A mother struggles to tell his son that he was adopted, amidst a lesbian family setup and a taboo adoption setting in the Philippines.
Shao (the filmmaker) came out as gay in 2003. It was a difficult process – especially with the conservative stance of Philippine Christianity with the LGBTQ community. Two years later, Shao and her partner adopted a one-month-old baby. He was her nephew from a cousin. But the adoption did not undergo a legal process, like many other adoptions between relatives in the Philippines.
Many Filipino parents place their children to the care of their more affluent relatives. Some arrangements are more absolute --- the biological parents surrender all their rights and the relatives assume the role as the real parents. Other relatives just shoulder all the financial obligations while still having the identity of the biological parents known to the child, like a shared parenting set-up. Shao and her cousin agreed for Shao to take over as the baby’s mother, the cousin out of the picture. While Shao never really kept the situation a secret to her friends and colleagues, the truth was purposely hidden from the child.
Shao named the baby, Kahlil. Having an open-minded community helped her raise Kahlil in a lesbian family setup with ease. But she promised herself that she will tell Kahlil everything before he goes to high school. She is aware that puberty is a critical stage in a child’s development, so she wanted to straighten things out from then on. But Shao fears that because adoption was not brought up earlier, it will be harder for Kahlil to see the adoption as a positive thing. But, can she do it? Kahlil is almost done with seventh grade and Shao has not really found the courage to talk to her son. On top of that, there is also a legal process that needs to be faced.
14 Years follows the journey of a woman as she finds the courage to reveal his son’s true identity, and in the process, discovers the complexities of relative adoption in the Philippines, the hardships of being a lesbian mother, and how secrets and lies make relationships fragile.