Meet Enzo, our ‘Chocolate’
A few years ago, I came home one night from work, and our son Enzo followed me into the room, and out of the blue, volunteered to remove my socks. I was pleasantly surprised. Here was a boy, only 3 years old, eager to please his dad. The experience was exhilarating. As he slowly peeled the socks off my feet, I felt all the stress go away. Ah, this must have been how my father felt each time he asked me to remove his socks after work when I was still in grade school.
Since my wife Edlyn and I had Enzo in December 2012, after seven years of childless marriage, our lives have been turned upside down, happily.
Our ‘little boss’
We dance, sing and watch with him his favorite Captain “Hoot” in “Jake and the Neverland,” “High Five” and other shows on Disney Channel. (Since we had him, we couldn’t surf other channels unless he was in deep slumber. He was the “little boss” at home.)
Nowadays, we read to him stories for children at night and in the morning, and while he can’t read everything yet, (he’s just learned to spell and pronounce simple words), he can retell the stories the way we’ve told it to him just by flipping through the pages. He turned 5 in July.
You see Enzo is not our biological child. We adopted him. But we love him like our own and he loves us like his own. It just came naturally.
Dancing in Obando
After marrying Edlyn in December 2005, I thought the baby would just pop out. I was wrong. When the baby didn’t come after a few years, we drove to Obando, Bulacan, and joined throngs of childless couples in a frenzy of “fertility dancing” from the church and back. (A priest-friend strongly recommended this, and even asked his mom to accompany us to Obando.) Oh yes, been there, done that. Still, there was no baby. Our OB-Gyne would later tell us that we have a medical condition that makes conceiving difficult. But we never lost hope; we prayed more.
In December 2011, I got to class early at Loyola School of Theology in Quezon City, where I took a master’s degree in pastoral ministry, and had a chat with a classmate—an Assumption sister—about family.
On hearing that we’re childless, she made a proposition: “You’re not getting any younger. Why don’t you enjoy your last Christmas together as a couple, and adopt a child? By next Christmas, you’ll have your own. Besides, adopting would psychologically open your wife’s womb.”
Idea of adoption
That jolted me in a pleasant way, and told my wife about it. The idea of adoption had been there at the back of our minds, and after the chat with the nun, it bobbed up.
We shared this with two couple-friends from the same Catholic community, who were also childless, and we all decided to adopt the following year. And together we attended the orientation on adoption at the nongovernment organization Kaisahang Buhay Foundation in Cubao, Quezon City, in the summer of 2012.
Months after the adoption and submission of documents, my wife and I were “matched” with a boy who had wavy hair, and melancholy eyes. He was put up for adoption by his single mother a few weeks after he was born.
On the morning of Dec. 15 that year, two days shy of our seventh wedding anniversary, we drove to Hospicio de San Jose in Manila on an island in the middle of Pasig River to pick him up. He was a year and 4 months old.
He was dark—the sisters running the hospice (Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul) playfully called him “chocolate”—and surprisingly, skinny. Otherwise, he was very malambing (affectionate) and easily warmed up to us, allowing us to carry him alternately. It felt like we had him from birth and were just visiting the hospice that day together.
A priest celebrated a Mass for Enzo’s “entrustment” to us in a quaint chapel and many of the sisters joined us. It was a solemn, and emotional moment; we could hear sniffles from the staff who took care of and doted on him. Before we left, we were brought to Enzo’s room, and there we saw babies in their playpens, also waiting to be adopted.
From that day on, Enzo was our “chocolate.” By Christmas, our home was filled with his cooing, laughter and cries. The Assumption sister’s words proved prophetic. But the next few days weren’t easy.
He’d wake up wailing in the middle of the night—we thought he was probably adjusting to his new environment—and we’d spend the next hours hushing him until first light. This went on for some time.
There was a time I carried him during one of his fits of crying, and slept on the bed, with him lying on top of me. I later found some sort of an explanation in a Reader’s Digest story: He had the need for closeness; he wanted to feel the warmth of a person’s body. The fits of crying eventually stopped.
Otherwise, almost everything fell neatly into place. We scouted for a pediatrician to physically build him up, and found one at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center—my wife’s own pediatrician. Under her care, Enzo battled primary complex, pneumonia, allergic rhinitis—having runny nose caused by pollen, dust, flake—to become the healthy boy that he is now.
‘Mom and Dad’
When he was more than 2 years old, we enrolled him at a daycare center inside the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City. That’s where he learned to speak; he came home one day, and started calling us, to our surprise, Mom and Dad—words he probably picked up from his classmates—even though early on we taught him to call us Tatay and Nanay (Filipino terms for father and mother). Mom and Dad are easier to say, so we let him call us that way.
Our families embraced Enzo as their own, too. We brought him home to Ilocos for two consecutive summers for a dip in the sea, and he loved it each time.
In the company of his cousins, we never sensed any uneasiness; in fact, they gravitated to, and doted on him probably because he was the newest “baby” in the family. Our neighborhood in Quezon City was just as loving.
An elderly couple, Tito Qits and Tita Dolly, and their two children doted on Enzo. When he was 2 or 3, he often freely wandered into their house, across from ours. Soon after, he’d be out of their gate with his loot bags of marshmallows and jellies. I assumed they included his favorite snacks in their grocery list. Once, the couple bought him two pairs of jerseys for summer, at another time, their son came home from Europe with a chocolate bar for Enzo. They were like his second family.
Yet another couple, who live next to us, also let Enzo into their home so he could play in their garden that has a fishpond, in addition to aquariums in their porch. We used to have an aquarium at home, and one of the first few words he learned to utter, was “ish.” Last Christmas, their son gifted Enzo with a remote-controlled toy car.
And then of course, there’s Lolo Narsing, a watch repairman who lives a house away from us, who hoards toys—cars, guns, stuffed toys, marbles—from scavengers, just so he could give them to Enzo. A wonderful guy who feels happy seeing the smile on Enzo’s face.
We’re fortunate, too, to have baby-sitters Ate Tess and Ate Jenny, and Kuya Jojo, the school bus driver, who all treat Enzo like their own child and add to that loving, happy environment in which he is growing up.
We can’t forget the time our next-door neighbors, a young couple like us, who tossed a power cable from their room to our room just so we can switch on our electric fan for Enzo one humid summer night when we lost power by some freak accident. Enzo sleeps soundly at night secure in the love not only of his parents, but of our neighbors.
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