LONDON (UPDATE) - Cynthia Barker, the Filipina mayor of Hertsmere in Hertfordshire, England, has died, September 14, her brother confirmed. She was 58.
"It is with extreme sadness that we announce the passing of The Worshipful Hertsmere Mayor Councillor Cynthia Barker following a bout of serious illness,” said Gene Alcantara, brother of Barker, in a Facebook post.
He added: "We will be issuing further information in due course, but may we ask please to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time. Your prayers for the repose of her soul would however be welcome."
Barker made history as the first Filipina to successfully win in local politics, following the footsteps of another British-Pinoy politician, Danny Favor, who was also elected councillor and also became mayor in East Grinstead, England.
Barker served as town councillor for Elstree and Borehamwood and borough councillor for Potters Bar from May 2015 to May 2019.
She was reelected to Hertsmere to represent the Borehamwood Kenilworth ward in May 2019, standing for election under the Conservative Party.
"I think the career in politics was not planned. My mother used to say don’t get involved in politics just work. Go home, work and that was we did. It was not the plan. It wasn’t my aspiration," she said in an earlier interview with ABS-CBN.
She earlier gave the following advice to overseas Filipino workers, drawing from her own past after she was left behind in the Philippines at age 9 while her mother worked in the UK.
"Sa mga parents muna ng mga OFW, ang maipapaalala ko lang is based on my experience: make sure na kapag nag-abroad kayo may family support ang mga naiiwang bata because when going abroad you think you sacrifice but actually, the children suffer just us much,” she said.
Barker also credited her Filipino roots for what she has achieved in the UK. "This is very important na we acknowledge we are Filipinos because the Philippine heritage is actually my strength,” she said.
She left behind an only daughter and 4 grandchildren.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday extended sympathies to Barker's family, saying the Filipina mayor will be remembered for her spirit and passion in serving the community.
"Ms. Barker will be remembered as an inspirational community leader, a role model for women, and an ardent supporter of Filipino communities in the UK, who was always willing to give a helping hand in organizing charitable projects and in promoting Philippine culture and the arts," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Our thoughts are with her family, friends, and colleagues."