Dad We Love: Gabe MercadoShares his busy but fulfilling life as a businessman, performer, solo parent and adoptive father to Beeto.
This funny man’s face and one-liner ("OK ka ba tyan?") from a TV commercial elicits high recall from people. He has graced both the big and small screens for endorsements and guestings and holds regular shows with his theater improv group SPIT. Who wouldn’t know, or at least recognize, Gabe Mercado?
But public as he may be, very little is known about his life as a solo parent to his adopted child, 7-year-old Beeto. Beeto was a blessing that Gabe and his family welcomed with open arms, although he admits that he never thought he would eventually be adopting. Thankfully, “there was absolutely no resistance anywhere, since we were particularly well-placed. I grew up with an adopted sister and I have a nephew who is also adopted. My mother once edited a book on adoption stories, and my father was even the president of the Adoptive Families Foundation ... so we knew what that lifestyle was all about, we knew the ins and outs of it, that's why when the opportunity came, there was no hesitation. We were all very familiar with it.”
To the unknowing observer, it would seem that the same blood courses through Gabe’s and Beeto’s veins since Beeto exhibits a personality that is unmistakably like Gabe’s, and Gabe’s sense of humor is also a shared trait. “He gets the naughtiness from me. Thankfully it’s not destructive naughtiness, which I sort of tended to, a little bit, when I was young. It’s never hurtful naughtiness, which I tended to when I was younger,” jokes Gabe.
On being an adoptive parent
“Beeto was offered to us when he was two months old by the DSWD of the NCR, [initially] under the Foster Care program,” relates Gabe. “The preference of DSWD and all these agencies is that if there is a choice for the child to grow up with a family instead of an institution, they would prefer it that way because it helps these kids should they be adopted further along the line. It becomes much easier for them to adjust to a life with a family. And that’s how Beeto came into my life.”
“Fortunately there is a path in place so that should you really fall in love with a child, you can opt to adopt him. That is the path that I chose to take, so I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was the separation from my wife, round about the time Beeto was more than a year-and-a-half years old.” It was a mutual decision between him and his ex-wife that Gabe would be the primary parent, but “the psychological effect of being alone, and doing the journey alone - that was the tough part.”ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Thankfully, Gabe shares that the DSWD-NCR is very supportive to adoptive parents. It also helps that they have regular meet-ups with other adoptive parents. “We talk about many things,” says Gabe. “We used to meet about twice a year but we do it more often now, and we help each other tell our adoption stories to the kids.”
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.”ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW1 of 2 NEXT
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