We hope you’re sitting down for this, because here’s something that may be groundbreaking news to you: Once married, you can actually—gasp!—keep using your maiden name.
Article 370 of the Civil Code of the Philippines states:
A married woman may use:
- Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband’s surname, or
- Her maiden first name and her husband’s surname, or
- Her husband’s full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is his wife, such as “Mrs.”
Take note: “MAY.”
While these options exist, there is actually no law that requires a married woman to take her husband’s surname. However, it has become de rigueur for married Filipinas to do so, so much so that the few articles published on the subject, like this GMA News Online piece, has to begin by clarifying these options as just that: options. And the few women who do keep their last names? They’re met with shock, viewed as radicals…and judged as not committed to their husbands enough.
We got seven married Pinays to reveal why they chose to keep their maiden names, what struggles they’ve faced, what tips they can offer, and why they don’t regret their decision—to hell with tradition.
Married for: 3 years
“My advocacy, for as long as I can remember, has always been to defy gender stereotypes and go against gendered expectations. When I got married, I wore an aqua and purple gown instead of white or beige, and my dad didn’t walk with me and hand me over to my husband at the altar—my husband walked down the aisle with me. As such, it was no surprise to my family and friends that I would decide to keep my maiden name after marriage.
It’s mostly the husbands of my older colleagues who question my decision. ‘You should take his last name to show unity.’ Or, ‘If you honor him, then you should go by his last name.’ My response is always, ‘So, does that mean you don’t honor your wife, because you didn’t take her last name?’ It’s that simple, really. Every time you are pressured to do something just because you are female, all you have to do is ask ‘Why?’ and trust me, they will be unable to provide you with any logical answers. ‘Eh ganun talaga dapat eh,’ is usually all they have to answer.
My husband and I have been traveling for 10 years, and the only time I ever had visa problems was after I got married. So, here's a tip: Always bring a copy of your marriage certificate and a screenshot of an article that shows that it is not required by law for a Filipina to take her husband’s name after marriage.
I do not regret my decision to keep my maiden name; in fact, I am proud of it, and paninindigan ko ‘to. The more challenges I face, the more determined I am to hold on to it.”
Occupation: Fashion buyer
Married for: 3.5 years
“When I married my husband, I briefly considered hyphenating my last name, but I decided not to. Currently, I live in Montreal where it is the norm for married women to keep their maiden names. I remember my husband telling me that had I wanted to take his name, it would be an arduous legal process, not just a simple matter of application like it is back in the Philippines.
I read an article on the subject once and the argument against it that really resonated with me was that the process is extremely tedious and sometimes complicated, with the burden solely borne by the woman. Why do I have to suffer through the irksome, stress-inducing process of filling out forms, collecting countless documents, and lining up at several government offices?
Besides, I like my name as it is. I even told my husband (half seriously) that maybe our son should take my last name. My husband did make a good point when he said that it would be nice if I became a ‘Peters’ so our son wouldn’t have to wonder why his mom had a different last name. But he has never really given me grief about my decision so we’ve left it at that.
I remember going to an event once where my place card on the table read ‘Katrina Peters.’ I admit I was slightly insulted at the assumption that I had taken my husband’s last name without even confirming it with me. Now, I barely think about it.
Will I ever consider changing my last name in the future? It’s a possibility, especially if it’s for the overall benefit of my family. For now, I’m still Katrina Dy. I like to think of my last name as an anchor—to my past, my family, and the life I left behind.”
Occupation: Ship management executive
Married for: 6 years
“I decided to keep my name for practical reasons. It’s also the norm here in Singapore, where my husband and I currently live, so I didn’t see it as ‘making a statement’ in the beginning.
Eventually, I had Filipino friends urging me to change my surname already, and Filipino family and friends addressing me in cheques or letters with my husband’s surname. I would politely inform them that I kept my last name and most would just react, ‘Oh I didn’t know you could do that!’
I think they’re more worried about how my husband would take it. I usually reassure them by playfully saying he’s very secure in his manhood and he knows I’m crazy about him (which is true, by the way!). This usually does the trick, but questions like that just give me the impression that majority still think bearing your husband’s name signifies commitment. But if so, shouldn’t a man take a woman’s name, too, since commitment goes both ways?
Once at the airport when I approached the immigration counter with my young daughter, the officer asked for her birth certificate. So now, I usually let my husband bring her for immigration checks, and in the event that it’s just me and her traveling overseas, I’ll just bring her birth certificate until she’s of legal age. Other than that, I haven’t encountered any challenges nor judgmental comments from having kept my last name.
It never really occurred to me that sticking with my maiden name was ‘revolutionary’ until I read an article about the origin of taking the man’s surname after marriage. It has something to do with a woman being his ‘dependent,’ since women back then could not possibly generate as much income as a man. Nowadays, I’m sure it’s more of a symbolic move. But I think it’s no longer essential.”
Occupation: Tattooist, natural perfumer, illustrator
Married for: 2 years
“I never thought I’d get married, and it has also never occurred to me to adopt any man’s last name as my own. Why should anyone give up their name if they don’t want to? It doesn’t make the love mean any less; it just asserts a preference that should be respected. Luckily, I married a very open-minded, understanding, and supportive man—I wouldn’t have married anyone less than him anyway!
