Gabe Mercado: How I became a single adoptive parent

Those who are familiar with performance artist (Silly People’s Improv Theatre), TV host and corporate trainer Gabe Mercado know it’s not news that he is a single parent of an adopted child.

On Feb 4, he “received the certificate of finality granting my petition for adoption for Beeto. He is now officially, legally, irrevocably, undeniably [my son] and I am his sole legitimate and very proud and happy parent,” he posted on Facebook.

“It has been a long legal journey for us and we are very, very grateful for all the support our friends and family and the DSWD-NCR Adoption Resource and Referral Unit and the Adoption Support Group have given us all this time,” he continues. “So if you want to know about adopting as a single parent, send me a message.”

And so we did.

Congratulations, you’re now a dad! What do you answer to?
I am called “baba” by my son. 

So, what’s baba’s parenting style?
I am a dad that believes that a child learns better when he sees the natural consequences of his actions. I am not strict but I do consider Beeto to be well guided by my parenting style.

What kind of mother are you?
I love the question of how I am as a mother. I am emotionally available, loving, demonstrative and affectionate as a mother. He feels very much loved at home.

When and how did you meet Beeto?
From the very first moment that I met Beeto at his foster parents’ home, I knew that I wanted this child in my life. I very quickly made the decision with my then-wife to adopt him. She had wanted to adopt a child and I was a bit resistant but when I met him we moved very quickly to adopt him. The process was very long and complicated because unfortunately my wife then and I separated and annulment took over five years. Our adoption process had to be reset completely. To my ex wife’s credit, she selflessly agreed to the decision that Beeto’s life would be less complicated if I would just be the sole parent. She cooperated completely with the process. We had to wait though for our annulment to be completed and for me to be a legally single man before I could restart the adoption process.

How long did the entire adoption process take?
From the time we restarted it only took two more years.

What were the toughest hurdles you had to jump through to adopt him?
The toughest hurdle really would be the discrimination against and misunderstanding people have about adoption. And it is a notion still propagated by our silly telenovelas which are filled with notions like “ampon ka lang” and “hindi ka tunay na anak.”  I even had an incredibly stupid neighbor who told me to my face years ago that “malas ang mga ampon.” So sadly, there is still unfounded bigotry and bias against adopted children. We fight small minds like this all the time. And that is why we proudly proclaim our uniqueness as a single parent adoptive family.

Is there a right and wrong time let someone know that he is an adopted child?
A child must know he or she is adopted from the very beginning. We can shape the way words convey emotions and meanings. I have always taught Beeto that being adopted means being chosen and loved out of free will. I told him, in fact, “Beeto, other children were just born to their parents. You on the other hand, your were chosen by me to love and care for for the rest of my life.”

Do you have a support group comprised of other single parent adoptees? If not, who do you talk to when you need to share/advise?
I have a support group called the Adoption Support Group and it is composed of adoptive families and foster families based in Metro Manila together with some members of the DSWD NCR Adoption Resource and Referral Unit. We have activities together about three to four times a year.

You are now in the process of getting Beeto a passport. Where’s the first stop? 
To get a passport we have to bring the decision to the different local registrars, then to the NSO. Only then will he be issued a new birth certificate which we can use to apply for a passport. It’s a long process and we have just started with the local civil registrars.

What advice can you give to single Filipinos who want to adopt a child?
My advice to single people who are thinking about adoption is to try being a foster parent first. The DSWD and some of their private partners have set up an organization called iFoster that encourages people to foster children who are up for adoption. Fostering means that a child waiting for adoption is put legally and temporarily in the care of either a family or an individual. The option to adopt the foster child has been opened in the last few years. It used to be disallowed but there were numerous cases where the foster family would fall in love with their foster child. Even a single person, provided he or she can commit to providing a stable and nurturing environment, can become a foster parent. That’s a good place to start.

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