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The soul of lost souls deeply mourned

HONG KONG (SE): The much loved and well respected soul of lost souls, Aida Guerrero, surrendered to her battle with cancer at her home in Pampanga, The Philippines, on June 5.

As the supervisor at the Ap Lei Chau Shelter for Filipino migrant workers in difficulties, she had for 25 years touched the lives of many a lost and troubled migrant soul seeking respite from an often cruel and hostile world, giving strength to the weak, courage to the fearful and comfort to the suffering.

“Strangely, the name Aida comes from an Arabic word meaning returning,” Father Rudolfo Jacobe said at a memorial Mass concelebrated by eight priests at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos in Central on the evening of June 15.

“Today is June 15. It is the day she was expected to return to Hong Kong to take up her duties at the shelter. So we come tonight to express our gratitude for all she has contributed to the lives of people in Hong Kong,” he said.

Father Jacobe recalled that when Guerrero learned about her cancer she worked hard for her treatment and, when she went back to visit her husband and son, she was quite confident that she would return to work on the very day people in Hong Kong gathered to mourn her death.

He added that as another expression of gratitude, three old hands from Hong Kong, Father Emil Lim and Father Dondon Rollon, together with Sister Cielo Matuloy were able to travel from Manila to her home in Pampanga to celebrate Mass with her family.

But in her day-to-day work, she is mostly remembered for her straight talk. “Aida would tell you exactly what she thought and that was the only way to be in her work,” Father Jacobe said.

She would say to those who complained about their employers, “You complain at being shouted at. But this is a normal way of expression. It does not mean that people are angry.”

He added, “To those who complained about their employer being strict, she would say, ‘You came to work, so the employer is strict. Get used to it and deal with it in a professional manner’.”

In a tribute, Adreille Pañares, from the International Social Service Hong Kong, said that she cherished Guerrero as a close colleague in their work and she too marvelled at her ability for straight talk.

But she added that she was also kind, always giving her the most comfortable chair when she came to visit.

Pañares said that she came to Hong Kong to serve people and people came to her because they were weak and she worked to make them stronger.

“She was strict about rules at the shelter,” she added, explaining that she worked to promote people, going to court with them and checking their dress, always ensuring that they protected their own dignity in whatever situation they were in.

“She was not perfect,” Pañares said, “but she was perfect for her job.”

Guerrero came to Hong Kong in mid-1990. She had a background as a facilitator in the pre-departure programme for migrant workers in Manila, but still had to grow into her new job at Ap Lei Chau Shelter.

She began by getting to know people by praying with them a lot, but that quickly expanded into helping them deal with pressing problems and, as she learned more of the intricacies of the law, began dealing with cases at the Labour Tribunal for workers of any nationality.

At Christmas 2010, her 20 years of service was recognised by the diocese and she received an award from John Cardinal Tong Hon for her long record. Her husband and son stood with great pride at her side.

Her landlord, Alma Flores, said that she has cherished memories of long nights on the rooftop of her home in Peng Chau where Guerrero always encouraged her to instill a Filipino heart in her children. “She was a great influence in my life,” Flores reflected.

Sister Felicitas Nisperos thanked the representatives of various communities in the city, as well as the consulate general, for attending the evening memorial.

While most agreed that Guerrero was secretive about her family, Father Jacobe said that she doted on them, calling them daily.

He shared his most endearing memory as seeing her staring at the blessed sacrament through her office window when he celebrated benediction at the shelter and, in farewell prayed, “Rest now in the abode of God. May the angels lead you into paradise in the new and eternal city of Jerusalem.”

May she rest in peace.

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