by Malaya Salas
(A story of a separated woman in Philippine scenario)
The only regret I have in my life is not a failed relationship but carrying a name that isn’t mine. My driver’s license expired 2 months ago and my dilemma is to renew or not. I swore to myself that I will not allow myself anymore to use a stranger’s name. My name is Malaya, a tagalog word, meaning free. But ironically, I got married to a guy who was named after the late dictator.
This has been a drag for me for more than a decade. It felt like I have this big ball of chain clinging on my feet.
Black and white
I got hitched at 25 to my first and one and only boyfriend of 7 years. When he informed me (yes it was an fyi sort) that we are going to get married, I was in big hesitation. He was dominant in our relationship. I told him I wasn’t ready yet, so he told my mother and my mother then told my siblings. I am the youngest of 6, 3 brothers and 2 sisters. My ex knows that my family is my weakness. In all fairness, he was a good man in his own right and my siblings saw that. They somehow influenced my decision.
What my family was not aware of was that, we were north and south, east and west. And for that difference he found me really attractive and vice-versa. But that difference was also a huge factor that tore us apart. Realization only took place once we began living in the same roof.
I like adventure, he was a home buddy. I like people, he was anti-social. He likes shopping, I like hiking.
I guess being naïve and young and raised in a rural environment was also one of the factors I decided to marry him. I have stayed with him for seven years prior our marriage and had given him my virginity. I believed that after that, no one would take me in. And just like any girl, I also dreamed of seeing myself in a wedding dress. The wedding took place several months after and the first 3 years of our marriage was a nightmare.
When my ex’s web design business slid due to India’s cheap outsourcing, he left the freelancing life. He came home less and less until one new year’s day, he didn’t come back. I received a text message that I should take care of my own life. I kept chasing him for a decent closure but he never responded nor showed up again. Two months prior to my “dumped state” my mother had just died from cancer. It was a double loss. I was completely lost and devastated.
A silver lining
Moving on, I was already settling in Los Banos when he went back to employment in Makati. I was renting a house that was bare, with unpainted walls, no cupboards – just a basic room that has 3 rooms. The owner, a friend of mine migrated to Australia with her family. I decided to have the house subleased to help me out with the bills. I then decided to ask interns from a research institution where I used to work if they are interested to lease the house with me.
My roomates were American (Lauren), Peruvian (Denis) and Spanish (Lalo). When Lauren, left, I was told “Ano ang sasabihin sa yo ng mga tao, me asawa kang tao ang kasama mo sa bahay puro lalaki” (What will people think? You are a married woman, yet you live with so many men under one roof). I just shrugged my shoulders and went on with my decision. It was the best decision ever! It was one of the most memorable days in my life. We call the house ‘casa loca’. It was full of life, love, friendship and music.
Being comfortable with the company of the expats I was seen hanging out with different male friends from different countries. Tricycle drivers often asked me “sino ba talaga dyan ang boyfriend mo?” (who are you really dating amongst these guys?) I just joke around “lahat sila” (everyone of them). Women employees would gaze and talk as I pass by in cafeteria. “Kakahiwalay lang, pakawala na agad” (She just got separated, and now she’s sleeping around).
Those where the words that had been passed on until it reached me. It had little effect on me and I never had the need to explain myself. What I observed however was, Filipino men did not want to approach me due to my being “complicated”. Take note, I don’t have any kids. It was for my own entertainment when I showed up, this time, with another woman, I was labeled ACDC or bisexual.
I’m turning 40 next year and people I met for the first time ask me, are you single? My answer is yes, I am single, not in a relationship and not seeing anyone. I decide for myself when I go home, what to eat, what to wear and who I want to spend time with.
Had I known the civil code article* allowing women to retain their last name, I could have chosen to retain my maiden name. I remember attending a pre-nup seminar but that option was never brought up. It seems that we live in a set –up where wives are supposed to stay with their spouses, or stay even when the men we marry prove to be selfish, unkind or irresponsible.
I am Malaya S.
When I came back to the corporate world, I decided to use my maiden name. My dilemma though is when my passport expires. Well, I still have 4 years and maybe by that time the annulment has already been approved.
My annulment is ongoing for almost a year now and it is agonizing to wait. Amendments to the civil code* should be made. If a woman has been separated for a long time, the name should be automatically reverted. But then again, why wait for this to happen, I’m writing this for young ladies out there, so they can be informed of the rights they have before jumping into that dark abyss.
My ex has 2 kids according to network of friends. I was advised to sue him. What for? All I want is my complete freedom from his name.
* Articles 370 to 372 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines (NCC) are our country’s primary laws on what surname a married may use.
 A married woman has an option, but not a duty, to use the surname of the husband. When a woman gets married, she changes her status, not her surname (Supreme Court ruling in Yasin vs. Sha’ria District Court, reiterated in “Ma. Virginia V. Remo vs. The Honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs,” March 2010).
Malaya has an extensive administrative experience in an international school. She also worked in a research division at the International Rice Research Institute. In her desire to travel, she turned herself into an independent tour leader. She is also an advocate of organic farming. At present she is now the program and admin Manager of the Center for Internal Audit Services Philippines (CIASP). She is also a member of Gabriela professional network.