Fil-Ams raise money to send ‘community hero’ home

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SAN FRANCISCO—Members of the Filipino-American community in the South of Market District in San Francisco have banded together to raise money to repatriate the remains of an undocumented Filipino immigrant who died of a heart attack in mid-August.

Pio Candelaria was 54 years old at the time of his passing, and was described in a Balitang America report as a community hero.  His work in the community “spoke volumes” of how he was as a person, the report said.

Candelaria is credited within the San Francisco Fil-Am community as one of the co-founders of the annual Filipino events, the San Franscisco Parol Festival & Parade, and the Filipino Arts & Cinema International Film Festival.

Candelaria’s story is similar to most Filipinos who travel to the US. He arrived in the mid-1990s, in search for opportunities to build a better life for himself. Though he was an undocumented immigrant, Candelaria was still able to make a name for himself as an “actor, artist, cultural activist, master chef, and a friend of the people.”

He was a regular at Fil-Am theater company Bindlestiff Studio, where he acted, helped with stage design, and wrote songs. Candelaria was also part of the cast of the “PeregriNasyon” production that was staged in Hawaii.

On August 17, 2014, Candelaria’s life was claimed by a heart attack.

“In spite of his contributions to the community, [Candelaria] died as an undocumented immigrant,” ABS-CBN reporter Rommel Conclara wrote.

Because he had no relatives in the US, it was up to his friends and fellow community members to take care of Candelaria’s remains.

Friends and community members started a Go Fund Me campaign on August 18 to raise at least $8,000 to repatriate his body to his hometown of Catanduanes.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 10, the ‘abuloy’—or funeral donations—campaign on has raised $8,690 in 23 days, from 98 different people. As of press writing, the Go Fund Me page has stopped accepting donations for the fund, as the target goal was already reached.

On Monday, Sept. 8, a funeral service was held in honor of Candelaria at St. Patrick’s Church, where friends gathered to celebrate their hero’s life.

“Pio is that unsung hero of everyday immigrants who is striving to have a better life in America. He had many challenges, just like all of us trying to survive here. We are all trying to have an American dream. But sometimes, that doesn’t happen,” Angelica Cabande said in a Balitang America report.

According to Conclara, Candelaria’s passing has “sparked a united interest” among Filipinos in San Francisco to push for immigration reform.

(With reports from Balitang America,

(San Francisco September 12-18, 2014 Sec. A pg.1)

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