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Tearful Tagle Recalls His Grandfather’s Migration Story

“In them, I saw my grandfather who was born in China, but was forced to leave his homeland as a young boy in search of a better future."

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle was brought to tears on Tuesday when he recalled his grandfather’s migration journey from China to the Philippines.

Speaking during a press conference for the June 20 conclusion of “Share the Journey” by Caritas Internationalis, Tagle shared his personal experience with immigration.

According to the Filipino cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, his visits to refugee camps in Greece, Lebanon, Jordan, and Bangladesh reminded him of his migrant roots.

“In them, I saw my grandfather who was born in China, but was forced to leave his homeland as a young boy with his uncle for the Philippines in search of a better future,” Tagle said.

His Migrant Roots

(Left) Cardinal Tagle as a baby and his grandfather. (Right) Cardinal Tagle with his grandfather and his grandmother at his Presbyteral ordination in 1982. (Photos courtesy of Cardinal Tagle’s personal collection/Caritas)

Cardinal Tagle shared in an Easter 2017 letter his family history. His maternal grandfather was born in China but was later on sent to the Philippines to avoid poverty.

“I think some [of his] Chinese characteristics have passed onto me, even though my grandfather spent most of his life in the Philippines,” Tagle said.

“I remember certain practices he observed, such as honoring his mother by offering her food, putting it in front of her photograph, with a few sticks of incense, or setting off fireworks to welcome the New Year, or offering a lot of food during family meals,” he added.

Tagle’s mother, Milagros Gokim, is Chinese Filipino; while his father, Manuel Topacio Tagle, is ethnic Tagalog. They both raised Tagle and his younger brother Manuel in a devoutly Catholic home. (Read: Cardinal Tagle’s Favorite: Nanay Mila’s Pinangat na Sapsap Recipe)

Share the Journey

World Youth Day together with migrants and refugees. Young people were encouraged to reach out to migrants and refugees and to develop their listening skills through a solidarity walk and a “silent play” that encouraged the culture of encounter at World Youth Day. (Photo from Caritas)

The Share the Journey campaign is a four-year global project by Caritas Internationalis. Its goal is to mobilize all Caritas agencies worldwide in organizing events and initiatives that promote a culture of encounter with migrants and refugees.

Tagle has been serving as president of Caritas Internationalis since 2015.

“The Share the Journey campaign has been a great moment of encounter, solidarity, and for us, memory, and above all an expression of love,” Tagle said.  (Read: ‘Refugees, Migrants Create Caring Communities’ – Tagle)

“[It is] an expression of love of the Church for people on the move— Christians, Muslims, Hindus, followers of other religions, and those with no religion were received as human persons,” he added.

Tagle also emphasized the importance of charity work especially in this time of COVID-19, when nations are more concerned with protecting their own citizens.

“The end of Caritas Internationalis’ global campaign is a call to continue to share the journey with migrants, especially at this most difficult moment,” he said. “The campaign formally ends, but the mission continues.”

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