When other women find out that I kept my last name, especially the married ones, a lot are surprised that it’s even an option. Clearly, the fact that a wife can keep her maiden name if she wants to is not well-known in the Philippines.
Even my family was confused at first that none of my records changed, but then I feel like, after a lifetime of knowing me, they aren’t too surprised by the fact that I have kept my name. I guess my decision also stems from seeing how my mom was when I was growing up. I was raised by a mom who organized gender sensitivity seminars and organized gender equality groups. So I guess this was instilled in me from my youth, the notion that you can go beyond what is expected of you based on your gender. My dad, too, is pretty supportive of my mom. Come to think of it, the women in my family are all pretty incredible, strong women who defy the conventions of their generation, gender-based or otherwise.
Looking back on it now, deciding to keep my last name isn’t exactly a thing I did to prove a point. I am keeping it because it is the most natural thing for me to do.”
Occupation: Regional brand manager
Married for: 3 years
“The decision to keep my maiden name was actually something my husband and I decided on together. Throughout my whole life, I’ve struggled with man-woman roles and gender-based societal expectations and when I shared this with my husband, we decided on the principle that no one in our marriage would do something ‘just because of gender’ (besides child-bearing and breastfeeding, of course!). Changing my last name to his fell subject to this principle. Other than tradition, we couldn’t find any reason that didn’t violate one of our core relationship principles, so to this day I still haven’t changed my name.
I have a couple of disclaimers here. The option to change my last name to his is one that doesn’t expire, and when we both see the need and feel comfortable with it, it is something we can consider doing in the future. Also, we got married while I was working in China, where there is no process that facilitates a wife taking her husband’s name. When I asked my colleagues in China about it, they all said it was a practice that ended with their grandparents. Now, I work in Singapore and it’s the same thing—wives don’t take their husband’s names. In the Philippines however, I realize this is quite an uncomfortable topic, so I do believe it’s a very personal choice.
Now that I have a daughter and another one on the way, I’m doing this mainly for them. I would like them to grow up living our core family principle of having no gender-based expectations. Also, I think it’s good for them to grow up knowing that their father is very cool with it. My husband is a big feminist (even more than I am) and I am also doing this for him—to honor the kind of man that he is.”
Occupation: Interior stylist
Married for: 7 years
“To be honest, I kept my maiden name because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of changing all my records. But the decision also coincided with my then-growing belief that women shouldn’t have to change so much of their lives around their husband’s.
Luckily, my husband comes from a family of very strong women, and he was the one who suggested I keep my name. He told me about a friend of ours whose wife retained her maiden name. When I talked to this friend, who is a lawyer, I found out that the law doesn’t really require women to change their names, but merely suggests it. PERFECT!
When people find out that I kept my maiden name, I’m often asked, ‘Anong sabi ng asawa mo?’ or ‘Hindi ba siya nagalit?’ I’ve told more women than men about it, but come to think of it, the men normally just say ‘Ah.’ The women react more violently, saying, ‘Ganon?! Talaga?!?!’
Having kept my maiden name, I only had to change my civil status with SSS, PhilHealth, and Pag-IBIG, although I did have to attach a notarized affidavit saying I didn’t change my name. A downside to this is when people automatically change my record to reflect my husband’s last name, which happened with SSS. When I asked why they didn’t even check my attached affidavit, they shrugged and said, ‘Hindi kasi normal ‘yung ganyan.’ I also have to bring copies of my birth and marriage certificates when I travel with my daughter, as proof that I am her mother.
Keeping my maiden name has especially been favorable for my various careers—as magazine editor, musician, and now interior stylist—which I had cultivated before I even got married. I feel like my accomplishments are all me, my own, and it feels incredibly fulfilling to know that.”
Occupation: Events organizer
Married for: 6 years
“There are three main reasons why I still use my maiden name. First, it takes me a while to accept big changes in my life. When my husband first proposed to me at the Grand Canyon, he literally gave me a rock from the canyon and I didn’t take it seriously. A week after, he proposed again with the real thing, and that’s when I said yes.
Second, inasmuch as using my married name is already complicated, I dislike complicating my life any further. When I found out that I have to change all my paperwork and documents, I just said no. Besides, as an events organizer who’s been doing business for 15 years, recall of your name is important.
My last reason came as a fortunate accident. We got married in Maui and found out beforehand during our interview with the marriage license officer that in the state of Hawaii, both partners get to choose whatever middle and last names they want to use.
It can be challenging when I have to fill out paperwork that asks for my civil status. I get confused if I should declare that I’m married or not since they might ask so many questions or require government-issued proof, so I just usually end up ticking the single status box.
We did have a few friends and relatives who initially frowned upon my decision not take my husband’s last name, but I’m not your typical girl who really cares so much what other people think. What I care about more is my relationship with my better half.
Right before I wrote this, I asked my husband if he is supportive of my decision to retain my maiden name. Without hesitation, he said, ‘Of course,’ and ended it with what I hope everyone should focus on: ‘It’s really the heart that matters.’”