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My memories of Cynthia Barker, Worshipful Mayor of Hertsmere in UK (Last part of the series)

It was entertainment writer Art Tapalla (now renamed Leon Tabuena in his Facebook account) who texted me very early morning of September 15, 2020. I was still asleep as a matter of fact. The content of the SMS was: “Patay na raw si Cynthia sabi sa (Cynthia Barker is already dead according to) ABS-CBN news,” stated the text message as I lazily read it but aware of its sense. Could it be true? Could there be just a playful imagination making up stories for sensationalism. “Ano kaya reaksyon ni (What could be the reaction of) Jowee Morel?” added Art in his message.

Jowee Morel was a British-Filipino filmmaker who directed the movies “Moma,” “Ec2luv,” “Mga paru-Parong Rosas,” “Mona, Singapore Escort,” “When a Gay Man Loves,” “Latak,” “History,” “Strictly Confidential,” “Leona Calderon,” “The Making of Quezon City” etc.) 

I could find out the real truth, I told myself.

Once up from bed, I went straight to Google and typed the name Cynthia Barker on the space provided for quest.

There the news went: “Trailblazing Filipina Mayor in UK dies,” “Cynthia Barker, first Filipina Mayor in UK passes away” etc.

There were numerous online stories bannered on each and every website on the net.

I still couldn’t believe it.

Would it be really confirmed even if these sites were vetted?

I suddenly traced the source of the sad news and it was Gene Alcantara, the elder brother of Cynthia who was in London. The ABS-CBN news online narrative came straight from Gene’s Facebook spaces.

Then it dawned on me that the news was for real.

It was indeed for real.

Still, I was hoping against hope it wasn’t truer than logging in to Jowee’s Facebook Messenger chat box. I wrote: “It’s everywhere that Cynthia Barker is already dead. Totoo ba ito (Is this true?) It was as early as seven in the morning and as world clock would tell me, it was still midnight in the United Kingdom. So Morel must be tightly asleep or so I thought.

But it was really a shocking news to everyone in the world that the newly installed Worshipful Mayor of Hertsmere district in the county of Hertfordshire in the UK was gone too soon.

As soon as I gathered myself up, I condoled on Ador Alcantara’s (another Cynthia’s elder bro) Facebook Personal Messaging. In an instant, he wrote “Thanks.” I also sent a sympathy note to Gene’s FB page but he didn’t answer back.

Still, I had to talk to Jowee to double-check the facts although they were already glaring that Cynthia whom I just personally met two years ago was indeed dead.

The next day, Jowee wouldn’t still want to make his virtual presence felt but he had written me a note. “I’m still in shock. I’ll take some rest muna (for a while)” an assurance note or something to that effect. 

It was only on the third day that the Fil-Brit filmmaker opened up and welcomed his posters and inquisitors. “I really didn’t answer any of their messages on the social media. I was still in shock. I still couldn’t believe what I heard. I had to feel she was still alive,” Jowee—who’s in London at the moment as a health frontliner as a nurse (he’s a licensed nurse in the UK) for the treatment of COVID-19 patients—finally shouted out.




According to Jowee, it was from his friend from the Philippine Embassy in London that the news was broke to him. “I said whose particular Cynthia was she referring to? Because it must have been other Cynthias. But she said Cynthia Barker. Still, I couldn’t believe my ears,” he recalled.

And then the call from Gene confirmed it all. “Ang sabi ni Kuya (a term of respect to an elder man by blood or by affinity) Gene sa akin, alam mo na ba ang nangyari kay (have you already known what happened to) Cynthia?” he asked.

Jowee admitted he had to downplay himself about the real situation and just listened to the voice on the other line.

“According to Kuya Gene, bigla na lang sumulpot muli ang cancer cells ni Cynthia. Nawala na raw ‘yon pero bigla na lang, nand’yan na ulit. Ang bilis (The cancer cells recurred. They disappeared already but they showed up again recently. It happened so fast),” Jowee confided.

All along, the Fil-Briton filmmaker confided, Cynthia had this lingering illness, a breast cancer.

“She kept it from us,” he said.

‘Yon pala, terminal na (So it was already terminal?),” I invoked.

Jowee affirmed.

The world wept on Cynthia’s passing.

Filipinos, Americans, British, Fil-Italians and other ethnicities in the world familiar with Berker mourned her death.

Before she was brought to her final resting place in Borehamwood, Cynthia’s remains were toured in all her constituency district. The flag was wrapped in Cynthia’s casket and another flag was flown half-mast in the Elstree and Borehamwood boroughs and in the Hertsmere council in respect and honor to the well-loved Mayor of the district.

Her colleagues in the Hertsmere council were all orphaned by her. From the former mayor Alan Plancey to the current set of officers in the community, they were all in praises of Cynthia and her immortal contributions and achievements in running the political and socio-civic affairs of their local government.

There was a viewing on the remains of the late mayor but due to the restrictions in the spread of the new coronavirus, a strict compliance to public gathering was imposed. Each mourner was required to wear face mask or face shield, to spray or rub in disinfectant or sanitizer to hands and other body parts and to practice social distancing.

During the burial, a representative from the royal government of Queen Elizabeth was around to bid one of their well-respected leaders’ adieu. Most of Cynthia’s colleagues in the council were present in her last moments on earth. 

It was a historical moment for the UK and the Philippines and the rest of the world.

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