Family seeks help to send undocumented Pinay’s cremated remains home

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

April 8, 2014

ELMHURST, NY – Friends and supporters are mourning the loss of Manang Lorna Sun — a 65-year-old Pinay caregiver who died of cardiac arrest (acute myocardial infarction) last March 20 in Queens, NY.

Manang Lorna was the breadwinner of her family in Bacolod, Philippines since she came to the US 16 years ago.
She was undocumented and had no immediate relatives in New York.

“She’s a very, very good friend, a very good mother, for me she’s already a mother to me,” Angela Lopez said. “Lorna Sun has no savings at all, because every week she sends it to her immediate family as a breadwinner. So when she passed away on March 20 she doesn’t have enough money in the bank. She only has $20.20.”

Lopez, Sun’s roommate for three years says Manang Lorna had not seen her family for 16 years.

Lopez says the original plan was to send her remains to her family in Bacolod, so the Sun family sought financial assistance from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“They’re saying that they could not be able to help Lorna Sun,” Lopez said. “It’s because she’s undocumented.”

In a phone conversation, Sun’s son Lawrence John said, “We were insulted by their message that they couldn’t help because Mama was undocumented. It hurt us.”

But in an email to Balitang America, Consul General Mario de Leon of the Philippine Consulate in New York assured the family that the DFA and the Consulate give the highest priority concern for the protection of all Filipino migrant workers, regardless of immigration status, and to promote the welfare of Filipino citizens abroad.

Meantime, Filipino organizations such as the Philippine Forum and Migrante are demanding full financial assistance for Sun to bring her home.

The group is also asking the Philippine government to create emergency funds for distressed Overseas Filipino Workers so that funds are readily available in times of need.

Philippine Forum’s Jonna Baldres said, “We hope there is substantial change in the system and policies to benefit the overseas Filipino workers.”

But Consul General De Leon says that the Consulate has turned over a check for $1,755 to the funeral home to pay for the cremation and funeral services that cost $2,035. He also said that the Consulate is working on getting the DFA to pay for the difference as well.

Though Sun’s widower John Vic signed an authorization, her 27-year-old son claims that the family had no choice but to authorize the cremation — it’s a less expensive way to bring her home, an option suggested by the DFA. But it’s an option the family says it now regrets taking.

“When I spoke to the DFA, I told them we haven’t decided yet,” John Vic said. “We really wanted her body to be brought home. It’s hard for us that we never got to see her for 16 years.”

Migrante’s Michelle Saulon said, “To see her, hug her, say goodbye to her – those are what the family needed to do. And the consulate wasn’t able to help them. It’s sad because this keeps happening.”

Saulon said they are also hoping that Sun’s youngest son Lawrence John can immediately come to New York to pick up his mothers’ cremated remains so she can finally come home to Bacolod.

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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