It took me a week, but finally I found the name, “Jack Allen Apperson,” a sailor who had been stationed in Subic Bay in 1958 and who now lived in Prineville, Oregon. I wrote down the address and the phone number and bought a phone card.
That night, I could not sleep. The next day, I dialed the number. A woman answered and I asked for Jack Apperson, and she said, “Yeah, he’s here,” and put him on the phone.
I said, “Hi, this is Joe Apperson. I don’t know where to start.” I told him the story my stepmother had told me. I told him about the letter left by Rosaria Murillo, that my dad had a scar on his left shoulder, and that he had green eyes that sometimes turned blue.
And he said, “I don’t have a kid in the Philippines. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have nothing to say to you.” He put his wife, Pat, back on the phone.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked. I said, “Ma’am, I’m not asking for anything. I have a good job in Saudi Arabia and I had to spend a lot of money to come here. My only intention is to find out if this person is my dad. If it is not him, I swear to you I will move on.”
I said ’I’m Joe Apperson.’ And then he said, ‘Yes, you are my son.’ He had tears in his eyes.
She asked me to call the next day. When I hung up the phone, I sat in the corner of the bedroom where I was staying in Boston and cried, because I just knew it was him. I kept saying, “Thank God I got the right number. I found the right person.”
Jack and Pat lived in Prineville, but they had an appointment in Portland a few days later, and they agreed to meet me at the airport there. But when I got off the plane, only Pat and her daughter showed up. They drove me to the Veterans Administration hospital in the hills above Portland, where Jack was recovering from skin graft surgery. After all those years, he was finally fixing that scar on his back.
When I walked into his hospital room and saw the face of the person in the bed, it was like I was looking at the picture that I’ve had ever since I was a boy.
“How are you doing?” I said.
“I’m fine,” he said.
I said, “I’m Joe Apperson.”
And then he said, “Yes, you are my son.”
He had tears in his eyes. Me, I cried and gave him a hug.
I stayed with him, sitting on the edge of his bed, and we talked all day and through the night. All the questions that I had when I was growing up were answered. I was supposed to be at the airport the next day. But Jack asked me to stay for a while—so I could meet the rest of my family.
After two weeks in Prineville I was supposed to return to my job in Saudi Arabia. My dad drove me back to Portland, but when he left me at the airport, he didn’t say a word. No “thank you” or “I’ll keep in touch.” Not even a goodbye. My flight ended up being delayed, and I was so upset that I called my dad’s number while I was waiting.
Pat answered the phone, and I asked her, “How come my dad just dropped me at the airport like I was a piece of luggage?” She explained to me, “Your dad was crying. He wanted to, but he just couldn’t say to you, ‘Don’t leave.’”
That was 17 years ago. Now I live in Metolius, about 45 minutes away from Prineville, and we’re always together. Jack Apperson is my father, but he’s more like my best friend. I’m proud of him, and I think he’s proud of me, too, because whenever he introduces me, he always says, “This is my son; he was born in the Philippines.”
But today I can say I’m an American, just like him.