"By the way. You have a sister."
Thus started the journey of searching for my sister. My father spoke those words to me back in 1996. He had been living in his homeland of The Philippines for years and hadn't been back to the U.S. since the late 80's. One night, I get a call from my aunt Tessie, my dad's sister, who lives in New Jersey.
"Jimmy. You're daddy is coming from the P.I. and will be here tomorrow."
The P.I. being the Philippine Islands. I was playing "Jesus" in a production of Godspell at a theater in the East Village. I told my aunt that they should all come out to see me and then I could come over to her house with them afterwards. She said that my brother was flying up from Florida as well. Who promptly gave me a call shortly after. Now, I am not very close to my older brother, Bobby. And, I rarely discuss him. Too many issues. Anyway, he calls.
"Hey, bro. I'll be coming up with my girlfriend and staying with aunt Tessie. Just so you know, dad is remarried."
"So?", I retort. My mom and dad had been divorced since I was 4, so it wasn't a huge shock to hear this. He continues.
"Well, she's a lot younger. And they have a kid."
Once again, I think. What's the big deal. My dad was just over 60 at the time. Good for him for big pimping in the P.I. For the record, I was 27 at the time. And, so you know, Bobby is 3 1/2 years older. Noticing my cavalier reaction to his news, Bobby tells me the age of my dad's new bride.
"She's 21. And their son is 5."
HOLY SHIT! Dad is big pimping! And, do the math. If the kid is 5, then she had him when she was 16. Whoa. I know they have arranged marriage stuff going on over there, so I assumed that was what it was all about. Apparently, the Aquino's in the P.I. have some money, which I haven't seen any of, and I'm sure there was more than a goat in the dowry. After hearing this news, I kind of just take it in. Whatever. I've never been that close to my dad either, so, what do I care. If he's happy, cool. I conclude the conversation with Bobby and we agree that he, his girlfriend, my dad and new wife would come see me in the show. Aunt Tessie had to work late and wanted to clean up the house and stuff before we got over there.
The theater that I was doing Godspell in was very tiny. Sat about 50 people. Hey, it was Off-Off Broadway. "Jesus", or me, gives the very first monologue of the show. I didn't get a chance to meet up with my family beforehand, so my first view of my dad and his new wife would be as their Lord and Savior. There they were. Dad's arms folded. Just staring. Most likely, because he had a hard time understanding what was going on. While he lived in the U.S. for many years, served in the U.S. Navy for over 20 years, he still struggled with the language and had a really thick accent. After the show, I changed and came out to greet everyone. My dad introduces me to his wife.
"This is my wife, Malou."
She is hysterically crying and grabs me and hugs me. And wouldn't let go!
"I am so happy to meet you. Marcial's sons are important to me. I have heard so much about you and am so happy to finally be meeting you!"
Marcial, being my dad. I was a bit taken aback at first, but realized just how sincere she was being. It was a very sweet moment. We all go out to dinner with the cast and if memory serves correctly, dad picks up the tab. Damn right! Doesn't really make up for all of those years of neglect, but I'll take it. Needless to say, my friends were happy! We then head out to New Jersey to my aunt's house.
We walk in and I have a little reunion with my aunt. When I first moved up to New York City in 1994, I actually stayed with my aunt in New Jersey for about 9 months. She was happy to see us all together. After a brief chat, Malou and my dad ask if I want to meet my little brother. Well, half-brother, but little brother nonetheless. Out comes this cute little 5 year old kid. He was extremely shy and kept hiding behind Malou. Plus, he didn't know a lick of English. My dad introduces me to him.
"Jimmy, this is your little brother. His name is James."
Thinking I heard wrong since he has such a thick accent, I smartly ask, "Wait...WHAT?!"
He says again. "This is your little brother, James!"
"You realize that's my name, right?", I ask incredulously.
"No. No! You're Jimmy. He's James.", my dad cluelessly responds.
"You realize that Jimmy is a nickname for James. That the name on my birth certificate is James. The name on my driver's license is James. IT'S OFFICIALLY AND LEGALLY MY NAME!", I not so calmly state.
He insists. "Yes, but he goes by James and you go by Jimmy!"
A bit flabbergasted, I just think to myself, "What kind of 3rd world, Jerry Springer bullshit is this?" I let it go, kind of, and sit back down. My dad gives Bobby a look and they both join me at the kitchen table. Malou and Mini-Me head into the bedroom with my aunt and Bobby's girlfriend. I'm just sitting there trying to process it all. I guess my dad figured my defenses were down and he would keep hitting me with big news. I couldn't figure out why Bobby was so quiet all of the sudden. Then, my dad speaks.
"I have something else to tell you."
"Well, what could top that? You're married to a 21 year old girl and you have a son that you decided to name after me? What's strange and wrong about that? Oh nothing! What else could you possibly tell me that would surprise me?!", I rant. He pauses for a moment, looks at my brother who seems to edge him on and opens his mouth.
"By the way. You have a sister."
...to be continued