I remember the moment my mother told me. I was about 4 or 5 years old. I had put my ear up to her belly asking if I was going to ever have a sibling. She told me that she wasn’t able to have children and that is why she and my father adopted me. I remember thinking “okay,” and then just went play with my toys. Not exactly sure how I knew what “adopted” meant, but it never really phased me. I knew my mom loved me and that was all I needed to know.
I was never really open about being adopted, only because it came with so many questions I couldn’t answer and simply didn’t want to answer. Plus, it was confusing to those who knew, and it was frustrating for me to explain two sets of parents… then my parents got divorced so then that was another set of parents to throw into my story.
I think adoption is a wonderful thing, and if I had it my way, every family would have at least one adopted child.
I think knowing from a very young age helped me process it as I got older. But at the back of mind, I always thought about how there was at least a mother and older sister out there. This especially came to mind when I got the, “you look familiar… do you have a sister?”
I have never been angry or hurt by my birth mother for giving me up. My mom told me her story. She was 19 years old when she had me, and she already had one daughter, and another child before who passed before I was born. Living in the Philippines can be rough, and it certainly was for her. Living conditions were not that great. My mom told me that there were four couples looking to adopt me (I was still in the belly), and my birth mother chose my mom and dad because my dad was in the Navy, from the USA and she wanted me to have a better life in America. My mom is from the Philippines and I’ve gone there a few times and know how hard it can be for them, plus my mom has told me stories from when she grew up. I certainly had a much different experience than she did, and I’m definitely grateful to both my mom and birth mother for that!
My mom was never secretive about my birth and adoption story, and I’m glad she wasn’t. She often told me that she wished she was able to adopt my sister too. She told me that my sister’s name was Joy or Joyce and that she was a little older than me. I had my birth mother’s name on my birth certificate but not my father’s name.
The last time I went to the Philippines (Between 11-14 years old) my family (mom and her two sisters), took me to my birth place. We were on our way to Baguio City, and my birth place was on the way. They showed me the little house I was born in. The town was pretty much run down/deserted. We stopped at a mini mart in the area and my mom asked the clerk about my birth mother. The clerk said that everyone left when the area flooded from a typhoon. So that was that.
Throughout the years, my mom asked if I wanted to find them, and I’ve always said “eventually,” that I think it would be interesting to meet them! But I never really pursued the idea until I was older. Doctors always asked about family history and I wasn’t able to answer. The last few years, I’ve had several health concerns arise, and made me wonder what my birth family’s health was like.
Decided to try…
I moved to Montana in 2014 and in 2016 is when I really started to think about finding them. I had no idea on where to start. I had only a few facts from my birth certificate to go off of. I definitely didn’t have the money to hire a professional.
2016 is when I turned to Facebook to see if I can find them. I have to say that my birth mother’s last name is very common! That made it hard. I also tried searching for “Joy” or “Joyce,” but the ones I came across were people who were not close to my birth area, so I didn’t really know. When I presented a profile to my mom, she wasn’t sure if it was birth mother, but warned me to be careful because, well, it was the internet. After that I sort of just stopped with the intention of trying again soon.
The search begins!
Last March/April (2022), I was scrolling through Facebook. I like to read the little random articles that pop up. The one article that popped up that day was about a woman who found her 30-year-old son through a Facebook group for adoptees.
So once again, I turned to Facebook and my friends. My best friend Nicole helped a lot! It was fun investigating and gathering clues (info). With the help of Nicole and my other best friend Chloe, I got the courage to message people. I told them that I was looking for a family member and asked if they happened to know them (same last name).
I talked to one girl who had the name “Joice” in her name. She was around my age and her mother had the same first and last name. (This was the lady who’s profile I came across in 2016). I secretly hoped she was my sister. I mean, how cool would that be that I found her so easily and quickly?
I introduced myself and told her who I was. She told me that her mother had passed away the year before. We compared facts and turned out they were not the same person, but she said she was going to visit her grandfather soon and would ask him. I thanked her and continued my search.
