• "Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father's love—difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness - Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events—to the heart that loves, all is well."
  • - St. Therese of Lisieux

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Guest Post: Romeo and Tess' Adoption Story

Flashback: CHRISTMAS 1986
I had just started working for a Japanese company based in Makati when the season started and part of our company’s social work was sponsoring a Christmas party at an orphanage, the Asilo de SanVicente de Paul at UN Avenue. We were welcomed warmly by young smiling faces in their freshly scrubbed clothes lining up the lobby as we made our way inside.

That was my first encounter with orphaned children and throughout the days’ event, which included song and dance programs, team games and gift giving, my fellow co - workers and I bonded with the kids as we shared meals, getting snippets of their touching stories, how they viewed their situation and a little puzzled by their wonderment as we tell on what we would otherwise consider as our quite ordinary life. By the time we wrapped up and were heading out the gate, tears where falling in everyone’s eyes as the kid’s where crying and pleading “kuya, sama niyo na ako, kunin niyo na ako” (translation: 'older brother, I want to go with you, take me with you.') as we left. Looking out from the window of our bus as it made its way out of the gate, we waved our goodbyes and somehow felt that we could do more, as we looked forward to a now more appreciated routine life.

Surrounded by kids mostly too young to talk and some actually just starting to crawl, I, my wife and my 3 children share a cake with them in what has already been quite a tradition for the past 6 years, that on Father’s day, I become a father to them, on Mother’s day the orphans have my wife as a mother, and on other special occasions or just random days when our busy schedules permit, we find ourselves in the orphanage where we got our first adopted child, our second son. Often enough as I look at their faces, I am reminded of the kids that I encountered 3 decades ago, so welcoming and appreciative of the attention we have given, lending proof to the adage that indeed the best gift you could give to a child is time. Stress reliever is how my wife amply puts it as she helps around the feeding, my kids play with their ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, as I carry and make funny faces with the babies.

In 2008 my wife and I have been married for 9 years and we have a son Bridge, who had turned 8. Sitting in the developmental doctor’s clinic, as he finished up his yearly assessment for our son who has autism, perhaps seeing first hand our personal struggle, aware that we have tried all medical, spiritual and mythical ways to have another child and knowing him personally as our neighbor, he concluded with a suggestion that we consider adoption, so we can experience how it is to have a normal child and family, “para matikman niyo naman kung paano magkaroon ng normal na anak at pamilya” his exact words.

Hearing this, my wife and I had a serious discussion back home, that also took into account the future prospects of our son. It is during this talk that I recounted my above experience with the Christmas parties our office had at the orphanage as my wife also shared that she has a cousin who was adopted. To test a hypothetical decision that we are slowly veering to, we took a trip back to the Asilo de San Vicente de Paul orphanage which brought back deep feelings to me and upon consultation with a staff there, took her advice that led us to the doors of the DSWD region 4 office at Alabang.

Participating in the seminar that is the first step in the process, confirmed our decision. Soon enough we proceeded with the necessary papers to affect our legal adoption.

The much anticipated day has come, accepting the first boy that was matched to us with no reservations, we eagerly took the trip to the orphanage to fetch our boy. Along the way, my wife and I wondered how it will feel like to see him, hold him, for the first time… will it be the same as the birth of our child? Will there be as they say a “lukso ng dugo”? A very Pinoy expression that fails a proper English translation.

And so, there he sat at the play area, and as he looked up at us with those eyes, our question was answered. Holding him with tears of joy, we knew that in our arms is someone that we will do everything in the world to nurture, educate protect and love. We called him Blake.

 After 3 years, buoyed by the generally encouraging response and acceptance of our family and friends as well the lovable experience we were having with our two sons, my wife being an only child and I having only one sibling, longed for a big family, and so we had our third child, our second adoption, this time a girl. Bianca is my wife’s clone, after living with three boys (me included) she finally has someone she can do girl stuff with. Watching them I just realize how men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and if Tess had two Mama’s Boys, I now have my very own Daddy’s Girl.

As I finalize writing this, having driven my sons B1 and B2 as I fondly call the kids, B3 is helping her mommy prepare for the office as she herself will be driven to school later. Since my business is mostly weekends we have scheduled our routines to complement each other and while doing away with a yaya (nanny) and househelp can be very tiring, it has given us the opportunity to be hands on with our kids. They are growing up confidently as we have very early on agreed not to hide their being adopted, bringing them regularly to the orphanage and to the Adoption Family Group party, to see that they are many, that they do have peers.

We tell them how their biological parents made the sacrifice so that they will have a better life, and so they must study hard. It is our idea that the best arm, is the truth. However, we have to confess that although we have prepared ourselves for the day when our son will finally talk about that ‘subject’, my wife was momentarily caught off guard. He asked “Do I look like my original mom?” Original mom being a term that he himself came up with, maybe because at age 4 he can’t pronounce biological which we used. Finally catching her breath my wife answered “Yes you look like your original mom, but you do look similar to your daddy” referring to me. Actively participating in his sisters adoption also wizened him up. Sometimes he will unexpectedly ask deep questions, always to his mom (true blue mama’s boy) like “Why did God put me in the orphanage”? Disarming and at the same time assuring that he can talk about it with us and sometimes we even hear him lecturing his sister about it. One of the questions always put up by people with regards to adoption is “How can you love someone that is not your blood”? Our adopted kids constantly make us feel that YES, they can love us, just as unconditionally.

TODAY 2016
I am now 52 years old while my wife has turned 45. Never did we imagine that at this age when most of our age bracket have grandchildren that we will still be chasing after kids, picking them up even if our backs ache when they fall, carrying them when they are tired, getting migraine from all the shouting and the noise, tidying up after their games, controlling our temper when they make mistakes, putting effort to teach them right and answer their endless questions. My wife and I even have a running joke where we ask each other, “Whose bright idea was this anyway”! But seriously, after we have tucked them in for bedtime, we look at them and have a fulfilling sigh, we see bright possibilities and look at another day’s job well done.

As our bus makes it’s way out the gates of the orphanage we waved our goodbyes and somehow felt that we could do more… little did I know.

Learn more about local adoption here and here.

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