May I Call You Dad?

 Derrick Reyes

Derrick Reyes

My life was already confusing the day I was born. I am Frederick "Derrick" (Taylor, Ramos) Reyes. My mother is Grace Ramos Reyes, my father is Ricardo Manzano Taylor. My birth certificate says Frederick Taylor Reyes, and I cannot remember why my name was always Frederick Ramos Reyes. I guess my mom, who filled up my paperwork when I started school, wrote Ramos as my middle name and did not follow what was on my birth certificate. I was born in Manila on January 9, 1968 and grew up in Cagayan de Oro City, my mother’s hometown. 

During my first years in Cagayan de Oro, my mom left me with her brother, Boy, and his wife, Auring, who could not bear children. Their marriage was in shambles, and I think the Reyes family thought I could save it. I grew up calling Auring "Mommy." She loved and took really good care of me, and I believed back then that she was really my mother. My real mom (Grace) went back to Manila after leaving me with Auring.

A few years later, my mom returned to Cagayan de Oro and reclaimed me. I remember crying so hard because I didn’t know why I was being taken away from my "mother." I saw Mommy Auring cry too as I was hauled into a car. She could see me screaming and crying from the backseat window. I was brought back to Manila with my mom, who was working at DBP in Makati. Eventually, she transferred to Cagayan de Oro and that was when hell started. 

 Grace Ramos Reyes

Grace Ramos Reyes

Living in a big house in Cagayan de Oro with relatives who were really mean to me was what made me wonder who I really was. I envied all my cousins who had complete sets of parents. So, as a little boy I always wondered where my father was. I was so jealous of my cousins who could do things with their fathers. I was often told by my relatives that I was adopted, which made me feel alone in this world. I also wondered why this woman (my mom) pretended to care for me or love me if she was not my real mother. To me she was the person who took me away from my "mommy" (Auring). But later, when I was about 7 or 8 years old I finally told myself that maybe Grace was really my mother. So, I acted as a son to her, sleeping on her lap, kissing her when she left for work and just believing that she was my mom. But the question of who my father was remained, always. My mom had suitors who brought her gifts and flowers, and I would have tears in my eyes when I saw her getting ready for a date. I’m not sure why my mom never married though. It might be because of me, I don’t know.

When my mom was away on business trips I always looked for stuff in our bedroom, for something that would point me to my father, or my real parents, if I was really adopted. I saw a copy of my birth certificate and my full name as Frederick Taylor Reyes. I did not even know back then that my first name was Frederick. I thought my first name was Derrick. At home they called me "Yik." When I looked at my middle name I thought my mom gave me two American names for no reason at all, “Frederick and Taylor.” I asked my mom once where my father was and I was surprised at her reaction. She was upset and told me not to ask about him anymore. As my searches in the bedroom continued, I happened to find a shoe box full of pictures. Most of the pictures were of my mom posing like she was modeling, in very short shorts, with knee high boots. Then I came upon four photos of a guy, the same guy in all the four photographs. This made me think that this man might be my father! I kept those photos in a safe place, knowing that my mom would never look for them as I had never seen her open that box of photos anyway.

Before I became ten years old. I remembered going to Manila with my mom and staying with her very close friend, Tita Sylvia Ty. I secretly asked Tita Sylvia if those photos were of my father. She said yes!

As I entered my teenage years I remained curious about my father. But he never bothered to look for me, so why should I care? When I was 12 or 14 years old and mom was always busy at work, I got a little freedom to stay out late at night. That's when I started to smoke cigarettes and weed with my friends. In high school, I started hanging out with the "cool" guys, drinking, smoking, and then using drugs. Why did I do it? I don't know exactly why. The house I lived in didn't feel like home to me; no one was on my side; mom was busy all the time as she was also involved with sports, bowling, tennis, scuba diving, volleyball, and her teams would go to other cities to compete.  So, my drug use got heavier as the years went by. I was hanging out with my friends before noon every day and wouldn’t be home until late at night or even the next morning. Mom would hit me from time to time, especially when I came home drunk or really high. But I kept on. I stole things from the house, anything that I could sell to buy drugs, I sold a lot of my mom's jewelry that was given to her by her grandma. Later in life Mom told me I also sold a ring my dad gave to her. When I was a high school sophomore Mom left for the US, and that's when my drug use got worse, I was free! I could do anything now! I had totally forgotten about my search for my father.

