Michael “Eagle” Riggs may be more popular as a comedian and TV host, but not many know that he has, against all odds, seriously taken on a new role as father and mother to a son when no one else would take the child.
“I’m practicing my signature walk so I can finally join Miss Universe,” Eagle opens the interview with a joke, speaking in Tagalog. Ever cheerful and ready with his endearing wit and humor, one can already sense Eagle’s enthusiasm for the topic of the interview.
His joke was actually half-meant. He is still going through physical therapy and working on getting his stride back. His ordeal began about two years ago when he met an accident in Palawan. While crossing the street at around 5 in the morning, a motorcycle came from out of nowhere and hit him, sending him to the hospital with an injured eye and a severely broken right leg. The man who hit him was intoxicated, had no driver’s license, expired vehicle registration, no third-party liability insurance, no helmet and no headlight when it happened.
The man was arrested right away. The following day, he went to visit Eagle in the hospital for a highly emotional apology. Although Eagle found it in his heart to forgive and drop the case, he didn’t think it would have a major impact on his livelihood from then on. “I never realized that the healing process would take this long. I was the one who paid for everything – from my hospital bills to meds, and now my therapy sessions. Until now, I still find it difficult to go up the stairs,” Eagle laments.
At the time of the accident, Eagle was already taking care of a then very young three-year-old adopted son.
Bracing for the dreaded question
“Many people have been asking me about Miggy. I’m going to say this now while he still has no idea who he is and where he came from,” Eagle braces himself. He admits that he initially would give different answers when asked about Miggy. Today, he laughs as he reveals that “he’s not my biological son. Hindi ko kayang manganak.” Only a few close friends know the truth about Miggy, and now Eagle openly and proudly states that he has an adopted son.
“I’m planning to tell him the truth when he’s ready – when he has the capacity to grasp and understand these things,” Eagle continues. He’s not discounting the fact that Miggy might surprisingly ask him one of these days, knowing how precocious kids can be today. When this day comes, he knows exactly what to do, thanks to the advice of his good friend and fellow adoptive parent, Judy Ann Santos.
“Judy Ann told me to tell Miggy the truth when he asks. Tell him that God gave him to me, sent from heaven, and that I was the one tasked to love him and take care of him,” Eagle shares.
A gift from God
Eagle was not the only person who tried to take Miggy in for adoption. In fact, he was the fourth and the only one who firmly decided to take the responsibility by legalizing the adoption. Eagle says that Miggy was only a few months old when his parents, out of extreme poverty, were forced to give the boy up for adoption.
The first adoptive parent was able to take the baby only for a short period, having been forced to give him up when the opportunity to go abroad arose. The second adoptive parent likewise could not keep the poor baby for long since her husband did not approve of the arrangement.
It was through UNTV that Eagle learned about the unwanted baby. He was told that if no one else would take him, the baby would be turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Eagle, known by his friends and family as a genuinely kind person, knew he had to do something so he asked for a photograph of the baby. At the sight of the baby’s fragile face, Eagle immediately felt his parental instinct kick in. “My God, kamukha ko sya nung bata ako,” were the first words that came out of Eagle’s lips.
So by January 2016, Eagle brought the baby home with him. Everyone in the household expressed their reservations about the sudden responsibility since he didn’t have a steady income. He was also turning 50 years old then.
“I told them, bahala na. I believe that this is God’s gift. I didn’t choose this, didn’t ask for it, but it’s here,” Eagle reasons out. “After that, by God’s mercy, tuloy-tuloy naman yung dating ng mga raket para sa ‘kin so I managed to buy milk and diapers for Miggy. Suddenly, my priorities changed.”
He had long planned to spend his 50th birthday with pomp and glamor, Eagle style. But with Miggy now in his life, he spent everything on his son instead. “In my more than 50 years, at least now I can tell myself that I am raising a life with everything I’ve got,” Eagle says, pausing to rub his eyes now welling with joyful tears.
