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Hundreds gather in Surrey to remember life of Filipino community leader's son

Rowena Papasin | TFC News Vancouver

Posted at Nov 24 2022 10:41 AM

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The Hope Community Church in Surrey, British Columbia overflowed with mourners who came in droves to show their support for the Belgica family.

Many of them have helped the family in their search for 18-year old Ethan Belgica, son of community leader Cliff Belgica, when he was reported missing on October 22.

The search ended when a body that fit Ethan's description washed ashore in West Vancouver last November 4.

Cliff, who is very active in the community as a leader of the United Filipino Community Associations in British Columbia, used to bring Ethan with him to many community events when he was younger.

Among those who knew Ethan as a child is Filipino Canadian lawmaker Mable Elmore.

"I just want to say thank you to the community for your support, for your love, volunteering, walking the streets, looking for Ethan, holding out that hope, and when I learned the sad news, my heart is broken, all our hearts were broken," Elmore said.

Elmore got emotional as she urged fellow Filipinos who need help not to hesitate to reach out to anyone in the community.

"This is something that I will remember and deep in my heart, remembering Ethan as we go forward, to reach out to connect with everyone in our community who needs help and support."

Burnaby councilor Maita Santiago also came to extend her condolences to the Belgica family.

"We recognize that this is very tragic and we hope that they find comfort in this real outpouring of support from our community to them," Santiago said.

Other community leaders also came to share in the family’s grief, including former candidates for councillors, Lina Vargas and Ramon Bandong. They lauded the community for stepping up to help a kababayan.

"I hope we will continue this kind of gatherings for all of us as a significance of who we are as a community. Napakagandang pagmasdan (It’s beautiful to behold)," Vargas noted.

Bandong also said, "When a family is suffering, we come together as a Bayanihan, to be there for each other and to raise each other through these tough times."

Cliff shared that their family is grateful to the Filipino community for helping them in their difficult moments.

"Those who have helped and come when we called to bring Ethan home, everyone in the community, we are more than amazed at all the help that you have given us and to continue to give us," the father said.

Cliff added that looking back, they regret that they did not see the signs that Ethan was struggling from mental health issues and needed help.

"As parents, we have missed a lot of the signs that somehow, he was hurting and we didn’t know. And Ethan, we’re sorry for that because we could not see it earlier, we could have helped you."

In a social media post, Cliff said that authorities alluded to 28 jumpers at the Lions Gate Bridge, of which seven were confirmed. But only one of them has surfaced and that was Ethan.