‘Everybody is hurting’: Community mourns Filipino nurse killed in New York

Maria Ambrocio | Photo courtesy of Facebook

PH Consulate calls for more protection for the Asian community, mental health resources for the homeless

MORE than a hundred Filipinos and Filipino Americans gathered at St. Francis of Assisi church in Midtown New York for a memorial mass in honor of Maria Luningning Ambrocio on Monday, October 11.

Ambrocio, 58, was walking near Times Square on Friday, October 8 with her friends Emilia Cruz and Norma Lardizabal on their way to the Philippine Consulate on Fifth Avenue when a suspect, who was reportedly fleeing another crime, slammed into her and knocked her unconscious. 

In his remarks after the mass, Consul General Elmer G. Cato reiterated the consulate’s call for authorities to take more effective steps to make the streets of New York safe again for everyone.

“While we know that authorities are doing their best, we hope that they exert more serious efforts and make more resources available to make this happen,” Cato said.

Cruz and Lardizabal spoke with the media outside St. Francis of Assisi in midtown and shared their memories of Ambrocio who passed away Saturday, Oct. 9 after more than 24 hours on life support. They have been friends with Ambrocio for almost 20 years.

At the Bayonne Medical Center, Ambrocio was known as “a caring nurse and a wonderful person” who went out of her way to help others. She is remembered by colleagues on how she mentored the younger nurses among them. 

An oncology nurse, Ambrocio worked at BMC with Cruz. “She is kindhearted, she is not selfish, she always brings food and our co-workers miss her a lot. Everybody is hurting,” she said.

One other colleague described her as an “angel sent by God to guard and be with her during her long and difficult journey to a foreign land,” and “who gave her the hope and courage to live and survive the harsh conditions of the concrete jungle of New York City.”

In a statement posted on social media, the CEO of CarePoint Health called Ambrocio a longtime devoted and cherished member of the hospital’s family.

“Maria devoted her life to helping others, caring for patients, and serving the community. She was caring, compassionate, and outgoing. She loved to take pictures and spend time with friends and family. At work, she was generous and always promoted teamwork and positivity,” said Dr. Achintya Moulick. “Maria always appreciated those she worked with and was grateful for the comradery and teamwork.”

Maria Ambrocio’s friends Emilia Cruz (left) and Norma Lardizabal (right) speak to the media outside of St. Francis of Assisi church in Midtown New York on Monday, October 11. The pair were with Ambrocio when the assault happened. | AJPress photo by Momar G. Visaya

Compassionate nurse

“We always walked in New York together. She is a good person, loving, she is very honest and loyal to her friends, very religious and very good to her family,” Cruz recalled, adding that they were on their way to the Philippine Consulate after a visit to the Philippine National Bank on Seventh Avenue. 

Lardizabal said she heard the commotion less than a block away and the next thing he saw was a “tall, slender man” barreling directly towards them. She then heard a thud and when she looked down, her friend was already on the ground unconscious. 

“I saw her on the ground, ‘Oh my God, Ningning!’…she was right beside me,” she said in between sobs. “I don’t know how I am going to recover from this. She has always been with me.”

The robbery suspect, 26-year-old Jermaine Foster was fleeing with a woman’s phone police say he snatched on Broadway and West 40th Street. Foster was charged with murder in the second degree after he was arraigned in court Sunday following Ambrocio’s death. He was arrested Friday for two separate incidents — stealing the cellphone and breaking into an apartment. 

Among those who attended the memorial mass was theater performer Miguel Braganza who was mugged and attacked outside his apartment last August. 

“I’m here to just be with the friends and family of Luningning,” he said. “This is a major problem and the city should not take it for granted. When it happened to me, I have friends who sent me messages na nangyari din sa kanila, verbal to physical abuse.”

Father Julian Jagudilla called on the dozens of Filipinos who attended the memorial mass to “look after each other and take care of each other”. 

“There are many more testimonials and anecdotes that would reveal just how much Luningning was loved and admired and how much she brightened people’s lives, ultimately, measuring up to her name – Luningning, which means sparkle or brilliance in Filipino,” Cato said in his remarks, describing what happened to Ambrocio as “an unfortunate incident that could have probably been avoided had the streets of New York been made safer.”

Consulate’s plea

The Consul General noted that the incident happened at a time when violence against members of the Filipino community and the larger Asian and Pacific Islander community—whether induced by pandemic-exacerbated xenophobia or by mental illness—remains on the rise.

Philippine Consulate General in New York Elmer Cato | AJPress photo by Momar G. Visaya

According to Cato, at least nine members of the Filipino community have been at the receiving end of unprovoked acts of violence that have been reported to or monitored by the Philippine Consulate since January.

He mentioned the 72-year-old Filipina who ended up in the ICU after she was assaulted while entering her apartment building in Queens. This was followed by the face slashing of Noel Quintana, a 61-year-old Filipino on board a subway train in Manhattan, and the violent attack on Vilma Kari, a 65-year-old Filipina who was walking to church also in Manhattan.

A few weeks ago, a 67-year-old Filipina nurse was also assaulted while distributing face masks on a subway train also in Manhattan and more recently, a 75-year-old Filipina was badly injured after she was shoved while exiting a subway station in Queens.

“Most, if not all, of those who were behind these acts of violence, are mentally ill and homeless individuals and, according to reports, there are more than 12,000 of them in the streets of New York City,” Cato said. “The Filipino Community stands in solidarity with many others who have been calling on authorities to give more focus on improving mental health care as well as in strengthening ‘Kendra’s Law’ so that dangerous people could be taken off the streets.”

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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