Taiwanese man abandoned in Spain as teen to meet family after 38-year hiatus

Man fluent in Spanish but can barely speak Mandarin, set to return to Taiwan by end of year

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Immigration official Peter Chen (center) helping sister of man left in Spain obtain documents. (Image courtesy of Peter Chen)

Immigration official Peter Chen (center) helping sister of man left in Spain obtain documents. (Image courtesy of Peter Chen)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Nearly four decades ago, a Taiwanese man was left behind in Spain by his sailor father following a venomous quarrel at sea, subsequently hiding on a Spanish island to evade his father's later efforts to locate him and losing all contact with his family.

It was not until 2016 that the man's sister in Taitung received a message from more than 12,000 kilometers away informing her that her brother was still alive on the other side of the world.

Liberty Times reported on Tuesday (Dec. 10) that a man of Amis descent, who was born and raised in Taitung before being left in Spain in 1981 at the age of 17, came into contact with a Taiwanese sailor three years ago by chance. He then asked the sailor to find his family and inform them of his whereabouts, hoping to eventually return to Taiwan for a reunion.

With some effort, the sailor found the man's sister, surnamed Chen (陳), who told immigration official Peter Chen (陳允萍) the unusual story. She said that her father had regretted leaving his son in Spain and that he had made several return trips to the country in search of him — but to no avail.

His son is said to have moved elsewhere in Spain out of anger to prevent his father from finding him. Chen said the episode was her father's biggest regret on his deathbed.

Eventually, a fire destroyed the Chen residence, and along with it personal documents concerning her brother that had been in her father's possession at the time of the quarrel. The family then moved away to start a new life, and their home telephone number was also no longer in use.

Three years ago, a Taiwanese sailor who had stopped off at the port city of Arrecife in Spain's Canary Islands happened to come across the long-lost son, who gave him the address and telephone number of his Taitung home and asked him to find his family. The sailor recalled that the man spoke fluent Spanish but could not speak Mandarin well, so they communicated through a translator app.

Although the sailor successfully carried out the mission, the Amis man's lack of a passport and personal ID prevented him from returning. His sister then sought assistance from the immigration office to draw up the relevant documents to pave her brother's way home.

Peter Chen, who is now representing the Taiwan People's Party in the legislator-at-large elections in Taitung, assisted the family in obtaining the documents required. He told Taiwan News that the man is currently living with his family in Arrecife, where he works as head chef at a restaurant.

After a 38-year hiatus, he is slated to arrive in Taiwan by the end of the year, Chen said.