MANILA — Judy Ann Santos' first daughter, Yohan, was made aware of her being an adopted child as early as age 4.
This was a conscious decision for her screen veteran-mom, so that Yohan would grow up to see the concept of adoption as something positive, and not to be ashamed about.
Santos adopted Yohan prior to her 2009 wedding with TV host Ryan Agoncillo, with whom she has two other children, Lucho and Luna. Agoncillo went on to legally adopt Yohan.
According to Santos, she introduced the term "adoption" to Yohan early on so she would ease into understanding their technical relationship, as opposed to being informed about all at once.
"There was a time that I saw in my iPad, nag-history ako. Nawala sa isip ko na nasa kanya iPad ko. Pagtingin ko sa history, she actually Googled her name. So, lumabas dun siyempre lahat— 'Yohan Agoncillo adopted,' 'Yohan Agoncillo singing' — like, everything about her," Santos recalled, as quote by PEP.ph.
Yohan, who is now 14, was already aware of her being an adopted child at that point. There were times, however, when the child would feel sad about that idea — which Santos would address by reminding her that it's an "inspiring story, and not a bad thing at all."
"Dati kasi ano siya, e, sumasama loob niya, naba-bother siya. Nalulungkot siya kaya sinasabi ko sa kanya, 'Sweetheart, it was my choice. I know naman at some point, I could still have a child. It's just that I so wanted to have a child, and I prayed. I prayed for years to have a baby girl. I'm very specific with my prayers. I want to have a baby girl at 26. And I got a call a week after I turned 26. And it was a baby girl, so that was you. Even before I had a family, it was you and me only.'
"Doon, ano na siya, 'Ah, oo nga. Sa iyo ako kasi ginusto mo,'" Santos said. "You can see it in her glow, e, that she's confident. She's not ashamed of being an adopted daughter."
Over the years since she became a mother to Yohan, Santos has not shied away from acknowledging of the long process it took to make her, and later, Agoncillo, the legal parents.
"If you share it with a positive attitude, then you will inspire people or other adopted children na being adopted is such a good thing. It's the most beautiful word that you can encounter because it just means na a family adopted you. They wanted you, they chose you to be part of their family," she said.