Ash and Ghiea, born and raised in Manila, met on a Facebook group for Filipino lesbians about a year ago when Ghiea, 29, was working in Saudi Arabia. They started off as friends, but after three months they began a long-distance relationship. “Our relationship is like a fairytale,” said Ash, 34, who identifies as a transman.
The two joined seven other same-sex couples on Jun 26 in a wedding ceremony held at a basketball court in Project 8, Quezon City, by the LGBTS Christian Church, a small Christian ecumenical group that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The court turned into a romantic venue with flowers, rainbow flags and a red carpet.
LGBTS Christian Church’s mass gay weddings have been an annual event, held every Pride month, since it started in 2012. In 2014, it had the most number of participants — 21 couples. This year, each couple paid PHP2,000 each, which was used for the food during the reception, floral arrangements, venue rental and other expenses.
“We planned to get married at another church in Baguio before finding out about this one in Manila,” continued Ash. “We wanted to get married on our anniversary on May 27 but it was already booked by another couple. So we decided to join the mass wedding ceremony instead [which was] between my birthday and our anniversary,” he added.
The two learned about LGBTS Christian Church’s Rite of Holy Union — “the spiritual joining of two persons in a manner fitting and proper by a duly authorized clergy” — from Ghiea’s friend, who were also married by the same church. Ash and Ghiea decided to have a wedding in Manila instead so their family and friends, who support the relationship wholeheartedly, could be part of the milestone.
“He is loving and caring. I’ve found the quality of people that I look for in a relationship in him,” said Ghiea. “After being in a long-distance relationship, I learned to appreciate the little things that he does for me. I woke up feeling under the weather this morning, and Ash took care of me and made me breakfast in bed,” said Ghiea.
The two plan to save more money for their future — so they could support their families and Ash’s transition to male. “I don’t mind working overseas, as long as we live in the same country. I can’t live away from her anymore,” said Ash. “I feel really happy. I feel like my love for him is much stronger,” said Ghiea after the wedding ceremony.
At the ceremony, which was performed by Rev. Crescencio ‘Ceejay’ Agbayani Jr, founder of LGBTS Christian Church, the couples exchanged vows and rings before saying “I do.” Ash and Ghiea were joined by Marilyn, 43, and Dhey, 42, who had been together for two years before they decided to get married and start a family.
Marilyn’s friend played the matchmaker by introducing them to each other three years ago. They started their relationship while Marilyn was working overseas. Now that they’re married, they will live together in a house that they’ve just bought. “I feel complete,” said both Marilyn and Dhey, who plan to start their own business now that they’re a married couple. “I made the right choice,” Dhey added.
It’s the same tale of hope and love for Nadel, 25, and Mary Grace, 20, who work at the same shopping mall in Cavite where they first met. Nadel had asked her friend to get Mary’s number so she could ask her out. They both described each other as loving and caring people. “We want to save money first. Maybe adopt a child someday,” said Nadel. “I feel very thankful and blessed. I’m very happy,” said Mary, who cried during the vow exchange.
After the ceremony, all couples were given the Certificate of Holy Union issued by the LGBTS Christian Church as “Proof of Togetherness” — it is not legally binding in the Philippines but can be used in countires like USA, Canada, Australia, UK, New Zealand and Portugal where marriage equality law exists. The mass wedding ceremony was conducted for the celebration of love with the hope that one day, “love can conquer hate” in the Philippines.