EXCLUSIVE: Rod And Teemy Nepomuceno Are Determined To Remove The Stigma That Comes With Adoption
Teemy Ledesma and Rod Nepomuceno discovered what true love really means at around 8:45 p.m. in the form of a baby boy. He had nothing but the clothes on his back, two milk bottles, and a can of powdered milk by his side. Love was handed to them at their busiest. Despite having their hands full, they immediately dropped everything to receive this blessing, who came from an anonymous giver. They gave him a name: Quico.
As the cliché goes, love comes when you least expect it. The morning before Quico came knocking in their lives in 2016, the Nepomucenos were busy planning their trip to Ireland. “We were enjoying our careers, our business, and all the traveling. Then one day here we are,” Teemy reminisced sans any inkling that things were about to take a 180-degree turn at the time. Rod couldn’t agree more, quoting a line from John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy,” “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.' That’s what happened to us. In one day, our lives changed. It was changed forever by this beautiful boy.”
By lunch time and amid their respective meetings, Teemy received an anonymous Viber message that said there was a baby boy in need of a home. “What’s the most honorable thing to do?,” she asked Rod over the phone. “Let’s take care of the child for a while since we have an extra room. This won’t be permanent. Let’s just try it out.”
Rod and Teemy's son, Quico | Clothes by Gingersnaps
God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called
The baby had nothing with him, so Teemy had to dash to the nearby mall just as it was about to close, to quickly shop for the baby’s immediate needs. With zero experience on child-rearing, she felt blessed to have Rod and her three household helpers, who are mothers, to help her through this experience. “I cried because I was scared,” she recalled. “Normally, moms have 9 months to prepare and here I am [with an instant child]. For a few days I couldn’t carry him because I was nervous. The maternal instinct didn’t kick in immediately. But one day, after a week, I fell in love.”
Days went by, and the love hasn’t waned—not even the least bit. In fact, it has ballooned so big that the love has helped the couple conquer countless of struggles and challenges that were hurled at them at the onset of their parenting journey. One of which was when their helper left and Teemy had no choice but to quit her job to take care of Quico full-time. “I wasn’t used to being a stay-at-home mom but I had to,” recalled the former medical concierge associate director for St. Luke’s Medical Center. “It was tough because I wasn’t prepared. Motherhood changed my way of life.”
She could’ve easily given up the child because of sheer unpreparedness and them being completely occupied with their respective thriving careers. But she opted to be selfless, choosing the baby above anything else in this world for the very reason that she was once in Quico’s shoes. She’s adopted, too.
Teemy knew how important it was to shower Quico all the love, care, and attention he needs. For Quico, she became the person she needed when she was younger. “For those who are adopted, the first thing that they experience is probably the worst loss. There’s no greater love than a mother’s love and yet that was denied at your most lovable stage: at the beginning of your life, when you were a baby,” Rod shared. “Although I’m not adopted, I’m feeling the sense of how they feel through Teemy.”
Rod with son Quico | On Quico: Clothes by Gingersnaps, On Rod: Shirt by Memo
“I’m adopted, what’s wrong with that?”
Momma Bear, as the family fondly calls Teemy, was a baby when her aunt took her to Bacolod as soon as her parents separated. She was around a month old then. However, she didn’t get legally adopted until she was already 25. By this time, she was able to take her adoptive family’s surname officially.
She was given up for adoption long before Angelina Jolie, Madonna, and Sandra Bullock made it look cool, acceptable, and admirable. “I never understood the stigma of adoption. Why is it so bad?” she would ask. “I’m adopted, what’s wrong with that? For some reason, we were just made to feel different. We’re human, [too].” Growing up, Rod had heard the word “adopted” being used to taunt or belittle kids in their village. “In our society, the expression ‘ampon lang ‘yan’ is still very prevalent and pervasive,” he said. “It’s like you’re a second-class citizen.”
“Our goal is to remove the label ‘adopted’ for every child who is adopted. An adopted child is a child. Period,” Rod added.
The power of two
Unapologetically cruel the world may be sometimes. And it’s because of this that the couple has decided to take in another angel whom they named Quiana, now 2 years old. Rod and Teemy felt it would be good for Quico, now 3, to have a companion. “With Quiana around and with her having the same background and circumstances, Quico will never feel alone,” shared Rod. “It goes for Quiana as well. They will have each other’s backs.”
During the shoot for this feature article, doting dad Rod proudly told the team that his children have started to develop personalities and quirks that are akin to them, the parents. “Quico’s a very gentle soul and a happy kid. He’s fiercely loyal,” he explained. “Quiana’s very friendly but she’s feisty. She will protect Quico.”
The Nepomuceno household is bursting with joy at the seams because of their children. The two may have turned Teemy and Rod’s hearts and home outside in and inside out but the couple won’t have it any other way. “Before, when the TV was on, it would be on Netflix, CNN, NBA, or Discovery Channel. Now, it’s always on Baby Shark and Disney Junior,” quipped Rod as he reminisced what their married life was like before having the kids. “There’s a mixture of laughter and tantrums. Every day is unpredictable but we won’t trade it for the world.”
On Quico and Quiana: Clothes by Gingersnaps
Say hello to the new normal
In an ideal scenario, every abandoned child can easily be adopted and meld into their new families easily, because it is the most natural thing to do. However, this is the Philippines and, like any other country, there are processes to be strictly followed and papers to be accomplished. All would take years to fulfill, according to Teemy.
This was why she’d said “no” to the idea of adoption when it was initially presented to her after three miscarriages. “I said ‘no’ because I knew the process here. If you want to adopt, or even just to foster, it’ll take years,” she said. “Rod even posted on Facebook that it’s easier to run for president than for you to adopt [due to tons of] requirements.”
Having experienced how beautiful life is with their kids despite the tiny bumps along the way, the couple is more adamant than ever to make adoption in the country as normal as breathing and waking up in the morning. “Our hope is that by doing interviews like this, we help remove the stigma and influence the people in power to make [the fostering and adoption process] easier. Every kid who is taken in for adoption is one kid out of the streets,” explained Rod, lawyer and president and CEO of Openhdor Inc., the country rep office of Discovery Channel. “There is a need to do this because the process and the requirements, the run-around, the frustration, and the emotional roller-coaster that one has to go through to foster and adopt is not easy. Thus, it discourages potential adoptive parents.”
Teemy with daughter Quiana | On Teemy: Dress by Regatta, On Quiana: Clothes by Gingersnaps
And the greatest of these is love
Valentine’s Day has passed and it may have been just another yearly commemoration of love in all its forms for most couples. But for Rod and Teemy, whose newfound love came in the form of their children, the celebration isn’t just some yearly tradition but a daily experience, most especially when their children came from someone else’s. “It’s unconditional love,” shared Rod. “And that’s tough because it’s hard to unconditionally love someone who is not related to you. You have to overcome your negative feelings when it’s not pleasant; when they’re hard to feed or to put to bed and have tantrums.”
In one of his Facebook posts dedicated to Quico, Rod said: “I unexpectedly became a dad in Feb … Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. But maybe it’s better that way because ultimately, I’ve come to realize that Someone else is in control. Someone who knows what’s best for me and my family. And that gives me comfort and consolation.”
They say blood is thicker than water. But for the Nepomucenos, love is the thickest.
Producer and stylist: Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Jar Concengco
Creative direction by Chookie Cruz
Makeup by Chuchie Ledesma
Hairstyling by Jasper Real of Vivere Salon
Special thanks to Ogie Rodriguez
Shoot assistant: France Teves
Shot on location at Discovery Primea