Gervae began his story with – “There’s a reunion video on Facebook between a Filipino man and his biological parents that makes me cry every time”.
The video depicts a true story, re-enacted to dramatize the narrative. It begins with a young boy, Jojo, running frantically among vendors’ wares in Muñoz Street Market, in Quezon City. The four-year-old boy has just escaped from his burning home and can’t locate his parents. He doesn’t know if they’ve survived or, if they have survived, how to find them now. He runs through the market, hoping but failing to catch a glimpse of his guardians.
A jeepney driver realizes the boy’s plight and takes him to an orphanage that quickly take him in. Eventually he is adopted by a family who take him to live with them in Australia. The new family of three grow with more children and Jojo’s new parents work hard to raise all of them well.
Jojo becomes a film producer, successful by most standards, yet he feels incomplete because he knows nothing about the fate of his parents. 30 years later he returns to Quezon City in the Philippines in search of them. He hands out flyers with his baby photo, hoping someone will recognize the story of the missing Filipino boy.
A couple who lost their son 30 years before come forward but DNA tests reveal a 0% match.
Jojo’s story is picked up by a television station and more parents come forward but DNA tests again reveal 0% match.
Finally, friends of Jojo’s parents recognise the story and come forward with the names of his parents who have split up. Without too much difficulty, Jojo manages to find his father, now an engineer in the U.S. The reunited father and son speak tearfully via Skype. Jojo’s mother proves more difficult to find and, as Jojo nears the date of his return to Australia, it seems unlikely he will locate her.
A day before he is set to leave, however, a radio station locates his mother for an interview. She recognizes Jojo’s photo and chokes back tears to say she wants to meet him. In an emotional, final scene, one happy Filipina comes forward and hugs her son. DNA confirms: Jojo has found his mom. As mother and son are reunited on screen, my tears join theirs.
I was born on October 4, 1987, to a broken family.
My name tells some of the story of my family’s history – Gervae Jhon Diamola Acosta.
Gervae Jhon is a mixture of biblical names chosen by my mother.
Diamola is my mother’s maiden name, revived only when her marriage ended.
Acosta is all I have by which to remember my father.
By the time I was born, my father, Gervacio Trinidad Acosta, and my mother had split up. My mother kicked him out of the house after he brutally beat her while she was pregnant with me.
For the first two years of my life, my sister and I were raised by my mother in Negros Oriental in the Philippines. My mother worked hard to love us and protect us from our family’s history.
When my mother re-married, she went to live with her husband some hours away from Quezon City. My sister and I stayed with my grandparents in Negros Oriental as my mother thought it best for us not to be uprooted. My grandparents gave her their blessing and promised to look after us.
Fast forward: Manila
I worked for eight years in an electronics factory in Manila but as hard as I worked, I knew I would never earn enough to support my grandmother who had given up so much for my sister and I. (My grandfather had passed away). So, I began to make plans to move to another country.
I found a broker who secured a position for me with Hitachi in Taoyuan County. After paying the fee and purchasing a one-way ticket to Taiwan I was on my way.
I see my work in Taiwan as a sacrifice in-line with the sacrifice my grandparents made for us.
Most months at Hitachi, I earn about $1,130 of which I give $260 to my grandmother. The rest of my salary is split between $450 savings for my future family and living expenses.
The Hope Workers Centre
Although my job was rewarding I was looking to do more with my life than just work so I began attending the Hope Worker’s Centre where I have made friends and eventually became a volunteer as an usher and part of the Lectors and Commentators Programs.
At the Center I began to talk to Mhike, the Director about my family and the dad-sized hole in my memory. I told him how badly I wanted to see my father and Mhike asked, “Why do you want to see him?”
I said, “I want to see him because I think I might learn more about myself. I am certain that I have characteristics passed on from him. For so long I have lived without knowing fully who I am or where I came from.”
Mhike helped me to look for my father but as yet I have not been able to track him down. I pray that if and when I do meet him, he will recognise me and it will be like the reunion in the video when Jojo finally found his mother.
Edited by Hannes Zetzsche who was a Columban volunteer for the international program in Taiwan in 2017.
Listen to "The migrant worker’s face"
- Read more from The Far East, April 2019