‘A Filipino raised by white Americans’

Lorial: September 20 is her ‘gotcha’ day.

By Cristina DC Pastor

The Tagalog word “ampon” is not nearly as evocative of being on the fringe to Lorial Crowder, co-founder of the Filipino Adoptees Network. “Not familiar with it,” she shrugged it off. But while the word literally means “adopted one,” in some Filipino families it could be the child given a home and later expected to work as a servant for that household. FAN, the networking portal for adoptees in the U.S., their parents and the larger adoption community, does not deal so much with this kind of marginalization. But their issues are just as compelling. In the following interview, Lorial opens up about feelings of resentment toward her American parents and indifference toward her biological parents.

Her Philippine passport

TF: When you were asking questions about the Philippines, what did you parents tell you?
LC: I wasn’t really asking. I guess that was the hard-headed part of me that wanted to do it on my own. When I first arrived, they had a set of books for me, books about the Philippines. I didn’t look at it for years.

TF: When did you arrive?
LC: 1981. I was 5 years old. A little older than most.

TF: When did you start getting curious about your ethnic roots?
LC: Probably in high school when I went to this rinky-dink school in Ohio. The school was diverse. I befriended someone who is Filipina. She was my gateway Filipina. Her family was very welcoming and always had open arms. First time I went to their home they served up some salmon head soup.

TF: ‘Sinigang?’
LC: Yeah. They introduced me to cuisine. My yearning to learn about Filipino culture and Filipinos in America was really because I was trying to create my identity being a Filipino raised by white Americans.

TF: The process of reconnecting with your Filipino identity, what’s that like?
LC: It’s ongoing. I still continue to learn. I feel like along the way, some of the folks I consider my mentors or my guiding light through my process, they made me feel more courageous. For a while I felt I had to prove myself that I was Filipino enough. Part of it too is because I was raised with white American values.

TF: What’s your family like?
LC: My parents are educated people, well traveled, had been to Asia, but haven’t been to the Philippines. My father is a psychology professor. He passed away in 2000 just shy of his 60th birthday. My mom is still alive and well. She’s 72, lives in Connecticut. I have two older brothers, Bruce and Ed, who are biological to my mom.

My overall experience with my adoptive family was very positive with a lot of heartaches along the way, but also with a lot of understanding.

TF: Is there a part of you that’s curious about your biological parents?
LC: I’m curious, but I don’t know what it’s like to want to search. Maybe I was able to reconcile that part early on. The woman made the decision, and I honor the fact that she gave me life. But to physically seek her out? I don’t know. It’s nothing against her.

TF: Any difficulties growing up?
LC: As I got to high school things became a little more difficult, particularly dealing with racism, discrimination and stuff. That’s when I became a little more combative towards my parents.

TF: Like you were blaming them, for what? For you looking different?
LC: You go through these phases in adoption. The grieving and then anger and then the healing. There are those feelings of anger, like why did I have to be adopted. My mom was always very diplomatic.

With son Noah

TF: When did you finally make your peace with your life?
LC: It became a lot easier since I had my son Noah. He’ll be 5 in November. I think he’s going to have it easier. He’s going to be able to pass; he’s lighter skinned. He doesn’t look this or that. His father is white American.

TF: Does Noah know?
LC: Yeah. He knows mommy is from the Pilipinas. My mom is ‘lola’ to him.

TF: Why did you create FAN? Was this your way of trying to understand your adoption?
LC: The motivation was knowing there are other people like me without anywhere to fall back on. So if there was an individual who was going through similar identity struggle, I think there’s a certain comfort level with individuals you have a shared experience with.

TF: What do you think about celebrities adopting one child after another?
LC: There’s only one family that has become the sort of model, Angelina Jolie. Every American family that adopts definitely will go through very different struggles as her particularly because she has a lot of money. It sort of irks me, but it’s the reality. She built a school in her son’s village. Which I think is nice. I think she’s fairly well intentioned.

Lorial Crowder co-founded the Filipino Adoptees Network in 2005 with Sharon Cuartero. Both women came from the same adoption agency, and grew up in Connecticut. As of 2009, there are about 280 Filipino adoptees in the U.S. according to the U.S. State Department.

Cristina D.C. Pastor is the founding editor of The FilAm.


  1. […] the rest of the interview on The FilAm, an online magazine for Filipino Americans in New York. window.fbAsyncInit = function() { […]

  2. Casiano Mayor wrote:

    This is a nice article, gives you an insight into some other people’s struggles.

  3. […] the rest of the interview on The FilAm, an online magazine for Filipino Americans in New […]

  4. […] Lorial Crowder is co-founder of Filipino Adoptees Network, a web-based organization created in 2005 to provide support, resources, and a networking system for Filipino adoptees and their families. […]

  5. […] Crowder is based in New York City. She has written stories on adoption and interviewed by The FilAm, a New Jersey-based online […]

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