The One about Albino M. Roldan and My Search for His Family

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With my latest post, this is possibly different from the type of blog posts that I make on this site.

But I believe in the power of social media and in this case, I really want to help out family, which I have never met.

Growing up, my grandmother Virginia and her sisters, my great aunts (in the Filipino culture, we call them grandmas) of the Roldan family were all I knew growing up from that side of the family.

With the death of my grandmother Virginia, photos were found of my grandmother’s brother Albino M. Roldan.

Looking at the photos, it was the first I have seen of him and his children.

I recall my grandmother telling me about her brother but in truth, I never really pursued it because I figured he was a family member living overseas and everyone has lost contact with.

When my aunt Dory and my grandmother Linda (Albino’s sister) told me the story of her Albino at the 40th day of mourning for my grandmother, it was a story that broke my heart.

A story that I have never heard from my family ever until just recently.

Surprising for me, that we had a family member who lived in Vietnam and had a family there.  A family he would be separated from and would never see ever again.

Back in the mid-60’s, my grandfather Albino Roldan moved from the Philippines to Vietnam for work for US Government contract.

Having divorced his first wife and having two children in the Philippines, he wanted to start making money in order to provide for his children and start a new life.

Albino worked as a foreman at the airport in Cam Ranh, Khanh Hoa.

While living and working in Vietname, he would meet a woman named Hoang Thi Ngoc Gia Ly (Ngoc Lan) and would remarry.  The couple would have three children: Mary Roldan Anh Diep Lang (born in 1968), Mario Roldan Anh Hung (born in 1969) and Julie Roldan (born in 1971).

But as Albino wanted to start his life working a good job and providing for his family, but Vietnam was in turmoil.  The war started in 1955, US involvement would lead to the arrival for the first US soldiers in 1961 and the formation of the US Military Assistance Command in 1962.

For those not from the United States, the late ’60s impressed those who came from the outside.  With massive U.S. military aid and the growing U.S. troop commitment, not to mention of propaganda telling people another different story of what was happening in Vietnam, for those living in other countries, working in Vietnam despite its dangers was a risk worth taking.

For many people from other countries, they saw the benefits of making more money to provide for their family as a risk worth taking.

But for those who were living in Vietnam through the turbulent late ’60s, through the mid-70’s, there was no more home to go home to.  As properties were seized in the south, people were imprisoned, intellectuals were purged, careers and jobs that were there, were no longer.

Many were then put into re-education labor camps.

Quyen Truong wrote in his article “Vietnamese Re-Education Camps: A Brief History”:

After the Fall of Saigon on April 30th, 1975, every South Vietnamese man, from former officers in the armed forces, to religious leaders, to employees of the Americans or the old government, were told to report to a re-education camp to “learn about the ways of the new government.” Many South Vietnamese men chose to flee on boats, but others had established lives and loved ones in Vietnam, so they willingly entered these camps in hopes of quickly reconciling with the new government and continuing their lives peacefully. According to my father, the government said re-education would only last for ten days, and at most two weeks. However, once there, the men were detained for many years in grueling labor camps.

In most of the re-education camps, living conditions were inhumane. Prisoners were treated with little food, poor sanitation, and no medical care. They were also assigned to do hard and risky work such as clearing the jungle, constructing barracks, digging wells, cutting trees and even mine field sweeping without necessary working equipments.

albinoroldan2

Albino was separated from his family and detained in a grueling labor camp (or concentration camp) and as you can see from the top photo above, he suffered from malnutrition and sickness.  He was rescued by the Red Cross (we don’t know many details about this) and brought back to the Philippines sometime around 1982, but unfortunately, while at the camp he caught tuberculosis.

Over 25-years ago, Vietnam suffered a tuberculosis epidemic.  Vietnam had 600 cases of tuberculosis for every 100,00 residents at the time.

And Albino would be a casualty of the epidemic and died in 1983.

While my grandmother was there to help nurse him (after his release from his hospital), nursed by his first son Mario and my father was able to visit him in 1981, I was told about how he was no longer the same man due to the sickness.  He was able to survive a few years after being rescued and although he had a few years of life left, despite his sickness, he had held out hope for his family.

He would never see his wife or the three children that he had.  His sisters did any research that they could at the time for finding the family and while there was contact, unfortunately, the language barrier would build another wall and complicating matters.

We are not sure what happened to Albino’s wife and his children in Vietnam during the time they were separated.

Fast forward to June 2016, as I heard this story, I was shocked.  But having researched my family’s genealogy and always wanting to learn about family and extended relatives, I found two photos of his children with the location of “Cam Ranh”.  I then googled the location with any of the children’s names.

At first nothing came up until I type their mother’s name and immediately discovered that Julie contacted a television show/website in Vietnam to find her father.

While the contact name is there, more than likely it’s for the show’s producers and while I can only communicate in English, fortunately my cousin married a man who is Vietnamese and he has been assisting me in trying to contact the Roldan family.

Unfortunately, we haven’t heard from anyone and so, I figured that the only way I can let the family know that I have been wanting to reach them is through my blog.   I’m hoping if one of Albino’s family members googles or searches for their father’s name, they will find this blog post.

It’s a long shot, I know.  But for Mary Roldan Anh Diep Lang, Mario Roldan Anh Hung and Julie…I hope they know that their father never forgot about them and he cared enough to have his family look for them.

And as many decades have passed, I have been given the task to continue the search.

And as their cousin, if they ever find this blog post, I want them to please feel free to contact me (in English or Vietnamese).


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Dennis A. Amith