Storytellers: Traveling to find lost heritage

9NEWS storyteller Nelson Garcia shares parts of his experience in the rediscovering his heritage in the Philippines. 9NEWS at 10 p.m. 4/23/17.

MANILA - Most people come to the Philippines to see the amazing sights, the beaches, the sunsets, the history.
 
But, my Dad's cousin, Pablo Salangsang, is showing me the part I want to see most -- my own family's past...
 
"When you're father was still studying and working in Manila, they used to reside here in Espana," Salangsang said.
 
I share my Dad's name, he is the original Nelson Garcia. My Uncle Pabs is taking to me meet his original family and I am nervous. These are siblings I didn't know existed for a very long time.
 
 
As I walk in the front door, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I meet Andy Garcia, my half brother who is almost exactly one year older than me. He is coincidentally wearing a Bears shirt. I grew up in Chicago.
 
Then, I meet my oldest brother Francoise who now identifies as a woman with a new name, Kim.
 
This is a big moment for me, punctuated by an amazing hands-only Filipino feast. In one instant, I have gained two people who are essentially as closely blood-related to me as anyone can be.
Andy and Kim were born in Vietnam where my dad worked during the war.
 
"When I opened this album, very many photos our our dad," Andy said.
 
As the fighting drew near, my dad was forced to leave and shortly after came to America leaving his first family behind.
Andy, Kim, and their mother Mai moved to the Philippines and lived with my aunts and uncles waiting for the day for our dad to return.
 
"In fact, as a young boy, every time I see the airplane passing through at our place, our apartment in Cubao, I would run to the window very fast and shout, 'Papa Nel, Papa Nel'," Andy said.
 
Andy didn't know about me and my sister till he was 8 years old when he saw his mom reading a letter.
 
"And, then she was reading it. She found out that my father has another family," Andy said, "She started crying and that's the time that I found out also. Ah, I said like that. So, that's what really happened."
 
Over time, Andy and Kim found a father figure in a local priest, Monsignor Nguyen Van Tai.
 
"You know this priest for me. He's a saint cause he took care of a lot of kids just like us," Andy said,
 
Their mother became a successful broadcaster for Radio Veritas in Manila.
 
"She has been a radio announcer since 1980 until this day," Andy said.
 
Kim doesn't want to talk about our dad. Andy has long gotten over being angry. Our father is overall a good man who knows that he made mistakes in the past.
 
"Even though, he didn't ask our forgiveness, I forgive him," Andy said.
 
Andy has kids of his own now. What is important is that my daughter Myria has a new aunt and uncle. I have two new nieces.
 
"All of us here are family cause we just need to accept the fact," Andy said.
 
I have more of my heritage, more of myself than I have ever had before.
 
"I'm really happy that I meet you. When I was really young, I was really looking forward to this day," Andy said.
 
Me too.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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