Every mother tells you that meeting her child for the first time was the most wonderful experience in the world. Beverly Baligad is no exception. The story of how Baligad came to meet her son, however, is exceptional. Baligad was born and raised in Pearl City, Hawaii. A self-proclaimed wild child, her desire to teach inspired her to enroll in college. “One of my passions has always been teaching,” said Baligad. She attended the University of Hawaii and studied English Literature. Following college the only teaching gigs she could find were what most would call unconventional. Baligad taught at correctional facilities and was eventually hired to teach at-risk youth in a somewhat military setting through the Hawaii National Guard Youth Challenge Program. At the age of 30, however, when the opportunity to leave the island was presented to Baligad, she jumped at the chance. “I was sick to death of Santa Claus coming in on a surf board,” said Baligad with a laugh. Although Hawaii is undoubtedly a beautiful setting to grow up in, Baligad said she and her family rarely left the island and she was anxious to see what the world had to offer her. “It’s an island,” she added. “I was yearning to experience something different.” So, Baligad moved to Texas, accepting another position teaching at-risk youth through a program at Texas A & M University. “I loved what I did for at-risk youth,” she said. After a few years in that position, another passion of Baligad’s — the law — began to surface. In an over 30 chat room one day she met a nice man attending Cooley Law School in Lansing who encouraged Baligad to apply there. The idea, and perhaps even more importantly the guy, intrigued Baligad. Before long the gentleman, Tom Hirsbrunner, and Baligad began dating. Hirsbrunner, who is originally from Tennessee, paid a visit to Texas. Soon after, the couple realized they were in love, so when Baligad was accepted into Cooley, the move to Lansing was a natural next step. And although some might have had a hard time going from the warm climates of Hawaii and Texas to Michigan’s unpredictable climate, Baligad adapted. “I love seasonal changes,” she said. “Fall and winter are my favorite times of the year.” Baligad and Hirsbrunner were engaged in 2002. Baligad graduated from law school on Sept. 13, 2003 and the couple was married the very next day on Sept. 14, 2003. Baligad passed the bar in 2004 and went into private practice with her husband. “Having him as my partner in law was very ideal,” she said. However, the role of defense attorney just didn’t fit Baligad. “I was getting lost,” she said. Luckily a career change was just around the corner for her. Lansing Community College (LCC) hired Baligad for some contract work. That work eventually lead to a full-time position at the college. After moving around to a few different departments, today Baligad serves as the Director of Student Compliance in the Student Services Department at LCC. Among her career changes Baligad started to notice something else change. Although she never thought she’d be one to want children, following her marriage to Hirsbrunner Baligad said her maternal instinct began to sink in. “Something I thought I would never get,” she said with a laugh. Baligad said she would see her husband with other children and think “some lucky child is missing a dad.” After tests revealed that it would be a challenge for Baligad to have a biological child, she and her husband began to consider adoption. Since Baligad is of Filipino decent she and Hirsbrunner opted to adopt a child from the Philippines. They worked with an agency out of Grand Rapids and after mountains of paper work, tons of interviews and a few disappointments, on Oct. 18, 2010, while she and her husband were attending a conference in Las Vegas, the couple received the news that a young boy was ready and waiting to be adopted. “He was just so beautiful,” said Baligad. Of course after the couple made it known that this child was the one for them, there was plenty more waiting to be had. Finally, in June they were able to make the trip the Philippines to pick up their son, Zachary. The day Baligad and Hirsbrunner met Zachary was a day they’ll never forget. The two awoke and waited for someone from the government to take them to the orphanage where Zachary lived. After arriving an hour late, the car, which had no air conditioning to combat the 90 plus degree day, drove for two hours, finally arriving in front of a large, iron gate. The couple was escorted in and before long they spotted their son. Standing alone, with a huge smile on his face, was Zachary. Baligad approached him and gave him a big hug, she tickled him and he laughed, all while Hirsbrunner caught the moment on film. The couple became a family that day. After the adoption was finalized later that week, the couple traveled to Hawaii to share their new son with Baligad’s family, and later were finally able to bring him home to Lansing. Although Zachary, who is four years old, spoke no English when Baligad and her husband first met him, he is now almost fluent. “He’s a chatter box,” said Baligad. And of course, so much more. “He is the love of our lives,” she said. “(We ask ourselves) how did we ever exist without this little boy … I can’t even remember.” Although there has been some ups and downs — “(It’s an) emotional rollercoaster,” said Baligad of the adoption process — Zachary has transitioned into his new life and his new home perfectly. He is excelling in preschool and Baligad can’t wait to introduce him to all of the new things his life here includes, especially snow and eventually another sibling. “(This has been) the most exciting and rewarding experience I have ever had in my life,” said Baligad. “He just makes waking up a whole new ball game.”
Emily Caswell is the Managing Editor of CAWLM. She has a passion for fun, family, friends, shopping sprees, cold drinks and Lansing.