Adoption is a positive thing
The wonderful thing about Gabe’s relationship with Beeto is that he is entirely transparent about the whole adoption issue. “From the very beginning, it was important to me na from two months pa lang, you make sure that the word adoption is a word of love and acceptance and understanding. Because our society is already filled with connotations of adoption na ‘Ah, ampon ka lang, pulot ka lang.’ It’s already negatively charged. In my house and in my family, adoption is a very positively-charged word of love,” Gabe says proudly.
“From the beginning, [it has been] very comfortable. Up to now, [Beeto] sometimes asks me, ‘Tell me again how I was adopted.’ And he likes that. There’s not much curiosity because there’s not much hidden."
Gabe is not abashed to admit, though, that the traditional mother-father as parents setup still has its advantages. “But did you know that according to statistics, 49 percent of all Filipino children don’t live in a traditional mother-father setup family? Many are raised by lolas, titos, titas, etc. Of course even I would prefer that a kid would go under the care of a married couple, but the DSWD is also open to single people adopting these kids. They make no distinction.”
On challenges and on setting the rules
But no matter how much love, acceptance and openness Gabe and his family shower Beeto with, Gabe is also aware that others may not view adopted children in the same light. Gabe shares, “[Beeto] gets teased once in a while at school – ‘Haha, you don’t have a mommy’". But the transparency and honesty with which he has raised Beeto has allowed his son to be proud of being adopted.
Gabe relates that about a month and a half ago, Beeto’s class was asked to make a family tree. Having a different set-up, Gabe asked Beeto to also include the other people who are also part of his life, such as his birth mother and his ex-wife as branches - extensions - of the “tree”, aside from himself as the adoptive parent.
But would Beeto’s classmates understand? “I didn’t want to leave him with the burden of explaining to his class,” says Gabe, so he volunteered to give a talk to the class, making use of photos of famous adopted children such as Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Edgar Allan Poe, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Steve Jobs and more in his presentation. “After that class, Beeto was going around and proudly proclaiming, 'I’m adopted! I’m adopted!' It became a positive thing.”
One of the bigger challenges Gabe has had to face was a congenital condition Beeto was diagnosed with when he was still small. He had schizencephaly, a congenital brain malformation that requires weekly therapy, lots of visits to the pediatrician and to the pediatric neurologist. “There’s nothing you can do about it,” Gabe says. “He may be prone to seizures, but thankfully he hasn’t had any so far.”