Ed’s Note: This is the third installment of Relative Finder’s “Saga after the storm,” July 5-18, 2016 issue.
After my failed guidance of Aunty Marites (Reales) on her travel arrangements, I needed to find a way to help her meet her long lost uncle in China.
In December 2014, I got engaged to my girlfriend Sierra Ty (鄭西拉). Our families’ connection to Fujian province is an important aspect in our love story.
We decided to have our prenuptial photos taken in one of the most picturesque places in Fujian: Gulangyu Island in Xiamen City.
We left for Fujian in late evening of Jan. 30, 2014, approximately a month prior to the Chinese New Year.
It was also an opportunity to personally invite our mainland Chinese relatives. After the prenuptial photos, we headed to Quanzhou City to meet relatives from both sides of our families.
Arriving in my ancestral village in Eni (泉州晉江市池店鎮御輦村 old names 下輦村 or 下企村), I attempted to get in touch with Chan Bon Kheng since he is in the same village, and inform him that Aunty Marites is arriving in a month’s time and asked their help in ensuring her safe arrival.
I gave the number of Chan Kian Huat (曾建發), Chan Bon Kheng’s grandson, to my cousin Chan Na Na (曾娜娜). She called and confirmed Chan Bon Kheng lives just a few blocks away from my uncle Chan Huan Chiong (曾煥章). Since Chan Bon Kheng is very frail, his son Chan Tong Yang (曾東陽) came to my uncle’s house instead.
Chan Tong Yang wrote a list of their ancestors from Eni who went to the Philippines. Below their names were the names of some of their children.
Here, I received a big surprise: Chan Bon Kheng is a son of one of the elder brothers. Those in Pagsanghan are in fact the descendants of the second youngest brother. Chan Bon Kheng is not a brother of the Pagsanghan Chan siblings; he is their first cousin.
Ed Lim and I have reconnected the wrong siblings! I thought of all the trouble we went through and inconveniencing a lot of people in the process. Aunty Marites has spent all this effort and money to meet her long lost uncle, only to discover that this is not the person her family had been longing to find.
I have some explaining to do once I go back to the Philippines. I consoled myself that at least Aunty Marites will still meet a long lost kin, albeit a distant uncle.
Our visit to China was very brief, only three days. We hurried to deliver more wedding invitations. Sierra and I checked out of the hotel early to save time before our flight that evening.
A young lady with an elderly man was standing outside our hotel room. I thought, we have not yet left the room and someone is ready to check in. As we walked to the elevators, the young lady and the elderly man ran after us. I looked backed and asked why they are following us.
The lady spoke good English: she asked if I am Chan Hong Tat (曾宏達). She introduced herself as Eng Min Kui (黃閩貴), a primary school teacher and she is acting as a translator for the old man, whom she introduced as her uncle-in-law, Chan Eng Hua.
My jaw literally dropped. I thought I’d never ever find the real Pedro Chan. Yet here he is now in front me.
He looked frail with age, but he looked extremely happy to see me and it seemed he can spend the whole day talking about his life’s story. I felt an immediate affinity to him, like the grandfather I never knew. As Pedro is from the same generation as my grandfather I showed filial respect by giving him a “mano po.”
Pedro still lives in Eni village. He had overheard from Chan Bon Kheng of our arrival and through my uncle in Eni, he may have gotten information on where we were staying.
As we were running out of time, we collected as much contact information of each other as possible. I thought it was fortunate Sierra and I came in advance of Aunty Marites and Mike as Pedro committed the help of all his family to ensure the successful and safe arrival of Marites and Mike. He seemed very excited.
Before parting ways at the hotel lobby, we had our picture taken together to show their family in the Philippines.
Finding Pedro raised more questions: we learned that Pedro’s brother took the Chinese name Chan Eng Suan
Where is Terio? And what about Chan Bon Kheng? Although the family in Pagsanghan are his relatives, they are not his immediate family and siblings. Where then are Chan Bon Kheng siblings?
We still have more mysteries to solve. The saga continues. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 29, no. 13 (December 06-19, 2016): 14-15.