And so I went out to meet them – the Amerasians - mirror images of
myself – if not in appearance, then most definitely in origins, all of
us tied by fate to almost similar situations in life.
There is no place to hide when you are an Amerasian. The evidence of
your origins is immediately recognizable from the vast sea of brown
faces all around them in this country. And you see them everywhere –
not really so different from everybody else in how they lead their
lives, the way they speak, the way they dress.
But their eyes reflect the colors of the sea or the earth—blue, green,
or dark brown , while everybody else's are pools of black. Their skin
also reflects the alien origin of the blood that flows in their veins.
Their sizes and shapes also vary from the norm. In a world of squares,
as it were, they are shaped like triangles, circles, and cubes –
their difference from everybody else is immediately apparent and
speaks volumes about who and what they are.
Because that is no secret. Not here, of all places. In this city, they
are living reminders of a not so distant past, which is now dead and
lives only in the memory. And yet still has the power to shape their
In their heart of hearts – I know there inside is a secret burden. A
weight that we all share. Something that erects a wall between a
native Filipino and the Amerasian, something that, though smiles
frequently pass over their faces, is also the source of copious tears
and anguish in their lives.
You only had to look, it is impossible to hide anyway. Impossible. But
there it was – for all to see – though one still hopes that it was not
so. And that the pain they carry will not let their hearts crack. So
much that is unspeakable is locked up inside.
Unless you meet another, just like you, and no words need be said –
yet all is understood.
Roaming the streets of Olongapo – years after the bases left, I am
moved by what I see. It has only shaken off the vestiges of its past.
But just barely.. Everywhere you look you could still see what it
once was – a place where human nature at its worst found expression –
and if you look closer you'll realize that though the faces may have
changed, these women are retracing the steps of those who now only
exist in pictures, movies, or memories of the men who enjoyed the '
good old days. ' here.
The bars are still here, though not as numerous as when I was still a
child – they are no longer as loud, gaudy, and nasty-- - as before.
Their appearances have also changed – as the people who now spend
hours inside these smoky rooms no longer come from America's shores –
their facades reflect the signs of the times.
It was a source of constant amusement to me as a child to see the
Americans and their ' ladies' prowling the night, hopping from one bar
to the next, with the entire city exuding a fiesta-like atmosphere.
They all looked so happy then. So much cheer in their voices, their
faces brimming over with joy – or so it seemed to me. Amazing how much
time – and a little thought could change the feeling that went with
those memories now.
For a long while, many here thought that this was the best of all
possible worlds – that they were living in the best corner of the
country. Once here, a lot of them probably thought, they were only a
step away from the promised land – America.
So many people ruined their lives chasing that mirage.
This place was supposed to bring them closer to the realization of
their dreams, I heard these ladies say. But in the end, after they
poured all their youthful innocence, their hopes and dreams, it
splintered their spirit into a million little pieces and crushed their
soul under the neon glow of the bars that lit up the streets of this
In this city, for these people, all roads led to dead ends. After
losing everything, they found their backs against the wall. And there
was no way out – for them and for their children.
Do you remember it? A sort of lethargy would creep in when the ships
left – and people would only come back to life again when the ships
came back. This was the cycle of life, the rhythm by which all
creatures of the night lived their lives.
Today, I wonder what it would be like – if my son saw the same things
I did. Although I would do everything in my power to spare him the
worst of what I – and other Amerasians have gone through – I want him
to know what happened here, and what it meant for the rest of us.
Growing up, I now realize, though I experienced most of the hurts that
every Amerasian feels in his heart, I also know that I have been truly
lucky. Because I was spared from the worst of it. I was surrounded by
people who cared for me, by those who would not let me be touched by
the worst of all the terrible things in life that existed.
More than that, my mother, who was an educator by training – showed me
that knowledge is the most powerful thing in the world. And she worked
to give me as much of it as she could, as much as her capacity would
She was aided in this by others – specifically the Pearl S. Buck
Foundation – an organization founded by an American writer, a woman
who spent the most formative years of her life in Asia, amongst simple
people, the poor and the downtrodden.
