NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Eugene Amano spent just the first two months of his life in the Philippines but has always maintained special feelings for the island nation off the coast of Southeast Asia.
Those feelings have grown for the past week-plus as Amano returned for the first time to his birth nation after nearly 31 years.
The Titans offensive lineman wanted to learn more about the country and how to help its people. He's using the 12-day trip to assist an organization called Gawad Kalinga, which translates "to give care" and is similar to Habitat for Humanity.
"Coming home to the Philippines has been a great experience," Amano said. "The people have been very welcoming and they've made me feel right at home. Visiting some of the villages was very eye opening and humbling. We hope to return and help (Gawad Kalinga) fight the overwhelming poverty in the Philippines."
Amano made the trip with his wife, Frances, and parents, who served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years. Amano's parents were stationed in the capital city of Manila at the time of his birth but moved to San Diego shortly thereafter.
Amano's family was welcomed at a special dinner by U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas, and he's been able to immerse himself in the country's culture.
"My family and I were very honored that U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas hosted us for dinner," Amano said.
The Amano Family Foundation has done previous work in Nashville and the San Diego area by hosting annual free football camps in National City, Calif., and he's expanding the charity work across the Pacific Ocean this year, the foundation's executive director Bo Navarro said.
Amano is believed to be the only full-blooded Filipino to play in the National Football League, although former Rams and Eagles quarterback Roman Gabriel is half-Filipino, and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi is of Filipino and Italian descent.
Navarro said the people of the Philippines are increasing their love for American football and were excited to welcome Amano, who at 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds is significantly larger than most Filipinos.
"Being the only full-blooded Filipino to play in the league, there is a big responsibility that he carries with him because he's the only guy," Navarro said. "The country has been waiting for him to come back."
Amano said he was amazed by how friendly and welcoming the people of the Philippines are in spite of the poverty that many in the country face.
He received a custom-fitted barong tagalog (embroidered formal garment) that was designed by Jot Losa. The barong is made from piña fabric that is loomed from pineapple leaf fibers and is worn on formal occasions. In addition to the fine tailoring, Amano's barong also includes his No. 54 on the chest.
When Amano returns, he plans to resume the rehabilitation of his triceps in preparation for a 10th NFL season and wants to coordinate a collective effort with other athletes of Filipino descent that will provide help to the Philippines.
Fans can follow Amano on his official Facebook page.