Hanna Fernando-Pacua (PHILIPPINES) temporarily leaves her comfort zone to travel, serve, and perform around the world in five months. She hopes to share with you this very meaningful experience.

Up with People provides students with an extraordinary semester of traveling the world. As a student your perspectives on the world will never be the same. UWP is for that certain student who's looking for an intense, hands-on, involved global educational experience. The program addresses the very real need for young adults and leaders who have global perspectives, intercultural understanding, knowledge of worldwide social issues, leadership skills and a dedication to community service. For more information, visit www.upwithpeople.org.

HANNA's SATTELITE SITE and GALLERY (+ photos, videos, calendar) http://www.bananaspinuwp.multiply.com/

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Flashback Belgium: Meeting Butchok

Our family in the Philippines is a licensed foster family. For those of you who do not understand this – it’s like being host family to kids who do not have a family until the time that there is a permanent home available to them. By permanent home, this means an adoptive family or when his biological (real birth parents or maybe relatives) family decides to get him or her.

There are many reasons why a child becomes “homeless” – this can be abandonment intentionally or maybe abandonment by death (orphaned), sickness, prison, etc.. There are also abused kids and kids who are “foundlings” (saddest case where they find kids with absolutely no history) These kids are usually put in orphanages or what we can call “institutional care” – think houses with 20 or more kids with some social workers looking after them.

Foster family care is an alternative way of taking care of these kids. It is temporary care in a real family setting where they have a mom a dad and in some cases, siblings and pets and toys and books they can call their own. But then this is temporary and is very different from adoption. Like I said before foster care is a prelude to adoption (getting the child accustomed to family life while his or her papers are being processed) or a temporary staying place while the real parents are getting their acts together (like deciding whether to keep the baby or not, or while looking for a job, or while recovering from an illness..)

This is my mom and dad’s advocacy. They hope to see more families stepping up to the challenge to become volunteer foster families. Our family takes care of one child at a time and they have stayed with us for as short as 3 weeks to 4 years! I guess me having 15 foster brothers and sisters in a period of about 12 years compensates for our lack of family members.

We once took care of a cute little boy named Michael Gabriel or MG or in my term of endearment for him, “Butchok”. I forgot for how long he stayed with us – but he was a darling little boy who was adopted by a couple from Belgium when he was only about a year old in 2005. I was very thankful for the rare chance for me to see him again when UWP was in Belgium!

My mom wasted no time getting in touch with MG’s adoptive parents when we found out that I was going to Belgium. The De Turcks (Koen and Marie Therese) were equally thrilled to meet me there. Their first adopted son, Paolo (5 years old) is also a Filipino and was really getting curious about the Philippines – and MG was growing up to be an active little 3 year old.

So I took a one-day leave from UWP (yes, this is allowed – we can apply for a “leave” as long as it is two weeks in advance and all info about our whereabouts are supplied to the staff) and got picked up by the de Turcks. They lived about an hour away (oh but it took them over 2 hours to get to Leuven because of extremely heavy traffic, yes, even in Europe!)

MG, (or Michael as they called him) was shy at first but gradually turned into a sweet little boy and naturally did not remember me nor speak any English. I was “Hanna from the the Fillipenen” (I don’t even know if I spelled that right) and that “Paolo and Michael are from the Fillepenen too!”

We drove back to their hometown and went to Michael’s pre-school. The teacher introduced me to the “all-white” / Caucasian class and through body language and some translation I understood that she was saying that I was a Filipino like Michael. She motioned to my black hair, my dark colored eyes and my tanned skin and how me and Michael were similar. I can see the pride in Michael’s eyes as he showed of his “ate” and the kids’ curiosity as they proceeded to ask their teacher (in rapid Flemish, which is what they call their language – not Belgian!) questions about why their eyes are different from ours. It was such a pretty sight.

We then picked up Paolo from his school, where the two boys hugged and were so happy to see each other. Obviously Paolo and Michael were “famous” in their schools and everybody just scrambled all over Michael to say hello and touch him and squeeze him. Paolo’s love for his brother was very evident as he announced, “My brother’s here, my brother’s here!”

At the de Turck’s house, the grandmother was there as she was also very eager to meet me. We could not talk much because of the language barrier but Marie Therese and Koen helped with the translation. It was also very evident that they loved their two Pinoy kids to bits. They showed me a lot of pictures, and even showed me how they kept the boys’ clothes and their old feeding bottles from the Philippines.

I was amazed at how they spoke so highly of the Philippines and the Filipino people, and how they would love to spend more time here. Koen even told me that if his boys someday would like to go live in the Philippines and look for their parents, he and Marie Therese would gladly accompany them and live here. They told me that there was a different kind of warmth in our personalities that makes a person feel good. They particularly loved Cebu and have made fishermen friends there when they came 2 years ago to pick up Michael. The family is really saving up now so they can come visit the country by 2009.

It was definitely a visit to remember! In the afternoon, a couple more adopted Filipino kids went to the house for spaghetti and to meet “Hanna from the Fillipenen” – It was a surprise because I saw another one of our foster kids ! Corazon (her name is now Celine and she was also adopted by a Belgian couple.)

Contrary to its Philippine image of “kawawa naman” (what a pity / what a sad case) – adopted children are very special children and very loved children. They are so lucky to have these people go to great lengths just to call them their own.

For more information about foster care / adoption and how your family can get involved, leave a comment or email me at hanna.fernando@gmail.com.

1 comment:

angelgirl said...

huwaw ate hanna! i'm so amazed and touched! galeng! sya pala yung baby na yun sa friendster mo. grabe, nakakaiyak.