“We have a connection that I can’t describe. I had all kinds of fear at first. I told myself, no. When I turn 60, he’ll only be 10. What will I do with him then? But then I realized that if people can take care of cats and dogs, really spend money on them, why can’t I take care of a human being? I believe that if you do something good for someone, God will reward you for it. This is my purpose, to raise this child as my own,” says Eagle.
The following series of events was full of lessons and surprises. Eagle shares that when you file for adoption, you have the freedom to choose the child’s name and birthday. He didn’t find it difficult to think of a name. Miggy is the nickname for Miguel Anton – a version of Eagle’s real name, Michael Antonio.
Giving him wings to fly
Embracing his role as a parent, Eagle could only wish for his son to grow healthy, respectful of others, and be God-fearing. “Everyone knows that I’m gay. He will be bullied for it. When that happens, I hope he can stand up for himself without disrespecting others,” says Eagle.
And just because he’s gay, that doesn’t mean he can’t raise a child just like every “normal” family. In fact, he has the advantage of having the wisdom of being both a father and a mother to Miggy. “A true parent is one who knows how to nurture a child, love without expecting anything in return, wholeheartedly, unconditionally. That’s how my mother raised me,” Eagle says, tearing up once again at the thought of his bedridden mother.
There is still that possibility that Miggy will start asking about his biological parents. Eagle doesn’t know them, nor has he met them before. He doesn’t even know if they’re still alive. If the day comes that they resurface and ask to see Miggy, Eagle says he will proudly show the boy to them if only to make them realize the gift from God that they lost.
“I hope Miggy can truly learn to love me as his own. I also pray for enough strength so I can watch him grow. I’m getting old, and I’m now a PWD. Just when business is down and I have no projects coming in, this pandemic happened. And now, here’s Miggy coming into my life. There’s a reason for this, and I trust that this is all according to God’s plan,” Eagle affirms.
Parenting in the pandemic
With the pandemic, the entertainment industry is one of the most adversely affected, it being considered “non-essential.” Eagle started a food business called Pares ni Eagle to tide them over at the start of the pandemic, but lockdowns made it difficult for him to sustain it. He also maintains a farm in Magdalena, Laguna where he raises poultry. Unfortunately, the pandemic and his difficulty in traveling is proving too much for him to sustain this livelihood as well.
But instead of letting the situation drag him down, Eagle is taking advantage of this time to focus on his therapy and spend more quality time with Miggy, now a typical five-year-old who’s “malikot, makulit, pero malambing at mapagmahal,” Eagle describes his son.
It’s still a rollercoaster ride, what with the changing lockdown protocols disrupting plans and schedules left and right. At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Eagle and Miggy found time to bond more often than they normally would. They would play rough games like cops and robbers, piggy back rides, and other games that little boys enjoy. It’s challenging for Eagle to keep up because of his disability, but playing catch-up is definitely part of game time.
Now that COVID-19 cases are going dangerously high, Eagle decided to send Miggy to Laguna where the air is fresher and therefore safer for the toddler. Eagle chose to stay behind to help take care of his ailing mother. Though far apart from each other, Eagle makes sure that they get to do video calls every now and then.
No one knows until when this pandemic will take control of people’s lives, but Eagle is keeping his faith. He sees a beautiful future for Miggy, and vows to support whatever the boy decides to become when he grows up. Yes, even if he decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter show business, for as long as he follows his passion.
To the members of the LGBTQ+ community who are thinking of becoming parents, Eagle has this to say: “Don’t do it because you want someone to take care of you when you grow old. Do it because you want to share whatever you have left to raise a human life. Do it because you want relevance and purpose in your life.”
About the Writer
Carmen Dulguime, “beingKirei” in her social media accounts, keeps two personal blogsites: beingKirei and Virtual Cubicle. She created these initially for self-expression, but she realized that she can do more with her God-given writing gift. Finding inspiration in Proverbs 31:8 (Speak for those who cannot speak; seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction), she started writing about people she meets and have meaningful conversations with. She found some of their stories need to be told and inspire others. She contributes to NewsFeed 360 on top of working in the editorial department of WSP Inc.. Aside from writing, she tries to learn photography, play the ukulele and guitar, and read until she falls asleep.
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