In my 20s I was still using drugs on a daily basis. I was transferring from one college to another in Cagayan de Oro. I studied for a Pilot's Ground Course in Cebu City to be away from my friends, but drugs remained with me in Cebu. Having a good time was all I had in mind. My family, especially my mom, got fed up and sent me to Palawan to work with my uncle in a logging company. I got clean while in Palawan as there were no drugs there, except for marijuana. But my drinking was still heavy, and would report to work as a mechanic of heavy equipment with a bad hangover and sometimes drunk. I didn't care, my uncle was the administrative manager so I felt secure.

After a year or two in Palawan, I asked my mom who was now in the US if I could study Aircraft Maintenance at Airlink International Aviation School in Pasay City. She granted my request, so I went back to drugs and drinking. I was not able to finish my course and was sent back to Cagayan de Oro after three years in Manila. I think everybody in my family just gave up on me. 

When I was in my mid-20s I met my wife-to-be, Roda. We started dating even though she and her friends knew that I was using drugs. Her boarding house was close to my house. She claims that I was a challenge to her, that maybe she could make me change. Roda became my girlfriend. Her parents in her hometown in Gingoog City also knew about my drug use, and they told her that maybe God had our paths cross so she could help me quit my drug use. My relationship with Roda was filled with ups and downs, well, mostly down. When we started to live together in a rented apartment, Roda asked me how we would start a family, how would I support it. My mom sent me back to Manila to finish my Aircarft Maintenance course, which I did. Then she petitioned me for immigration to the US. I was not really excited about it, as I was just having a good time in Cagayan de Oro. Roda pushed me to do my paperwork for the US, because she said that would be the only way I could make my life better. So, I did and after a few months I left for the US. 

When I arrived in the US I stopped doing drugs.  That was the time too that I realized how much I missed Roda. I started dating women in the US of different races and had jobs I didn't like doing. After a year in the US, I went back to the Philippines to marry Roda, as I believe no one could really compare to her. Then a year later, my daughter, Ashira, was born. And I have to point out, ever since my daughter could talk, she had been asking me about her grandfather, my father. Where was he and why did her cousins have two sets of grandparents? I did not have an answer. She kept asking that question as she was growing up.

 Derrick and Roda's wedding

Derrick and Roda's wedding

When I was working as a doorman in New York City I saw the US military recruiting offices in Times Square so I filled up a form to join the US Navy. I said this was it; this was how I could support my family. Boot camp was hell; after two weeks in I wanted to give up, but my thoughts of supporting my wife and daughter pushed me to keep going. In 2004, Roda and Ashira finally joined me in the US. Ashira was six years old when she came. We were now a military family.

Military life was the thing! Life was so good with my family, even if military life was so tiring and hard. Deployments in the Navy took me away for months from my family. After 10 years in the Navy, I moved to the US Army as they were looking for people from other branches because they were losing people in the Iraq war. Also, there was a bonus involved, so I signed. I deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, both war zones. Each of these deployments was for 12 months.

 Derrick in the Navy

Derrick in the Navy

While we were stationed in Germany, Ashira began searching for her lolo online. Then one day she finally found him! A Ricardo Taylor was on Facebook. She sent him a message on Messenger; I did too on July 18, 2016 and sent him photos of him in his younger days, the photos I had been hiding since I was a little boy. Ashira and I waited for a reply from this Ricardo Taylor we found on Facebook. Days went by, weeks, months, and years. Nothing, no reply. Our thoughts were all mixed up, maybe he didn’t want anything to do with us.  We were kind of feeling down. So, we just let it be, maybe it's not him, maybe he thought we were scammers; there were a lot of maybes on our minds. 

On January 23, 2018, Mr. Ricardo Taylor finally replied! That was really a big and very much awaited reply from him! We were all in shock! We were so happy and nervous to finally have communication with my father! He acknowledged us as his family! From then on, my communication with my father was constant, daily. Ashira, too, with him.  My father later on told me that he just saw my message from 2016 on 22 January 2018, the very day he installed the messenger app on his phone. But that didn't matter anymore; we were just so happy to finally have contact with him. After a few more questions from Mr. Taylor to me, he told me he accepted me as his son. It was just a blessing, a miracle, the best thing God gave me. In our conversations I would refer to him as "Sir," until I finally asked days later: "May I call you Dad?" And he replied "Sure, son."

The San Francisco trip was planned by my daughter, my wife and me, but I had to tell my Tita Sylvia to talk to my mom and explain to her that I have finally found my father. I did not want to talk directly to my mom about it because I remembered her reaction when I was young whenever I opened up the topic about my father. Thankfully, my mom understood and said it was fine with her, that I should go to San Francisco to meet my father, with Ashira and Roda. What a relief!  

