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Custody battle teen breaks down over father's memory

TAIPEI -- An 18-year-old teenager at the center of a high-profile tug of war between Taiwan and Brazil during a messy child custody battle a decade ago broke down in tears yesterday when he visited the columbarium where his father's ashes are stored.

Iruan Ergui Wu, also known by his Chinese name Wu Yi-hua, is in Taiwan for the first time since his maternal grandmother in Brazil was given custody of the boy by a Taiwan court in 2004 following the deaths of his Brazilian mother and Taiwanese father.

Having arrived in Taiwan on Jan. 3 for a two-week visit, Wu traveled from Taipei to Kaohsiung on Sunday morning and then went directly to the columbarium in the metropolitan area's Jiading District, the hometown he left at the age of 8.

Wu remained calm during his trip to the public cemetery but suddenly shed tears when he stood in front of the urn containing his father's cremated ashes.

“Father, I'm Yi-hua. I've come back for you,” the 18-year-old teenager said when embracing his father's urn.

Comforted by his adoptive mother and Taiwanese relatives, Wu took some time to overcome his emotions. He did not elaborate on his feelings to the media.

Before departing for Jiading, Wu told reporters that he was “pleased and happy” with the trip to his homeland, and that he will always have “warm feelings” for his elder Taiwanese relatives despite the language barrier that exists.

Wu's uncle, Wu Huo-yen, said he has arranged a family gathering with his nephew in which he will also express his gratitude to Wu Yi-hua's adoptive family.

Wu Yi-hua's father, Jiading native and fisherman Wu Teng-shu, had his son with a Brazilian woman during a layover in Brazil in the mid-1990s. He also spent some time there when his son was born in May 1995.

The child's grandmother, Rosa Leocadia DaSilva Ergui, was awarded custody of the boy three years later when his mother died of cancer.

In 2001, Wu Yi-hua's father brought the young boy to Taiwan to visit his family here, but when the father died two weeks later of a heart attack, his brother, Wu Huo-yen, decided to keep the boy in Kaohsiung.

DaSilva Ergui later came to Taiwan to bring the boy back to Brazil, setting off lengthy court proceedings that lasted more than two years before the Taiwan High Court ruled in her favor.

When the boy was taken from his uncle's home on Feb. 10, 2004, clashes erupted as the then 8-year-old's relatives tried to stop police from entering their home.

A pudgy but endearing child at the time, Wu Yi-hua has now grown into a handsome,173-centimeter-tall young man.

He was adopted by a German couple in Brazil at the age of 13 because of his grandmother's poor health.

His adoptive mother recalled that Wu Yi-hua went through a rebellious period as a teenager.

It took several years and plenty of loving care from his adoptive family to nurture Wu Yi-hua into a modest, polite and diligent student, Etna Borkert said, adding that she took pride in Wu's achievements.

Wu Yi-hua's grandmother died in the second half of 2013.

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Taiwanese-Brazilian Wu Yi-hua (吳憶樺) wipes away tears while visiting the columbarium where his father's ashes are stored in Kaohsiung, yesterday. Wu is in Taiwan for the first time ...

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