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The Bridge Cafe, Groenburgwal, Amsterdam.

Memories of my one-year Amsterdam sojourn.

Written by Romel

April 19, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

with one comment

A mom’s 30-year search for a son

I wonder if there was – or there ever will be — a happy ending to this story I filed nine years ago for the Philippine Star:

A mom’s 30-year search for a son by Romel Bagares Updated May 14, 2000 12:00 AM

Whenever Nina Ferrer hears the roar of jets above her small hut in San Jose, Antique, she runs to the nearby beach to wave at the aircraft.

Though she is no madwoman, Ferrer is stranded in an island of the past. Up there in the skies, she says, could be her son who, more than three decades ago, was taken away by her first husband.

“How long ago was it?” she asked. “My son must be 35 now.”

As she spoke, Ferrer’s face turned red with emotion. “I have cried so many times over my baby, how I want to know where he is now, whether he now has a family of his own. I just want to see him before I die.”

Ferrer lost her son Virgilio in 1966 to her American husband who took the then two-year-old boy to the United States and never came back.

The last thing she heard was Virgilio had been jailed in the US for unclear reasons, and that he did not want to see his mother or know anything about her.

But Ferrer’s friend, Ting Elvas, consoles her. “God is not deaf that He should not hear your cries,” she tells her. “We will see your son soon.”

All her life Ferrer has been singing sad songs. She lost her mother at a tender age and, being the youngest of six siblings, was given away to an aunt who resolved to turn her into a teacher.

Ferrer, however, had a different dream for herself. She wanted to be a famous singer like her idol Janet McDonald, the American who played a beautiful Indian maiden in the movie The Indian Love Call.

She still remembers every detail of that movie, particularly its theme song which she hasn’t sung in years: “When I’m calling you, will you answer too… You belong to me and I belong to you.”

Ferrer pursued her dream by joining, in 1959, a televised singing contest in Manila. She did not win, but was hired by the host to be part of the staff.

One day in the early 1960s, she was invited by a friend to Olongapo to meet lonely American sailors looking for female company. There she met a handsome serviceman, Herbert Waine Gill from Long Beach, California. They fell in love and soon got married.

But the marriage never produced children. Gill, as Ferrer later discovered, was impotent.

While married to Gill, Ferrer met a Filipino mestizo in the US Navy with whom she had an affair. The relationship bore her a child, a boy she christened Virgilio Luisito. Though Gill knew that the boy was not his son, he still liked him for looking very American with his brown hair and fair skin. He treated him as if he were his own child, and Ferrer thought everything would work out fine.

But she was mistaken. One day in 1966, when the boy was two years and six months old, Ferrer came home to an empty apartment. The place was in shambles, and her son was nowhere to be found.

“My husband was obviously in a hurry to leave. He brought with him everything, including our family pictures and Virgilio’s baptismal certificate,” she recalled. Gill also took her US green card and their marriage certificate.

Ferrer received a letter from Gill several weeks later, announcing that Virgilio had survived the trip to the US. She got another letter several years later which informed her that the boy was growing up fast and that he had been enrolled in a Catholic school.

Another joy
Distraught, Ferrer returned to her hometown in 1974 and got married to a shipping company employee, Abelardo Guillermo. A year later, she and her new husband had a son whom she named Abraham Joy.

“I named him Abraham after the great patriarch of the Bible who had longed for a son for so long until God blessed him and made him a father of many nations,” she said. “I also named him Joy because somehow he eased the terrible pain within me.”

Abraham Joy is now 24 and a third year business student in Sibalom town in Antique. Mother and son live in a small hut at the corner of a beach resort owned by one of Ferrer’s nephews.

Although her second son is a source of happiness, still Ferrer longs for the company of her first “baby.”

Ferrer said she cried in disbelief when she read a letter from the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington DC telling her that her son was in prison and “has no desire to see, hear or write his biological mother.”

The letter was in response to a query Ferrer made in July 1997, asking US navy authorities if her son was in the naval service. How she got to send the inquiry is a story in itself.

Sometime in 1992, as US troops were pulling out of Clark Field, an American serviceman came to Iloilo looking for Ferrer. The man said he was helping his colleague look for his mother. His colleague’s name was Louis Wayne Gill.

Ferrer learned about the American only a year later. When she looked for him, the serviceman was already gone.

“So near and yet so far,” she sighed.

Ferrer then wrote the US Navy and asked about her son. But according to Navy officials, no Louis Wayne Gill ever entered the service.

The officials, however, said they had located Herbert Waine Gill, Ferrer’s former husband, and that he had told them that he had divorced her for “adultery and voluntary abandonment” in 1967.

The US Navy’s inconstant reply to her queries only sharpened Ferrer’s feeling of loss. Now 62, she is a widow and lives through the meager pension of her late husband and the earnings of a small sari-sari (variety) store.

She says she is looking for her son not to ask for anything. “I am not interested in money or anything. I just want to see him again before I die,” she said. “I am not losing hope.”

Written by Romel

April 6, 2009 at 5:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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