The moment I had waited for, for 50 years! Which I thought would never happen. The March 10, 2018 flight to San Francisco, was the very first time I would meet my father and the very first time, too, for Ashira to meet her grandfather. Those times are just beautiful. It was delightful to finally meet him in person and spend some time with him, to get to know him and his lovely wife, Conchita Lopez Taylor. They are a very, very nice, a lovely couple. I can say that they are really meant for each other. They are so lucky to have each other.

 Derrick Reyes and Ricardo Taylor

Derrick Reyes and Ricardo Taylor

Spending time with my father was one of the best moments of my life. I couldn’t find the words to describe it. I was observing my father, looking at him without him noticing, and I noted some of my resemblances to him. One is the half-eyebrows, which he told me about in one of our chats, the eyes, the face, everything! He has a sense of humor just like mine. This is my father! 

I kept this meeting with my father in San Francisco from all my Reyes relatives. I just wanted to surprise them all when I posted photos of us on Facebook. And the surprise was overwhelming for them -- questions, calls, and messages just poured in. They were all happy for me to have finally met my father.

 Derrick, Conchita Lopez Taylor, Ricardo Taylor, Ashira and Roda

Derrick, Conchita Lopez Taylor, Ricardo Taylor, Ashira and Roda

The thing that surprised me a lot was when we all went to church on a Sunday in San Francisco -- my dad, Tita Conchita, Ashira, Roda, and I. While the priest was giving his sermon, I was surprised to hear that the sermon was about my life and my search for my father! That was really a nice surprise from my dad. He got me! I held back tears as I was so touched by the homily. I don't know why I did it. I guess I just did not want to show my soft side. And now my life is finally complete! God is good, and life is good!  


Our Story Goes on

by Ricardo Taylor

The words “I believe you are my father” certainly caught my attention; either this was a prank or a not-so-funny con job, I thought. When it turned out the writer was serious, it felt like a sumo body slam. Hey, who wouldn’t be astounded by such a declaration?

He disarmed me when he assured, “I am not approaching you for financial considerations. I just want closure on how come I was a father-less child.” Realizing that he had just retired from a double military career (U.S. Navy and U.S. Army) and was comfortable with his 20-year military pensions, I believed his assurance that he wasn’t approaching me for money.

 Derrick Reyes in the Army

Derrick Reyes in the Army

I sympathized with what he had to go through when he spoke about his troubled childhood, how he was teased as not properly belonging to his relatives’ family, the teasing he got about being adopted as he had no father, his being discriminated at family meals, etc.
     
I understood why he grew up a troubled young man leaning on drugs, alcohol, petty stealing, not concentrating on his studies, and hanging around with other troubled young men. I admired the determination of his girlfriend, Roda, who straightened him out through thick and thin.

How come I never knew about him? I was a bachelor when I knew Derrick's mother and when he was a child. He was born in 1968, and I was a bachelor until 1971.

I realized that the year he was born, I had been hired to be the Southeast Asia Regional Sales Manager for TIME Magazine assigned to work and live in Hong Kong, which became my base covering the countries of in the region. My Philippine connections would not have known my Hong Kong address unless they came to Hong Kong to look me up at TIME. The Philippines was out of my loop for some 30 years. This TIME assignment in Hong Kong went on for that long. When I eventually retired, I moved to the States. 

I learned that his first job in New York where he had immigrated was as a doorman. A doorman earns a living through tips, a highly insecure job which drove him to enlist in the U.S. Navy, then later in the U.S. Army, enduring tough physical demands and dangerous overseas deployments -- all for the sake of being a responsible provider for his family. To my mind, here was a young man -- without a father, a mentor – who had to pull himself up with own boot straps to be a man! I am proud of him.

Since the time he found me, Derrick and I have been in almost daily conversations through Messenger, getting to know each other. 

Throughout all this, the one who was most excited about our discovery was my wife, Chita. She suggested we invite Derrick, his wife, Roda, and their 19-year-old daughter, Ashira, to come visit us in San Francisco.

 Derrick, Roda and Ashira

Derrick, Roda and Ashira

Chita also urged me to write her family and my son in Tokyo about my discovering a son. All of Chita’s children were delighted and wanted to meet him.

So Chita and I invited them to spend a few days with us in San Francisco. Derrick, his wife, and daughter agreed and spent a weekend with us last March! It was so delightful to finally meet in the flesh!

And our story goes on...