NETWORK OF ENTERTAINING ASIAN AMERICAN TALENT
Bigger is not necessarily better, says super-dad
Seventy-six-year-old Phan Van Tieng is famous in the Mekong Delta for having 22 children with his late wife Luong Thi Hai.
Tieng, who lives in Chau Thanh A District’s Nhon Nghia Commune, now has “about 70” grandchildren – he can’t remember the exact number. He’s thankful none of his children have been as prolific as their parents.
The 1.6-meter-tall Tieng said he’s often asked how many wives he had or what “miraculous medicine” or wine he used. But Tieng said he and his wife, who died nine years ago, didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to create such a large family.
Tieng said his late wife, Hai, was one of the most beautiful and charming women in his village, with wonderful farming skills. Tieng was just 20 years old when they married and the young couple was given a house of their own to live in.
Bay Tieng, as locals usually call him, said their first child was a son, who died when he was two years old.
Sometime later, his wife gave birth to another son, who they named Phan Van Cang. Hai continued producing a new baby every one or two years. Their 22nd and last child, Phan Van Net Em, was born when Hai was 45.
Too many to remember
Even though he’s in his 70s, Tieng still remembers each of his children’s names and ages. His oldest son is Van Cang is now 55 and his youngest boy, Net Em, is 30.
Tieng, who now lives with his youngest son’s family, said he and his wife took great care of all their children, after losing their first. Another child, Muoi Sau, died of leukemia when he was 30.
All 20 of his surviving children are married and most are farmers, like their parents. On special occasions such as Tet (Lunar New Year) and Hai’s death anniversary, their families gather together for a very crowded family reunion.
Neighbors joke that Tieng’s family could field two football teams if the village was to set up a local competition.
Because his children had the same names as many of his neighbors, Tieng added a number to each child’s name so they could be more easily identified.
The whole family seldom appears in one photo because everyone would appear too small to be recognized. On special occasions the family is divided into two or three groups so each photograph shows their faces clearly.
Asked if he had difficulty bringing up his children, Tieng kept silent for a while. Then he said that because he had only one hectare of farmland, he had to be very careful with his spending so his children would not go hungry or get sick. After each rice harvest, Tieng took over all the farm work while his wife made cakes and green bean juice to sell.
He said he and his wife also found saving for so many weddings and dowries very tiring.
Tieng said he kept his costs down by using his children as farm laborers. However, he said he regretted his children had to leave school so young, some when they were in grade two or three, in order to work on the farm and look after their siblings.
His best-educated child only finished year 10.
Tieng said he had advised his children to have smaller families as things are more difficult now.
“My children, don’t have as many children as we did, or you will be unable to support them,” he told them.
“If your children are poorly educated, their grandfather will be very sad.”
A Mekong Delta father-of-22, who says he never needed the help of any ‘miraculous medicine’ or wine to produce so many children, has advised his large brood that nowadays smaller families are probably better.
Reported by Thanh Dung