I’ve been awake since 12 noon yesterday. I woke up, had my tea from Blue Bee One PH and went about my daily tasks feeling very optimistic that I will finish all my deadlines when I got an email from my ex following up about the finality of our annulment. I then texted my lawyer about it, half expecting his answer to be the same “still waiting for finality” when lo and behold I got a reply from him saying I’m single again (“dalaga ka na ulit…”) The Office of the Solicitor General finally granted the finality of my petition for annulment. I was ecstatic! My heart started beating so fast I was hyperventilating! Finally! After 3.5 years of emotional, mental and financial stress, I AM FINALLY FREE! I married at 24 years old, and now at 41, I am single again.
I was of course so happy that I immediately posted the news on my Facebook profile. My friends congratulated me. I was on Cloud 9!
Then a friend, who also has been sort of “courting” me for more than a decade now, messaged me with some sort of like a marriage proposal. I know he was kidding even if he sounded semi-serious saying that he can now leave his current wife for me… but for some reason, a deluge of varying raw emotions started to engulf me after our little chat. Next thing I know I was sobbing my heart out and I don’t even fully understand why!
Am I going to have my period? Are these just hormones? Was I in denial all along? Haven’t I mourned about my failed marriage before? Am I not really happy now? What is wrong with me???!!!
I messaged my best friend about it. And she assured me that what I was feeling is normal. After all, those 12 years that I was married weren’t all bad times. There were good times too and it’s okay to finally mourn about it now that it has legally and officially ended and by virtue of the law, never even really existed in the first place. So it’s okay to cry it all out. It’s still some sort of death after all.
Still, I couldn’t understand. I was sobbing for a really long time. I couldn’t let Mahal see me like this. What would he think? Was I not in love with him anymore?
I composed myself after chatting with my best friend. I showered. I was okay for a little while. As the water washed over me, the raw and piercing emotions returned. I found myself sobbing again, this time, harder than before. I just let it all out, willing my tears to dry before Mahal comes home. I listened to my thoughts… why was I feeling this way? Maybe I was emotionally remembering all the things that happened all these years… how I got to this point… how much I got hurt. How much pain I caused my ex as well… the judgment I received from family, friends, and even strangers… the nerve-racking court appearances I had to make… the financial stress it caused me especially with the mortgage and loans he left behind… the many friends I lost along the way… the dream house I had to leave…. the old life I once loved that I had to let go of…. it all just came rushing back to me. Even as I type this, my eyes are welling up in tears. I keep telling myself that this is normal… this is just part of the whole healing process.
Later in the evening, Mahal and I went out to celebrate with my best friend and her family… Then I finally told Mahal all about my crying spells. He was very understanding and accepting. He acknowledged the fact that I was once married and that marriage was once the center of my universe and that it was special. Though it has now officially ended, remnants of the pain are still there. It’s a form of death. The pain and trauma may never go away. A person in my position will just have to learn to live with it.
I’m really lucky that Mahal understands. And hearing those words from him helped me understand my emotions better too. I just hope that I will eventually stop welling up. It’s crazy. Please period, arrive na, so I can feel okay again.
Since that post of mine, I’ve been getting messages from FB friends asking me about the process I went through. So I thought maybe I can make a blog post about it here. Here goes…
Just a quick note: I had a civil wedding and never had a church wedding. So the following steps below will be for those who had a civil marriage only.
HOW LONG IS THE PROCESS OF ANNULMENT IN THE PHILIPPINES?
I will share below the steps I took in processing my annulment here in the Philippines. It took me 3.5 years in total. This does not yet include the processing in the local civil registry after finality is declared by the OSG / Office of the Solicitor General.
1. SHOP FOR A LAWYER
Annulment in the Philippines costs A LOT! It can range from P180,000 to as much as half a million pesos!
My first choice was a lawyer who annulled someone I know in 4 months! I later found out it costs P500K and it was a good thing that that lawyer was already abroad because his fee was too high for me so I scouted for another one.
The next lawyer I met required P320K. It was still quite high.
Then a friend recommended her friend who got annulled in one year for only P120K. When I finally met her lawyer, the price already changed. And all in all, everything annulment-related cost me more or less P300K.
2. FILE THE PETITION AND WAIT
My petition was filed by my lawyer sometime in Feb. 2016. I also made my first downpayment and met with the psychologist who examined me before the petition was filed.
3. ATTEND COURT HEARINGS
By October 2016, my first hearing happened. I also gave my next downpayment. The next hearing was supposed to be the following month but it kept getting rescheduled. Either the judge was not available or the RTC was getting renovated. Until finally, the second hearing happened in April 2017. I also gave my final downpayment (or so I thought). But then the hearing was again rescheduled. I kept bugging my lawyer about it and the second hearing finally happened October 2017. I was already in Cagayan de Oro at that time so I just asked my brother, who is my witness, to go without me.
