TL;DR (Too Long; Don't Read) - Given our experiences of the last couple of weeks, don't get married in PI, do it in your home country.
So, we've completed all the requirements and were just waiting on the marriage licence to be processed and a raffle to see which judge at the Hall of Justice was going to marry us.
So we arrived at the Hall of Justice - still no Judge Dredd - only to be told by the guard that we couldn't enter without a face mask. Now I'm not going to go into the false security a surgical mask provides or the lack of efficacy in wearing one in the context of the current scare but needless to say our hearts sank. Just walking around Dumaguete we'd seen multiple signs at pharmacies saying they were sold out. Luckily, AM (Angry Midget) is a very un-Filipina Filipina in that she always insists we arrive to any given appointment/event 30 mins early; our appointment was for 3pm and we'd arrived at 230pm so we had a little time up our sleeve. She also remembered our motel reception had them. So, back into a trike, full-speed back to the Golden Gate, bought a couple, then back to the Hall of Justice - still no Judge Dredd.
We were granted entry and proceeded up to the courtroom where the raffle was being conducted with 10 mins to spare. Once seated a group of clerks and judges all filed in and one of the clerks started spinning a bingo machine. As the balls were pulled out and the numbers called, I resisted the urge to yell out "BINGO!" The process went on for about 20 mins as it turns out it wasn't just a raffle for civil marriages, it was for all cases being heard at the court the following week.
We were subsequently shuffled off to one of the judge's chambers and waited in an ante-chamber while the judge reviewed our paperwork in her office. There'd been a clerk that has assisted us the previous week and she seemed to be the one that facilitates all the weddings conducted at Hall of Justice. After about 20 mins, the clerk appeared and stated there was a problem with my Certificate of no Impediment from the Australian Embassy. I know for a fact this is a form letter where the only changes that are ever made are in the first paragraph where the applicant's personal details are entered and no doubt has been used in hundreds, if not thousands of weddings between Australians and Philippine nationals over the years.
After we left the judge's chambers the clerk explained very quietly that the judge in question is staunchly Catholic and took issue with the fact I'm a divorcee - legally terminated marriage in Australia and officially recognised by numerous nations that are signatories to that particular international agreement, The Philippines being one of them. Separation of church and state?? I know, I should know better given the context but it still annoyed the shit out of me.
In conversations with the clerk during the previous weeks, we discovered that her sister living in Australia, is close friends with one of my best mates from high school - they are both doctors of marine biology at James Cook University in Townsville in Queensland. Greg, my mate, had been her sister's doctoral supervisor. Small world. So based on this, she was going to put in a good word with another judge. Nepotism is king and I'll take it.
Off we shuffle, both of us feeling a little dejected, to another judge's chambers. After waiting another 10 minutes, a smiling gentlemen came out of the judges office and asked: "How does February 14 at 10am sound?". He then stated "Well it is a raffle, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but I'm happy to take care of this for you."
So with a bit more of a spring in our step, off we went.
Hopefully that's the end of the saga until the day of the event, but we'll see. Given the events of the last couple of weeks, I'm not holding my breath.
I wonder if we'll have to wear face masks for the ceremony?