They fell in love with each other because they have a lot of things in common, except for one: religion.
Lari Anela Adao is a Catholic. Jayjumhar Precia is a Muslim. They first met in medical school in Manila some 15 years ago.
“I don’t actually remember when and how it started until he courted me,” said Anela.
They share the same passion as medical practitioners. Anela is a dentist and Jayjumhar, or Jay, is an ophthalmologist.
“We never had a major disagreement since we entered into this relationship,” said Anela. “We have healthy communication and we talk things over all the time,” she said.
Friends and relatives look at them as a “perfect young couple” except for their religion.
However, the difference in their religious affiliations never became an issue even with their respective families.
“My parents were very supportive as well as Jay’s. No one ever asked me about my faith or Jay’s beliefs,” said Anela.
When they got married, Anela used her husband’s family name like any other Filipino couple.
“We decided to have a ‘civil wedding’ so that it will be fair to all,” said Anela.
Muslim communities in the Philippines are permissive about marriage between a Muslim and a Christian. Conversion to Islam prior to marriage is not a requirement.
Sociologist Maylanie Sani Boloto said conversion is not forced on anyone.
“A person must willingly embrace Islam,” she said, adding that conversion to Islam is not a prerequisite to a marriage.
Fairy tale gone wrong
Jason Depanes of Naga City south of Manila was deeply in love with Celine (not her real name) since they were in high school.
Jason, however, did not tell Celine of his feelings.
After graduation, he moved to Manila to pursue a college education while the girl of his dreams studied nursing in a university in the province.
Jason had “romantic relationships” in Manila, but he said “none of them were really serious.”
He said he was still hoping that the “time will come” for him and Celine.
He later went back to the province to run a family business. During one high school reunion, he met Celine and told her of his love.
“I was looking forward to it. I took the chance when I had it,” he said.
They became lovers, but Celine’s parents opposed the relationship.
Jason is a Catholic. Celine is a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo sect.
“I mean, it’s 2019 and we still think like that,” said Jason. He said he could not understand why the difference in their religion would be an issue.
“Why can’t we just allow it? Religion has become divisive instead of promoting unity among people,” he said.
‘Disparity of cult’
It is not uncommon for problems to arise in a relationship because of legal obstacles that churches or religions enforce supposedly “to protect the faith.”
The Canon Law of the Catholic Church calls is “disparity of cult,” an impediment that makes a “mixed marriage” not valid even in the presence of a civil wedding or other religious ritual.
Father Jose Zafra III of Tandag Diocese said it is “an ecclesiastical law, a human law, and not a natural law.” He said the main reason for it is “to protect the Church.”
“It is not easy for two people with different religions to enter into a union. There is a danger of apostasy or leaving the faith,” said the priest who studied Canon Law.
“To protect the faith and the family, the Church enforces the rule on disparity of cult,” he said.
Father Zafra, however, said church law has a remedy for it.
“Disparity of cult can be dispensed. A mixed marriage is validly accepted by the Church if dispensed,” he said.
He said the “remedy” is offered to individuals who plan to marry but are barred by the impediment because his or her partner is a non-believer of the faith or unbaptized.”
For those who already entered into a union through a civil wedding or rituals that are solemnized by other religions, there is another remedy that the Church offers.
Father Eugene Canete of the Missionaries of Jesus, a Canon lawyer, said “convalidation” is an instrument offered by Canon Law to make an invalid marriage valid.
“It is a remedy for a marriage that has been impeded by some canonical defect. A ceremony in which an invalid marriage to the eyes of the Church, such as a civil marriage, is recognized,” he said.
The priest said the Catholic Church “cannot hinder a man and a woman to love and enter into a union because the Church teaches love and compassion.”
“That’s why the Church offers such remedies to mixed marriages,” he said.
Many Catholics are, however, not aware that these “remedies” are available in the Church.
Father Canete said “even members of the clergy are not aware of such laws.”
“You do not hear a parish priest talk about this,” he said. “The people do not know about it because priests do not perform their duties well,” he added.
“We need to tell them that the Church does not obstruct but offers solutions,” said Father Canete.