LONDON - A Filipina singer, who was adopted when she was a baby, joined a talent competition to reach out to her biological mother through music and the press.
Aspiring singer Amly Gealone Lieder, 37, competed against dozens of performers in a talent search in London. She made it through and eventually finished at third place, delivering an emotional performance of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.
But Lieder is searching for something more important than a talent show title. As an adopted child, she has been looking for her biological mother known simply as “Edna”.
“It’s not about winning,” she told ABS-CBN Europe. “I joined this competition because I’m looking for my birth mother. She holds the key to my dad’s whereabouts. I would like this story to come out so people would know. Probably they know somebody that knows about my story, or probably Edna herself will hear about this.”
Born in July 1974, Lieder was adopted as a baby by a couple from Balintawak, Quezon City in the Philippines. Her adoptive parents, Josefina and Antonio Gealone, raised her as their own with their biological son, who came a few years later.
“I had a good life. Even though we were poor, we were surviving. But something was not right. There was always something missing,” she revealed, claiming she always knew she was adopted because of her mixed-race features.
“People behind my back were calling me names, like ‘ampon’ in Tagalog. That’s how I knew. If you’re adopted it’s like a taboo. Nobody wants to talk about it. It’s a hush-hush thing, even though I’ve always been different than most Filipinos. But I didn’t have the courage to talk about it before.”
She finally got the courage to explore the subject when her own son started to ask questions about their ancestry.
She recalled: “My son came home from school one day and said ‘family tree.’ And I thought ‘What family tree?’ With my husband’s side we can easily trace it, but with my side it’s really unfortunate. So when my (adoptive) mum visited four years ago, I gathered up the courage to confront her and ask her about it. Ever since, she’s been really helpful in locating Edna, my birth mum.”
“Amly is a good daughter,” said her adoptive mother Josefina. “She is kind, obedient and supportive. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk about her adoption. I was scared of pushing her away and loosing our bond. But ever since we opened up about it, we’ve become closer than ever. Nothing has changed. She calls us almost everyday.”
Josefina’s recollection of events is the only link they have to Lieder’s past, but at 66 years-old, her memory has started to fade.
“I don’t remember everything. Edna was a customer at the beauty parlor I was working in at Plaza Ferguson in Ermita in Manila. She came in regularly for a manicure from me, and sometimes she even came with what we thought was her boyfriend at the time, a black soldier. She was also pregnant and there were rumors that he was the father.”
Staff at the salon speculated about the mysterious Edna. They thought she was either a waitress, or even a dancer. Josefina became friendly with her and started to talk about the baby.
“I used to joke with her asking for her baby. But she would always refuse and say that the baby has a father. Then she suddenly stopped going to the salon, and the next we’ve heard is that she already gave birth. There were also rumors that she separated from the father,” she recalled.
Josefina and her colleagues also heard rumors that Edna’s baby was born at the Manila Doctors Hospital, but nobody knows for sure.
“Then one day she came into the salon with the baby. She left me the baby to look after for a while, and I told her to come back at the end of the day. But I never saw her again. I had no documents or anything, just a pair of clothes and a bottle of milk. I vaguely recall her giving the baby a long name, but I can’t remember it exactly. Something like the name of a Miss Universe at that time. Maybe Evangeline, after the beauty queen Evangeline Pascual. But I really can’t remember it now. Then my husband and I decided to name the child Amly to keep it simple.”
Edna has not been seen since. Josefina describes her as a “morena” from the province, possibly the Visayas region. She is approximately 5 feet tall, and roughly the same age as her, now in her 60s.
Lieder is hopeful that through her music, and the attention she gets from it, she will be able to locate her long lost mother from the Philippines.
Music has always been her saving grace, saying: “I’ve gone tough times. Thank goodness for the choir. I was involved in St Joseph’s Choir in Balintawak. They completely showed me the right path.”
With tears from her eyes, Lieder shared a message for her birth mother Edna: “All I want is to see you. I hope we can meet each other soon. I hope you remember me, even though I was still a baby when you gave me away. My only wish is to meet you. And if that happens, I hope I can have a place in your heart for you to accept me. I’m not blaming you for anything. I know it’s not your fault. I understand what you must have gone through at the time when you gave me up. I just want peace.”
Lieder is based in Fort William, Scotland, where she works as an account clerk at a hotel. She lives with her husband, a German national, and their son. She continues her search for her birth mother Edna.