Tag Archives: adoption

Emil Guillermo: How one couple remembers 9-11 as a day of peace, love and family

 They are the perfect antidote to 9-11.

That’s what I call American Filipinos Sam and Gina C. of California, and their kids Malacas and Pinay. (Of course, names have been changed to protect the innocent).

Sam served in the Navy and both he and Gina come from military families. Their 9-11 patriotism cannot be questioned.  They mourn like everyone else the tragic losses on that day.

But instead of dwelling on the negative which can foment the kind of anti-Islamic sentiment we’ve seen crop up with threatened Koran burnings and the like, they are overwhelmed by a different feeling every Sept. 11.

 It’s one of how global peace , love, and family really can triumph over terror.  Again and again.

They just have to recall how they spent their day, Sept. 11, 2001.

The family was on a plane to New York scheduled to land around 9 a.m.

Of course, they didn’t make it.

Gina recalls how the captain suddenly came on the loud speaker. “He said they were experiencing difficulty and they wanted us to land and deplane,” Gina said. “Usually it’s the closest area nearby. We were over Nova Scotia. They took us to Ireland.”

Fans of geography will note how this is not exactly the ideal path one would take to an eventual destination of California, with or without a working GPS. 

But this was supposed to be a unique journey.


When their trip began two weeks prior from California, Sam and Gina were just a middle-aged couple heading to Moscow. After years of fertility doctors and the pain of trying to conceive, Sam and Gina turned to adoption as their option. Af first they turned to the Philippines. But being an older couple worked against them in finding an infant. Then they found a local California agency that suggested they go to Kazakhstan to find a baby in need of a home. 

Sam liked the idea of Kazakhstan. Pre-Borat, few people had ever even heard of the former Soviet satellite. In Kazakhstan, the babies can look a little bit East and a little bit West. The Asian influence is as strong as the Russian ethnic strain. 

“They sent us pictures and videos,” said Sam. “And we could choose the baby we wanted.”

The couple, in their 40s at the time, liked the Asian look of the babies. That was important to them knowing the child would be given a Filipino upbringing.  They felt  it would help the transition in becoming a real family.

The process took less than eight months, and as they went through it, it was too hard to just adopt one. 

They took a pair: Malacas and Pinay.

They call them their Kazapinos.


But getting the newly minted global Pinoy family back to their home in California would be no small feat. Just going from Kazakhstan to Moscow was far from easy. By the time they were on the Moscow to New York leg, crossing the Atlantic, the family thought they were home free.

But then the message on the loudspeaker came on.  And without an explanation they were headed the reverse direction— to Ireland.

Picture this: You are travelling internationally in a cramped space with two kids, ages  3 and 5, one of whom is vomiting intermittently on you.  You don’t speak Kazakh or Russian. The babies don’t know English or Taglish. But their cries and screams are universal. 

Is this not the definition of terror?

When they landed in Dublin, the chaos ensued with hundreds of people scurrying, struggling with their bags. Sam and Gina had their kids.  Nothing made sense until they overheard a reservation agent say the words, “Your country has been attacked.”

“I said, ‘What did he say? ‘“  Sam recalled. “It was crazy. As the news unfolded. I thought, ‘This can’t be real.’’

Then he saw a woman crying uncontrollably. She was on the way to visit her son who worked at the World Trade Center.

“She was hysterical,” said Sam. “All I was thinking was, this can’t be real.”

The shock was tempered by the genuine hospitality they found in Dublin.  If you have to wait out the world’s confusion, there are worst places than Dublin.

Within a few days as the airports in the U.S. opened up, Sam and Gina were headed to Atlanta, one of only two airports opened.

There they spent a few more days, before getting the first flight back to California on the 17th.

But something had happened. Amid the terror and the chaos, a real nuclear family was forged

Today, Malacas, now 12, is malacas (big).  “The doctor’s say he’ll be 6 foot 5 inches,” said Sam, who is about a foot shorter than that.

Pinay, is now 15 and was a local beauty queen winner.

Both she and her brother embrace their unique “Kazapinoness.”

Their parents beam with pride over their kids. And they’re glad they made the step to adopt. Filipinos don’t often choose that option. Some think it’s too hard.
“When we hear that, we tell them our story, “Gina said.

Sam and Gina found something unique in their quest for family. They made the world a little smaller by adopting orphans from a far away place. And on a day that terrorized the world, they forged the strongest gesture of peace, love and family imaginable.

9-11? They know what it means.

“The power of God protected this family,” Sam said. “We’ll always remember it.”