Jimmy and Merlie “Pinky” Edwards, circa 1975. Image courtesy of Edwards family.
Take Pinky. In 1974, her father, Jimmy Edwards, was a 22-year-old sailor aboard a United States Navy ship visiting the Philippines, 9,000 miles away from his hometown, Kinston, N.C. He fell in love with a Filipina named Merlie Daet, who gave birth to their daughter, Pinky. Mr. Edwards had hoped to marry Merlie, but as a sailor, he could not marry a foreigner without his captain’s consent. The captain refused. Despite his best efforts over the years, Mr. Edwards was unable to find Pinky (or Merlie).
Until 2005, that is. USA Bound, a now defunct nonprofit organization that reconnected Filipino children with their American fathers, told Mr. Edwards that it had found Pinky. He flew to the Philippines, only to find her living in poverty in a cinder-block hut in the mountains with her husband and five children. Determined to give her a better life, he sought United States citizenship for her.
To his surprise, it was too late. Although by birthright, children born out of wedlock to an American father and a foreign mother are entitled to United States citizenship, they must file paternity certifications no later than their 18th birthday to get it. But since the military bases in the Philippines have been closed for over 20 years, virtually all Filipino “Amerasians” — a term coined by the author and activist Pearl S. Buck to describe children of American servicemen and Asian mothers — have passed that age.
Stories like Pinky’s are legion. Amerasians in the Philippines substantially outnumber those living in neighboring countries, with recent estimates as high as 250,000.
– From “The Forgotten Amerasians,” by Christopher M. Lapinig