Then the entire half of 2018 I spent texting and bugging my lawyer about the next hearing or next step. This was the time my papers got lost in the RTC because of the building renovation that was happening. It was quite a stressful time. I was so far away and I was having anxiety attacks every time I would follow up with my lawyer.
On November 2018, my lawyer said that my case is now lined up for decision. Finally, some ray of hope in the horizon!
So you can just imagine how much I bugged my lawyer from November to May. My ex was also bugging me about it that I had to send a SPA to my mom so she can personally follow it up for me at the RTC. Then I found out the court lost the judicial affidavit of my brother! I had to disturb my brother’s super busy schedule (he takes care of 3 kids + his business at that time) just so he can go to my lawyer’s house to create another signed copy of his judicial affidavit! I also had to send money to my brother for all his trouble as he will be commuting from San Mateo Rizal all the way to Paranaque where my lawyer lives. And you know how the traffic situation in Manila is. He had to leave super early and come home super late just to get this done all over again.
4. WAIT FOR THE COURT’S DECISION
By June 2019, my lawyer called saying that the court granted my annulment (hallelujah!!!) and now the papers are going to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). The OSG’s job is to uphold the sanctity of marriage. They have the power to revoke the court’s decision if they see incomplete evidence supporting my petition. So my lawyer called me to discuss with me the next step we needed to take to ensure that the OSG will not revoke our petition. In short, I needed to shell out money again. Just when I thought I never had to shell out another centavo for my annulment again, I was forced to come up with another budget (which I really didn’t have any more at that time). I told my ex about it. He said he was willing to help. But it took him a month or so to really stay true to his word, hence, my blog post rant at that time… Eventually, when I gave up on him staying true to his word, that’s when my ex came out to help, otherwise, there’s a 50% chance that we may never get annulled.
5. WAIT FOR THE DECLARATION OF FINALITY FROM OSG
By July, the court decision was already with OSG.
And just yesterday, I found out that the OSG granted the finality to my petition for annulment. I’m legally single again!
6. FIX LOCAL CIVIL REGISTRY and PSA RECORDS
I’m now at this stage. My ex offered to hire a paralegal team to help process the amendment of our marriage certificate, secure a CENOMAR (Certificate of No Marriage) and whatever else that needs to be done. I just need to provide a SPA (Special Power of Attorney). Hopefully, it works out even without me personally taking care of it.
7. CHANGE OF LAST NAME FOR FEMALE SPOUSES
Then the next step for women like me is to revert the last name on my ID and legal records into my maiden name (passport, TIN, Philhealth, etc.) Since I’m not yet at this stage, I cannot share any further information yet. I will do so once I am able to accomplish this.
8. MOVING FORWARD
So, this is what annulment is like in the Philippines. It is very expensive and takes a very long time, all the while causing financial, emotional and mental stress to the petitioner. I am one of those advocating for the legality of divorce in the Philippines, or at least make the process of annulment pocket and time-friendly. Why does it have to cost so much and take up so much time when all the hearings for a particular case can be done in just an hour? I really don’t understand!
Now that I have experienced what annulment is like in the Philippines, I now understand why the likes of Tony Boy Cojuangco doesn’t want to marry again. It causes psychological trauma to those who have gone through it. To think Tony Boy is filthy rich and won’t even have to worry about the financial aspect of it! But still, he was traumatized. I myself look at marriage now as just one piece of paper. If it was like a business contract renewable every couple of years (like in Australia from what I know), perhaps, I will respect it more. But right now, with everything that I have gone through, I feel like I don’t want to be getting married anytime soon even if Mahal proposes, even if it is for the sake of our son. I will take whatever amount of time I feel like I need to take to process my emotions and the trauma marriage and annulment have caused me. I once believed that my ex was the one. And I was mistaken. So how can I be sure if Mahal is “the one” too? Perhaps, I am just realistic now (and jaded). I am no longer that girl who believed in fairytales and happily ever afters. Relationships take A LOT of real work! At least this time, I won’t have to worry about annulment again should Mahal decide to leave me like my ex did. We’ll see. Maybe I’m just mourning still and tomorrow I’ll believe in fairy tales again. I don’t know… All I know right now is that healing does take time, and someday, when I’m ready, it will happen for me. Just don’t give me news about my ex marrying his girlfriend at this time because I’m no longer sure how I will react to that.
RELATED ARTICLES ON ANNULMENT:
Don’t just marry for love. Take everything into consideration and make a well-informed and well-educated decision. Choose your life partner well and think a million times before tying the knot. No wonder those were the exact words of my grandfather when I told him I was getting married back in 2002. He himself got his first marriage annulled and it took him 7 years. I’m luckier… But what do I know, I was 24 and so much in love. Sigh. Marriage, in all its sanctity, will either bring you a lifetime of bliss or a lifetime of misery. Be cautious but hopeful. Be wary but positive. Prepare yourself emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially. I’m still praying na meron pa ring forever… we’ll know in time.