CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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A star not only of the screen but also in many 
a heart in Hong Kong

A familiar face at anything to do with faith and human development in Hong Kong, and doyen of the Catholic Women’s League for decades, Pacita Francisco Roads breathed her last on August 4, after a three-year battle with multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow) at the San Ramon Regional Medical Centre, California, the United States of America (US).

Every inch a woman of the community, the first female Filipino to star in a Hollywood movie (The Avenger) lived for over 60 years in Hong Kong with her late foreign correspondent husband, David Roads, and used her considerable talent and warm-hearted compassion to promote the status of women in society, which she firmly believed would contribute to peaceful coexistence among all peoples.

As president of the Catholic Women’s League for 12 years up to 2009, she was active in the Asia-Pacific region. She told the Sunday Examiner that she believed, “People do have to co-exist and despite differences of race, culture and religion, we must all work for peaceful coexistence in a realistic way” (Sunday Examiner, 14 December 2008).

Returning from a regional meeting in Seoul, South Korea, in December 2008, she said, “Such a peace is only attainable through respect for the dignity and worth of women and dialogue, listening, forgiving and loving is the way of accepting that God is the only source of true peace.”

She pushed at the meeting for the regional chapter to make a commitment to women migrant workers, calling it a mission of cooperation with them in creating a situation whereby they do not have to leave their families in order to support them.

To Roads, this was a natural follow on to the Catholic belief in the sacredness of the family unit.

She noted this must begin by getting to know migrant women and she willingly gave a listening ear to their plight and provided financial help and moral support  to the Filipino Buhay Ka Group (wholeness, openness ready to serve) for the support of migrant workers suffering from cancer and life threatening diseases.

She encouraged members of the league to involve themselves in promoting a culture of life and dignity of all women, as well as broadening their outreach in society to include issues affecting migrant workers, as well as dysfunctional families and groups that get pushed to the fringes of society.

During her years in Hong Kong, Roads was an advertising manager for the American Chamber of Commerce and later a purchasing officer for the US Army and Air Force.

But as a deeply committed Catholic, it was the social progress and development of people, as well as working for better relationships among them that gripped her interest.

She was a faithful member of St. Joseph’s parish in Central and also worked for the Religious News Service.

She belonged to La Sociedad Hispanica of Hong Kong and the American Women’s Association, in addition to her commitments to the Catholic Women’s League.

Her commitment to family extended to friends and she was a dedicated member of the Saturday Girls, a group of women who met every week as a family of friends at the old Hilton Grill for more than 20 years.

Born in The Philippines in 1926, she lost her father, Jose Francisco, fighting for the US Army Forces in the Far East against the Japanese invasion of Bataan. Her younger brother, Johnny, disappeared and is presumed to have been abducted during the occupation of Manila.

When the war ended, she and her brother, Chito, chose to forego college education to support their mother, Natividad, and their youngest brother, Manuel.

Her twin sister, Teresa Hampton, and older sister, Lourdes York, had both gone to live in the US with their husbands.

But life changed in 1947, when Roads entered the Miss Philippines Quest and was crowned Miss Luzon. 

This put her on the road to the silver screen and she starred as the lead lady alongside Philippine legends Rogelio de la Rosa; Leopoldo Salcedo, Ferdinand Poe Sr., the father of the actor and unsuccessful presidential candidate; Jaime de la Rosa, Carlos and Pempe Padilla, and Oscar Moreno.

As a young person in 1950, her itchy feet saw her apply for a job as a flight attendant with Northwest Orient Airlines and get the nod  ahead of 200 others. Later, an accidental interview with an American foreign correspondent in Hong Kong called David Roads, ended in marriage in 1956.

Her long years of community service in Hong Kong ended when she decided to visit her brothers and sisters in California in 2009. As sickness overtook her, she was never to return.

May she rest in peace.

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