Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, May 09, 2004

The Mother of Olongapo

60 adopted children . . .

NEAR tears, restaurateur Barbara "Bai" Gordon de los Reyes remembers how growing up in the Gordon household in Olongapo was "very complicated, but challenging, enriching." Her brother, former SBMA chair, Tourism secretary, and now aspiring senator Richard "Dick" Gordon recalls coming home for the summer break after 10 months of schooling at the Ateneo de Manila and finding his bed occupied by yet another waif taken in by his mother, Amelia Juico Gordon.

Oftentimes, members of the family would celebrate occasions like Christmas and New Year's Eve at 2 a.m. of Christmas and New Year's Day because their mother would visit her wards first at Boys' Town and Girls' Home.

In her lifetime, Amelia has legally adopted close to 60 children. She began her role as foster mother to unwanted children in the late 1950s. Poor, newly-born infants were handed to her and her husband, or were literally left at their doorstep. "Every time an abandoned or orphaned baby was brought to our home, my husband Jimmy and I would catch each other's glance, wondering how the other felt. The longer we looked at each other, the harder it was to refuse," she recalls.The living room, and even the basement which was later converted into a nursery, soon proved too crowded for all the wards of the Gordons.

Thus, in 1959, they decided to put up a bigger home (called Boys' Town and Girls' Home) to shelter orphaned children of American descent in a 27-hectare property in what is now known as New Cabalan district in the outskirts of Olongapo. Ironically, American servicemen from the adjoining

Subic Naval base (the biggest naval facility outside of the US) helped build six low-level buildings to house the young occupants. In 2002, Pearl S. Buck International (PSBI) honored Amelia with the Woman of the Year Award "for her life-long dedication to children and adoption."

In her acceptance speech, she said, "The faces of hunger, of abandonment and brokenness have stared at me through the innocent eyes of children, crying in silence for comfort or relief in their simplest needs to live." The children may not be the couple's, Amelia explained, "but they belong to God, and we can't turn away any of God's own."


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