Filipinos support victims' families
By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Karen Blakeman
On Easter Sunday, 57-year-old Aquilina Polendey of Waipahu cooked pancit noodles for her grand nephew, Nicole Dan Cruz, who was turning 12, and for the rest of her family.
When the holiday meal was finished, she hung her handmade apron on a hook in her niece's kitchen.
Annie Cruz found it there just before learning that her auntie had been killed.
"I asked my uncle if I could keep it," Cruz said yesterday. "She made that apron herself."
"Maybe this wouldn't be so hard," she said, "if we had had a chance to say goodbye."
The Filipino Community Center held a benefit yesterday for the families of Polendey and three other women who died Monday in a crash. They were riding in the bed of a a truck with other farm workers when their driver swerved to avoid an oncoming car that was passing traffic illegally. Their truck collided with a cement truck.
Also killed were Lorna Laroco, 53, of 'Ewa Beach; Gertrudis Montano, 59, of 'Ewa Beach; and Ana Sacalamitao, 46, of Waipahu. All four women were thrown from the truck. Eight other people were injured.
Police continue to search for the driver of the sedan that caused the accident.
The Filipino Community Center's benefit combined the fundraising with an already scheduled program and performances to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Filipino farm workers in Hawai'i.
Toy Arre, president of the FilCom Center, said although the fundraising effort had only been announced a few days earlier, nearly $3,000 in checks had arrived in the mail.
A jar by the door held several hundred more bills and checks. Pledges of more money had been made, and some of the mail had not been opened.
Emme Tomimbang, who helped plan the fundraiser, said the money will be used to help the families take the victims' bodies home to the Philippines.
Cruz and Polendey's husband of 40 years, Ricardo Polendey, thanked the 300 people gathered.
The Polendeys have five adult children and 11 grandchildren. Their son, Rex, lives in Hawai'i. Their daughters and grandchildren are in the Philippines.
The night before Aquilina died, Ricardo heard her on the phone to her daughters, pledging to help outfit the grandchildren with school supplies.
Aquilina worked hard as a farm worker, sometimes picking watermelons nearly too large for her to lift, to help support her family, family members said.
"My wife had plenty of dreams," Ricardo said.
Ana Sacalamitao also helped to support her family back home, said her brother, Arsenio Sacalamitao, who thanked the community on behalf of their family.
Ana was single, and a happy, generous woman who helped to care for her mother and her nieces and nephews, he said.
"She was well liked by everyone who met her," he said.
Cruz glanced at the jar of donations as she and her family discussed plans to return home for prayers last night.
"I told my aunt and uncle when they came here, nearly eight years ago, that the Filipino community always helps in a crisis," she said.
Reach Karen Blakeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.