In search of overseas relatives

Ed’s Note: The booklet is too lengthy to reproduce in full. We deleted some parts that overlapped with the main story.

A 1950s photograph of his half-siblings including his brother Eng Kim San, second from left.

One old photograph, two persons’ names. In the photograph are a boy and four girls. The boy’s name is Eng Kim San (黃金山); the four girls are his younger sisters whose names we did not know. The names are that of Eng Kim San and his father, Eng Le Khu (黃禮區) who died in 1969. Eng Kim San now would be over 60 already. (Ed: The author began writing the story in 2003).
Sometime in the 1970s, Kim San moved and thus lost contact with his brother, Eng Kun Guan (黃坤元), the only one left behind in mainland China. Their hometown’s address in the mainland is in Ko Kheng Iung, Sisua town, Lam’ Oa City, Fukien province (福建省南安市詩山鎮古坑洋).
It is through this old photograph that the story of my father-in-law’s search for his missing half-brother and half-sisters began.
My father-in-law is Eng Kun Guan. To support the family, his father Eng Le Khu journeyed across the sea and settled in the Philippines. He married our foreign grandmother and with her raised 11 children. Unfortunately, grandfather died in 1969. Uncle Kim San, their eldest child, continued communication with the mainland relatives. But they moved house sometime during the 1970s, and that contact was lost. For several decades, we’ve tried many means of inquiry to locate them but all were unsuccessful.
In 2003, my mother-in-law Eng Ge Ha (黃月霞)’s second eldest sister and her daughter came to the mainland to visit relatives. Upon returning to the Philippines, they helped us publish the story of our search for our missing family. But as in previous attempts, this failed to get any news of our relatives.
By destiny or coincidence, we got acquainted with Que Lan (郭蘭) in 2015. Upon learning of our search for our missing relatives, she contacted her work colleague Teng Yong (鄧蓉) and the two of them helped me come up with different ways of finding our lost family. Teng Yong’s local circle of friends in Manila helped us find news about our relatives, even inquiring about the former residence of grandfather and uncle: No. 943 Asuncion St., Binondo, Manila.
Several decades have already passed, even though places remained the same, the people were not. The vice editor-in-chief of Chinese Commercial News, Cheng Bieng Teng (莊銘燈), a friend of Teng Yong, published our search in their newspaper for free. Many caring people passed around this information until the inquiry reached Ed de la Cruz Jr. (Chan Hong Tat 曾宏達).

One of the introductory pages of the booklet (top) featuring Eng Le Khu (above) and his two wives: his wife in the Philippines Co Chun (left) and his wife in the mainland Lim So Hiong (林素香).

On July 5, 2016, Chan Hong Tat called me. He said he is a Filipino and he is helping my family look for our missing relatives. He had found my grandfather’s burial record at the administration office of Manila’s Chinese Cemetery. On July 8, Chan Hong Tat visited the Chinese Cemetery and found the graves of my grandfather Eng Le Khu, grandmother Co Chun (許春), Uncle Eng Uy Sun (黃偉順) and Uncle Eng Kim San.
On Nov. 24, my elder sister-in-law and I accompanied our father-in-law Eng Kun Guan and mother-in-law aboard a direct flight to Manila, Philippines. My Philippine aunt Eng Siok Hui (黃淑惠) visited us the next morning at the Ramada hotel along Ongpin. My uncle Uy Liam came next. We’ve searched for our relatives for several decades. My 84-year-old father-in-law and his younger brother Uy Liam and sister Siok Hui, both more than 60 years old, have at last met in person. The scene felt surreal! Everyone was very emotional!
Immediately after, several other relatives arrived one after the other to meet us: Aunt Eng Siok Tee (黃淑治)’s daughters Co Giok Ching (許玉清) and Co Giok Ling (許玉玲), grandnieces Co Kim Ling (許金玲) and Co Kim Tee (許金治), fifth aunt Eng Bee Tee (黃美治), aunt-in-law Vicky (美旗) cousin Eng Peh Ping (黃伯平).
Chan Hong Tat and his wife also came. Uncle Uy Liam’s good friend, Chua Kian An (蔡建安), and his wife Co Yok Din (許育仁) enthusiastically treated us to a dinner in a restaurant. On Nov. 26, Uncle Eng Uy Liam led us to the Chinese Cemetery so we could visit and offer sacrifices to Grandfather, Grandmother Co Chun, Uncle Kim San and Uncle Uy Sun. Everyone had mixed feelings of grief and joy. This is a miracle! We have achieved our most cherished desire – to finally realize our dream of finding our missing family!
Just as we finished offering our sacrifices, Mother-in-law mentioned her second eldest sister died last year. She wonders if her sister is buried in the Chinese Cemetery too. We were finally able to contact my Aunt’s daughter, my cousin Bee Eng (美英). That Sunday afternoon, cousin Bee Eng and her husband brought us to Aunt’s mausoleum. We respectfully placed fresh flowers in front of the tombs of Aunt Eng Giok Ha (黃玉霞) and her husband, Uncle Cheng Giok See (莊玉璽).
We discovered that the written Chinese character “Giok” on Aunt Eng Giok Ha’s tomb marker is a bit small. I asked cousin Bee Eng to find an auspicious date to fix the “Giok” character. I thought it is perhaps because during Aunt`s funeral, no other mainland relatives were able to attend, thus, there existed some enmity. Now, we have come to perform sacrifices, the enmity may have been mended. Cousin Bee Eng said her mom is surely smiling down on them from heaven and is wishing all of us well. In the evening, cousin Bee Eng and her husband Romy (魯彌) entertained us with a feast.
On Nov. 28, our family lunched at President Grand Palace Restaurant. We hugged each other and were all broken-hearted at having to go our separate ways soon after. We invited our overseas relatives to visit our ancestral hometown.
At 9:30 p.m., our flight took off. We are overwhelmed with family love and affection. We return to Xiamen triumphant. The long and slow-paced journey of searching for missing overseas relatives was full of complications and uncertainties, disappointments and hope. However, we were persistent. This course of events deserves to be recorded so it can be forever remembered, a reminder for future generations.
Several years ago, my father-in-law tasked me with creating a family photo album. I failed to complete it then. This time, I took advantage of the opportunity to finally gather photographs and make a commemorative booklet together with photographs of our search for our lost family in the Philippines.
It took me several months but this commemorative booklet is finally finished. Through WeChat, it is now possible to immediately gather the pictures of more than one hundred members of our extended clan. It’s a pity that majority of our newly found Philippine relatives do not use Wechat. There is no option for them to send me their photographs. It would have been beautiful to make this family album with both mainland China and Philippine families presented together.
This finding of our lost relatives enabled us to have a reunion. Our heartfelt thanks to Que Lan, Teng Yong, Cheng Bieng Teng, our international friends Sol Yuyitung, Nathan Co (施日勤), Chan Hong Tat and other enthusiastic people. We are most grateful for your valuable assistance in our journey of finding our lost family, without asking for money yet having bustled about with every possible means to connect and network, to collect and gather news.
I wish you all the best and peace be with you through the rest of your lifetime!

By Eng Muy Hong (黃梅芳)

Translated by Eduardo Chan de la Cruz Jr.