially because I exist.  I was no accident.  I am a product of a love story that once was.  To deny that it ever happened would not only be painful, unethical and inappropriate; it would be plain sordid.  Now that it's all gone, though, the papers are still there saying otherwise.  It's very sad thinking that they have no way to be able to declare to the world that the marriage happened, but has now been legally dissolved.  The fact is, legal dissolution of a marriage (divorce) is just not an option where we live.  What's available for us is annulment, which is plain hypocrisy!

Why is this happening?  This is happening because we live in a country where the system compels them to force each other to admit they're something they're not.  Otherwise, they'd have to tweak a few stories here and there and spend hundreds of thousands of pesos to tell people it never really happened.  Isn't that such an evil thing to do?  Why is the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), so against something so downright honest?  I really don't get it.  If they favor righteousness over evil, then why be so adverse towards progressive suggestions?

My parents are lucky that they're peaceful and they have come to a mutual understanding.

But what about those trapped in dire situations?  What about the women who suffer perpetual physical abuse from husbands who can't stand the sight of their wives because the attraction has moved somewhere else?  These women have to put up with the battery because of a system that forces them to stay together.  Moreover, majority of them lack education on options of personal protection because they believe they are bound to submission.  Why?  The reason is because the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church dictates that wives have to remain subordinate to their husbands.  And not many women in remote areas have access to liberal ideologies.  An enormous number of them just absorb whatever is poured over them (pun intended).  This also goes for the issue on Reproductive Health Education, but that's an entirely different story.

The Philippines is the only country on Earth that doesn’t permit divorce—a process that happens to be sensible, practical, and honest.  Why?  Because we suck up too much influence from a religious institution that, apparently, favors denial and lies over a clean solution to unsolvable marriage predicaments or the thorough dissolution of the real sense of marriage, for that matter.

We need the divorce bill to be passed.  This is not a selfish thing.  This helps a lot of people—women and men alike.  The provisions don't make marriage turn into a form of brief recreation unlike many countries.  Read the bill thoroughly and you'll understand.  There just needs to be an exit door for people in a situation wherein the word “married” has been reduced to a mere nominal thing.  There needs to be a way out for couples whose marriages have turned into excruciating traps rather havens of life-building love and peace.  Whether or not you're going to say that this nation is ready for something so new, the option should exist because the world is not perfect and many lives are not as gleeful as others.  Many of the Roman Catholic Church’s subjects are not as faithful as the church thinks they are.  They need to accept that.

I sincerely hope the Philippine Divorce Bill gets passed.  I’m sending a lot of energy into the advocacy.