Two weeks after food scientist Alonzo Gabriel died of cancer, his same-sex partner recounted the "rude" behavior he experienced from hospital and funeral services staff.
In a Facebook post, Anril Tiatco revealed that certain employees of the National Kidney Transplant Institute and St. Peter Life Plan refused to consider him as Gabriel's family despite their 15-year relationship as live-in partners.
Tiatco, a professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman, lamented that it was already painful enough that Gabriel passed away.
"Then adding more insult to the pain, the anxiety and the sorrow - the horrible encounter of not being recognized as Al’s better-half, as his partner, as his life-companion," he said.
According to Tiatco, when Gabriel was still being intubated at NKTI, the resident doctor kept asking for other family members to be present.
He said he felt helpless because the doctor was challenging and denying their relationship.
"I remember how she even called Al as 'my friend.' Of course, Al was my friend, my best friend in fact. But we were more than that and why she could not just respect it," he said.
If Gabriel went under something critical, Tiatco worried that he couldn't make the decision for him since the doctor didn't consider him as a family member.
With Gabriel and his mother's consent, he ended up getting a Special Power of Attorney for Medical Purpose in order to have a legal right to decide for his partner if the situation called for it.
After Gabriel passed away, Tiatco had to face another questioning while arranging his partner's burial.
"Everything was kinda running smoothly until the other party (St. Peter) asked how I was related to Al. Then I said, we were domestic partners. The other line even clarified what I meant by domestic partners: 'magkapatid po kayo?'"
Tiatco had to explain their relationship all over again.
"Sa kolokyal na salita, magjowa po kami. 15 years na po kaming magkasama. Technically, 15 years din pong live-in kasi roommate po kami sa dorm noong una kaming magkakilala," he told them.
He said that Gabriel's mother is still crying over her child's death and pleaded to be allowed to stand on her behalf.
"Ako na muna ang kausap, please? Ano ba ang difference nun? Eh pamilya na rin ako!" he told them.
But the staff still insisted to talk to Gabriel's parents and flat out told him: "Sir, technically hindi po kayo pamilya!"
"Para akong sinampal at parang dinaganan ng truck ang dibdib ko!" Tiatco said.
St. Peter eventually allowed him to arrange the burial provided that Gabriel's mom signed authorization papers.
But when Tiatco was about to retrieve Gabriel's body from NKTI, he faced another obstacle: the guards would not allow him and looked for other family members despite being the signatory of the death certificate.
"In short, ayaw na naman akong papasukin. Idinadaan na naman ako sa usaping tekniko-legal," he said.
After a while, the guards finally relented and allowed him to retrieve his partner's body to have a proper burial.
Speaking to GMA News Online, Tiatco clarified that he was not referring to NKTI and St. Peter as whole.
"There were other staff members who were really kind and compassionate. More than anything, moral issue din kasi ito, but definitely there are policies that must be checked, I think," he said.
Tiatco said that he wasn't sure whether to bring his case to the authors of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill, also known as the Anti-Discrimination bill.
"Sa tingin ko rin iniwan ni Al itong karanasan sa akin upang maging adbokasiya at politika ko na rin, which I will pursue matapos lang ang quarantine," he said.
—MGP, GMA News