This search was for my birth father. As I mentioned, his name was not on my birth certificate but my mom gave me a name. Turns out his last name was a common one too! I came across one profile and this lady had posted photos of herself from when she was a child. I was in shock. She had one that looked just like me! I thought we had to be related! I messaged her in hopes she would reply, but she never did.
She gave me the idea to post a few photos of myself around the age of four. I thought this would help me look and sound less creepy. I also added my mother’s maiden name to my profile.
I came across another potential paternal relative, and turned out this one was in my hometown and he knew my two best friends, Eryn & Meghan! They encouraged me to message him. He didn’t have any info as to if we were related. He mentioned that their last name is very common and gave me a little history about his grandfather. I was thankful that he took the time to reply and provided the info.
I spent many late nights searching different profiles, hoping to come across one. There weren’t too many women name Joy or Joyce from my birthplace. I came across a few with different last names in different areas of the Philippines, but I don’t know too much as far as locations. I looked on the map, but I didn’t have enough information as to where they could have moved to.
I think about a week went by. It was another late night in the rabbit hole and a message request popped up.
She said her niece (“Joice”) came to visit and mentioned I was looking for my birth mother. Her aunt said they had relatives come through their area and they asked them. They said they might know and would get info when they arrived back home. This lady sent me a photo of a lady (in a red shirt) who could possibly be my birth mother and said to show it to my mom. She also mentioned that she had passed away. I showed my mom, but my mom said she couldn’t remember. It had been over 30 years since she last saw her.
The lady got back to me and gave me a profile of this man who was the half-brother of the lady in red. She suggested I message him and get more information. So I sent another message, introduced myself and explained what my mission was. I didn’t expect a reply or a reply any time soon, so I went about my day.
The next morning (or maybe two mornings later), I woke up to find a message request on Facebook. It was in Filipino and so I had to copy and paste it into Google translator. It made some sense, but not really. But this lady, Joylyn, said that they used to have the picture of me in the blue dress in their living room and that the photo was lost when their home flooded. My heart quicken from excitement.
I messaged my mom, knowing that it was 6 AM back home and she was probably sleeping. I then forwarded all the messages and asked her to translate.
The rest of the day or two was spent going back and forth between my mom and Joylyn. My mom wanted to ask her questions to see if their stories would add up. Some of it didn’t make sense and my mom said probably not her. I told her that maybe Joylyn was using a translator because she didn’t speak English very well. Eventually I convinced my mom to get on video chat with her. She and my aunt grilled Joylyn. Poor girl, lol. But by the end of the day, they were all convinced she was my sister!
But the only true way to find out was a DNA test. My mom was visiting the Philippines the next month (April) so they agreed to meet and have her take an Ancestry.com test. The past four months while we waited for the results, I got to know Joylyn and her family a little. She’s told me about our mom and our younger brother. We already claimed to be sisters even though we didn’t get her results back yet.
This past July 4th weekend, they got the results. We are half-sisters! She was thinking we had the same father, which I was hoping as well. Her father is the guy my mom was told who was my birth father. So… now not sure where to begin! My birth mother is the only one who knew his name.
Searching for me
One thing I regret is stopping my search in 2016. That was when my birth mother passed away and maybe if I had continued, I could have a least talked to her for awhile before she passed. It would have been nice to get to know her and ask some questions.
Remember when I said we visited my birth place and my mom spoke to someone at the mini store? Well word got to my birth mother that we were traveling through town and asked for her. But by the time she got there, we had already left and was on our way to Baguio City. Joylyn said she went there two times, hoping to run into me 💔
Joylyn said that our mother always talked about finding me. She wanted them to go on one of those TV shows where they connect long lost relatives, but Joylyn said they didn’t have the money. I’m thankful that I found Joylyn and can get to know our family through her!
We are hoping to meet soon, maybe next year! Either I will travel to the Philippines or she may be able to travel somewhere closer to me. *crossing fingers*