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My Experience Speaking at the Families for Children from the Philippines Conference and Visiting the Philppines: Marilyn Kirby

Posted by FAN Admin in Our Stories on 07 31st, 2007

My Experience Speaking at the Families for Children from the Philippines Conference and Visiting the Philppines:
By Marilyn Kirby

Marilyn also known as TiyaDK, was born in the islands and grew up as an orphan. As an adolescent, she struggled to find her identity. Painting became a therapeutic hobby. Without any formal art training, Tiya eventually developed her own unique style. Her bold and vibrant colors; shapes and curves have caught people’s attention, giving her the opportunity to showcase her work for different venues. Most of her work is abstract acrylic paint on large canvases. She uses her paint brushes, her fingers and different mediums to give some of her paintings a 3-D effect.

For more information about Marilyn and to view her amazing art work, visit here


Preparing for this trip was a last minute decision because it was unexpected that I would actually meet any biological family; particularly my nanay (mother) who had been missing for over 18+ years but with patience, faith, and perseverance; my agency Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF) found my mother and other family members.
Hearing the exciting news was thrilling and it happened to be a pefect coincident that my agency was participating for the annual International Adoption Conference at the Edsa Shangri-La, Manila Hotel. They kindly asked me to be a guest speaker and talk about my experiences, struggles, and challenges as an orphan while growing up and my transformation as an adoptee.

The night before my (adoptive) mother and I were leaving for the Philippines, I was up writing my life away (bio), trying to find significant moments that stood out as a child that could be helpful to other adoptee. Being through so many different obstacles, struggles, challenges and changes; I felt it was extremely important to be honest and give real life experiences rather than sugar coating my story. I also hoped that my testimony would encourage other young adoptee and families who have similar experiences, to believe that everything happens for a reason, that we are not perfect and that “Imperfection is perfection”. 

The week before my speech, my agency (KBF) made an incredible effort to make sure I met my nanay and other family before I gave my speech, so that my experience in meeting my family could be vivid to the audience and most of all, I could easily talk about it. With many different turns, obstacles, woods, dirt roads, random stops, and the hours spent looking for my family (took about 8-12 hours, which the ride was definitely worth it), we finally reached our destination.

I finally met my biological mother and 75+ other family that I didn’t expect to meet, which included, 10 aunts and uncles, 4 siblings, nephews, nieces, and generations after generations of different cousins. The experience was emotional, thrilling and exciting. I knew the minute I saw the house full of people this would be one great speech I would deliver!

The day of my speech, my mother and I were waiting for KBF to fetch us where we stayed, at The Peninsula Hotel, in Makati. The traffic in down town Manila, Philippines was insane, so therefore they were late picking us up. I was on edge and a bit nervous that we were way behind schedule and on top of that, I was scheduled to be one of the first speakers. Once they finally picked us up, my social worker, Celia mentions to me that we are 45 minutes late but to not worry. They assured us we would still get there on time but what took the icing off the cake is when Celia started reading the conference program and discretely mentions to me, “Ooo and by the way, you are giving an opening statement to start the International Adoption Conference.”

I almost died when she said that; panicking and feeling sweat balls on my forehead I rushed to get a pen and paper. While I brain stormed and weeded out my clueless thoughts, trying to figure out what the heck was I going to say; I had my mother on the right, cordially being my personal secretary as I spoke, she wrote down my thoughts.

We finally arrived at the hotel, running through the hotel lobby, thinking we had already missed the opening, still writing, we take our seats. There had to be at least 30 lines scratched out with ink marks smeared all over the sheet but eventually as the conference began and the pledge of allegiance takes place, I find the right words for my opening speech which was; short, sweet, and straight from the heart.

Having the chance to speak several times throughout the conference was an absolute honor. Testifying my struggles, experiences, and challenges was hard because I wasn’t sure if my honesty would be over the top and be way too much for the audience. I spoke with pride and mostly from my heart. After making my speech, I felt I might have scared everyone away but when the conference session ended; I had several Directors from different agencies and other people who thanked me for my honesty and that it gave them hope with their struggles as an adoptive parent. Several other audiences cried and many thanked me for sharing and that it gave them hope that their situation can improve. It was extremely touching because I didn’t expect the feed back to be so great!

After I made my speech, I had the chance to hear case studies and other adoptee speak on their experiences. The one thing I observed that we had in common; we are the chosen ones who share similar struggle’s, experiences, and challenges. Every adoptee who spoke left with something remarkable to remember. I thought it was great we were all different ages but we were able hang out and establish a friendship.
At the end of the conference, all of the adoptee decided to go out and have fun. It was special that we could all hang out and get to know each other. We sang, ate, danced, and played pool, but most of all; we had an opportunity to share a bond; that’s one of the many experiences I got to share, that stands out the most from the conference.

I never thought I would meet other people who were just like me and could relate on a similar level. Having the chance to participate at the International Adoption Conference, seeing other adoptee speak from their hearts, and having the chance to interact with different agencies, social workers, doctors, etc., was a lifetime opportunity I will never forget and if I could do it all over again, I would!!!