ELMHURST, New York – Friends of an undocumented Filipina caregiver who died of cardiac arrest are now appealing for help to send her cremated remains back to the Philippines.
Lorna Sun, 65, passed away last March 20.
Sun came to the US 16 years ago and was the breadwinner of her family in Bacolod.
She was undocumented and had no immediate relatives in New York.
"She's a very, very good friend, a very good mother for me... Lorna Sun has no savings at all, because every week she sends it to her immediate family as a breadwinner," said Angela Lopez.
Lopez was Sun's roommate for three years. She said Sun had not seen her family for 16 years.
Lopez said the original plan was to send her remains to her family in Bacolod. The Sun family sought financial assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.
"They're saying that they could not be able to help Lorna Sun because she's undocumented," said Lopez.
Sun's son Lawrence Johnson confirmed this.
"Yun nga po. Parang nainsulto rin kami sa message nila na si mama undocumented kaya hindi natulungan, masakit rin sa amin," he said.
But in an email to Balitang America, Consul General Mario De Leon of the Philippine Consulate in New York assured 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.
Meanwhile, 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 for the Philippine government to create emergency funds for distressed overseas Filipino workers so that funds are readily available in times of need.
"Magkaroon ng substantial na change doon sa system at polisiya na yung sa pagtulong, genuine na pagtulong sa mga migrante," said Jonna Baldres of the Philippine Forum.
But De Leon said 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, and that the consulate is working on getting the DFA to pay for the difference as well.
Though Sun's husband John Vic Sun signed an authorization, the 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, an option the family now regrets taking.
"Nung nakausap ko dito sa bahay, sinabihan ko na huwag lang muna, yung family hindi pa nakapag-decide, saka magagawan pa sana ng paraan kung pwede yung remains niya ang talagang dalhin dito. Masakit rin sa pamilya na for 16 years hindi namin nakasama si mama," said her son.
Michelle Saulon of Migrante said, "Makita lang sa huling hantungan, at mayakap at makapagpaalam, yun lang, hindi magawa ng Philippine Consulate. Nakakalungkot kasi continuous na nangyayari siya sa mga Pilipino."
Saulon said they are also hoping that Sun's son can eventually come to New York to pick up his mothers' cremated remains so she can finally come home.