The conditions she found in China inspired Pearl to write her best
novels. In time, she would also found an organization that would touch
so many children's lives for the better – including my own.
I imagine that many of the Amerasians I grew up with are now leading
their own lives – as grown ups – hopefully, they have outrun the
demons that hounded the younger versions of themselves.
But there is much you can learn about people when you catch them in
the right moment in time. We all had to pass through here – these
moments that make the sum of our lives , moments where we make the
decisions that often define our destinies. Because we live in the
stream of consequences that inevitably follows every choice that we
So I went to see how younger Amerasians are doing. They are still at
the crossroads of their lives , the most interesting – and important
points – of our entire existence. What happens later – and what they
become later – can be traced back to the choices they made in these
And so I searched for and found them – and in all of them I saw parts
of my own self.
It's amazing how one thing leads to another. If it is true that,
according to a theory in physics, that the flutter of a butterfly's
wings can trigger a tsunami somewhere half way around the world – a
concept that attempts to illustrate how small actions can turn into
colossal events down the river of time – then the decision to begin
the search could conceivably alter a few Amerasians' futures.
So I asked every Amerasian I interviewed if they still wanted to find
their father after all these years. There was not single one of them
who said no. That , I believe, is a testimony not only to their desire
to find their father s – but to their hope that they will find what
they are looking for.
When I met Ollie I asked her if she could do this for the Amerasians
in Olongapo. She said yes without hesitation.
And she did arrive in Olongapo one day, with Jennifer in tow. I
invited all the Amerasians I had interviewed to join us at an internet
café and began our search. But first every Amerasian – including
myself - had to get all the information we could to trace our
biological parents' whereabouts.
In my case, asking my mother would have been the easiest way to obtain
this important information.
But that would be a difficult conversation. Over the years I had
only picked up little bits and pieces of information about my father,
or the time that they spent together – and I learned all I new about
that from my relatives. I can remember the few times when my mother
volunteered information on her own about the subject. But those times
And I never thought to ask her – or insist on knowing. Some things you
just feel are to difficult to talk about in the open. Often, those are
also the most important things in life. . But here I was, doing it
for the first time. I went to see her about you – not knowing what
she'd tell me. Or how I would feel about it.
One good thing came out of the attempt, I guess. We found JR's father.
And it got me thinking, why shouldn't I give you a call?
There were a few numbers that came up. And then, I tried the most
likely candidate. But I could not get through.
Nothing new in that, I guess. Ever since, I could not get through to
you. Why should my luck change now?
It really felt strange doing that. For a long time I thought of you in
the past tense – like you died. During hard times, I honestly wished
that you were – because I blamed you for everything that's happened to
my mother and I. Now I wish that you were still alive, that I could
talk to you – if only for a moment.
I guess for me, if it came to it, I would choose to know than not to
know what would happen if we met.
And so I am writing you this letter, even though you are a complete
stranger to me. I don't even know what I'll do when I do find you. But
out of the millions of strangers in the world, you are different- to
Because, no matter the reality, in my heart of hearts I believe that I
do know you – because some part of you lives within me. All I have to
do is look at myself in the mirror to see that it's true. All I have
to do is look at my son – to know that whatever there is of you that
is in me – also lives in him.
And we are not strangers at all.
Now that I have children of my own -- a son and a daughter – I realize
Everytime I look at them, I see you – whenever I look at myself in the
mirror, somewhere there, if I look closely enough, you're there .
And I wonder…If you feel the same about me.
Even if we have never met – even if perhaps we never will
Even so, now I only wish you happiness – wherever you are. May these
words find you well. And yes, I ought to thank you – because, all
told, I consider my life to be a gift and I would not have had it
This boy that I am holding – my son – will know what it means to have
a father. He will not grow up without me, or feel any of the loss that
I felt – that I still feel. His days will be filled with memories of
me, his life will contain my presence – and I wont ever leave him. And
that will be all because of you.
And if we met, maybe then you'll hear me saying these words – in a
voice like your own - ringing in your ears, so like mine..
I wish you joy – and I wish you well.