Lifestyle

A GUIDE FOR THE SURPRISINGLY NOVEL IDEA

How to keep your maiden name after marriage

By AYA TANTIANGCO,GMA News

Bes, did you know that there's a hidden question between "Will you marry me?" and "Do you take this man kemerloo, kemerloo?"

I stumbled upon it during wedding preparations and I wanted to share my discovery. The question is: Do you want to keep your name? 

It doesn't get asked often, but it became a dilemma for me. It surprised me how attached I had become to something I never really gave much thought — my own name. Another batch of questions popped in my head while I deliberated: Would I still be me? Why do I have to change my name? Who started this practice and for what? Do I want to continue this tradition? 

There's a discussion of gender politics in there that deserves a different article, so I'll just sum up here: I didn't want to follow a custom that didn't make sense to me. 

Plus, I thought it would be easier to just change my civil status in my records while retaining my name in my government IDs and documents. 

Spoiler alert: Hindi pala madali. 

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

Atty. Krizia Katrian Leanne D. Talon explains this in an email exchange with GMA News Online.

"Filipinos have this notion that once a woman marries, she should change her surname to that of her husband’s. We lose sight of the fact that when a woman marries, it’s only her civil status that changes, not her name," she says.

Article 370 of the Civil Code actually details your options if you want to add your husband's name to yours:

A married woman may use:

(1) Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband's surname, or

(2) Her maiden first name and her husband's surname or

(3) Her husband's full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is his wife, such as "Mrs."

"In fact, the law does not oblige a woman to change her name because of marriage," Talon says. "The Civil Code gives the woman options on the use of her name and her husband’s after she marries. It uses permissive language; it says 'may'. So, she may adopt her husband’s name, or just add it to her name, or she may not at all."

So if you're Bertha Bautista, you can keep that name, or you can be Bertha Bautista-Filimon, Bertha Filimon, or Mrs. Greg Filimon.

The most important thing to remember is that you should be consistent — don't switch between your last name and your husband's. 

You only get one legal name, so make it count.

UPDATING YOUR CIVIL RECORDS

Now that the fanfare of the wedding is over, it's time to make multiple copies of your marriage certificate and crack your fingers as you prepare to fill out forms to update your civil status public records. Good times ahead. 

The good news is that most forms are available online and, in even better news, you can put it off if you're really not into making a trip to a government office yet.

Some people skip updating their records, but that's not something I'd personally recommend. The tax break is a good incentive to at least update your Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) information. There's a quick link to all of the BIR forms on their website and what you need to look for is BIR form 2305. 

In filling out this form and other forms, write down your name as you normally would. Don't use your husband's last name if you want to keep using yours. 

Aside from your BIR records, you might also want to update your Social Security System (SSS), Pag-IBIG, and PhilHealth information. Changing your civil status would enable you to list your husband as your dependent (and since this assumes that you love him, that's a great benefit). 

Here are the links to the forms you need for each:

BIR Form 2305 

SSS (Click on Member's Data Change Request)

PhilHealth

Pag-IBIG (Click on Update Registration Information using the Pag-IBIG Membership ID (MID) Number)

You don't have to immediately update other public documents like your passport or voter's ID, but again, remember to be consistent with the name you use.

Schedule a quick visit to your local BIR, SSS, Pag-IBIG, and PhilHealth offices and you're all set... well, not quite.

STANDING YOUR GROUND

If you're lucky enough to have someone helping you with your forms (like, say, human resources personnel), you may need to be explicit and absolutely clear that you intend to keep your name (or at least hyphenate).

I had to explain to someone helping me with my SSS forms three (and a half) times that I don't need to fill out the section that says "REQUEST NAME CHANGE" because (duh) I am not requesting a name change. 

(Try not to be impatient when they or anyone else makes comments about your choice. A few people might even question your love for your husband; you're going to have to take the high road and explain to them that the norm is not the law.)

Some people will also try to tell you that you won't be able to list your husband as beneficiary or dependent if you don't change your name and it's just not true. At all.

This clash between convention and your actual rights has even reached the Supreme Court. The landmark decision in Maria Virginia V. Remo vs The Honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs (G.R. No. 169202, March 5, 2010) should, in theory, end any argument that may ensue between you and a person insisting you can't keep your name.

The ruling reads:

Clearly, a married woman has an option, but not a duty, to use the surname of the husband in any of the ways provided by Article 370 of the Civil Code. She is therefore allowed to use not only any of the three names provided in Article 370, but also her maiden name upon marriage. She is not prohibited from continuously using her maiden name once she is married because when a woman marries, she does not change her name but only her civil status. Further, this interpretation is in consonance with the principle that surnames indicate descent.

Bubble burst moment: Even a Supreme Court ruling isn't enough to convince some people. 

"Adopting the husband’s surname upon marriage is deeply embedded in Filipino culture," Talon says. "We’ve begun acknowledging the hyphenated surnames in recent years, but even so, some women who elect to do this still encounter setbacks, and every so often find themselves in situations where they are made to explain their choice or prove that is a legitimate one. Imagine what a married woman who retains her maiden name faces."

If you're submitting the form to an employee of a government agency who's being particularly challenging, don't hesitate to call the manager.

This happened to Cecilia Lopez-Abitang, a married woman (like you!) who had a brief verbal skirmish with an SSS employee when she updated her civil status from single to married.

"I usually confirm my complete name when I deal with government agencies, so I did the same with SSS. I asked if everything was accurate," Lopez said in an interview online. "She said yes and gave me a printout. I saw Maria Cecilia Abitang. Told her that was wrong. She pointed out that since I'm married, I dropped Lopez and took on Abitang. I said no."

She showed the SSS employee her IDs that read Lopez-Abitang, which meant that she writes down "Lopez" as her last name in forms. 

"We spent a good five minutes discussing why she's right and I'm wrong," she said. "I told her to call her boss. Ayaw initially. Finally her boss came by (very amiable, that one), asked if everything was OK. I said no."

She continued, "I explained and showed my Philippine passport where it clearly showed my complete name. So that's when the boss told the fool that if I can present two IDs that show my complete name, then just enter the info accordingly."

Luckily, not every office questions your decision. A "lifehack" I used was to send my husband to the offices with an authorization letter and two IDs and they accepted the forms from him — no questions asked. 

So there's the trick. Use the patriarchy against itself... until such time that this guide is obsolete, because more women (finally) know that changing their name after marriage is an option, not a requirement. —JST, GMA News