We do not need to look far to find a decent and honest man, some one who does what is needed because, simply put, it needs to be done. Whether it be providing for one’s family, staying true to one’s faith, and engaging wholeheartedly in one’s community as an immigrant and a new Canadian.
Ronald “Nonoy” Ordinario was such a man. Born in North Cotabato, he immigrated to Canada in 1999 as a young man in his early twenties to join his other siblings. He met his wife, Nie-Ann Amante, who, like many Filipino migrant women had come to Canada as a caregiver. Nie-Ann originally worked in Alberta and then moved to Vancouver. This was where they fell in love with each other, got married and became a family.
His tragic, sudden death left all of us shocked, in disbelief, and not a few thought it was someone’s idea of a bad joke only to realize much later that his death was indeed true. It was a bright sunny day along a service road in Richmond, at noon, when the bicycle he was riding collided with a dump truck.
Ron died on impact. His friend, who was cycling behind him, saw the entire death scene happen in front of him. When the police returned Ron’s cell phone to Nie-Ann, it had several photos of a smiling Ron in his biking gear, photos taken by his friend at a nearby park just twelve minutes before he met his death.
How does one explain a death like this? I don’t think anyone can. I certainly cannot. So it was with much distress when I heard one kababayan drop the ignorant and careless remark that “maybe he did not pray much.” That was annoying, silly and downright disrespectful. Nonoy and NieAnn were in the Couples for Christ (CFC) and Nonoy did not need to flaunt a deeply held faith! And even if he wasn’t praying, whatever God we believe in simply does not snatch you away because you forgot your prayers! Some people say it was his time in an effort to put some sanity in such a senseless accident. Maybe so, but it does not provide comfort to his widow or his two sons, Rainer (9), Rhyan (6) and Reanna, his three-month old baby girl.
The Ordinario and Amante family network wrapped the young widow and the children with the family blanket of support and protection right from the moment the heart-breaking news was delivered by the Vancouver police at NieAnn’s doorstep, much later that night of Nov 5th. The community gathered around as soon as the news hit home that the unknown cyclist reported in the media was that of someone they knew. The news had become a truly personal one.
That blanket of support grew longer and stretched even wider. Hastings Elementary School provided the two young sons with grief counseling and extended that to the young cousins who went to the same school for they lost a beloved uncle as well. The parents from the school visited Nie-Ann and came to the funeral services because they knew Ron and Nie-Ann and their own children knew their children as well. One of the them was Manjeet Chana, who together with Adrianna Teoh, a school staff who organized after-school programs, created a Memorial Fund online at www.gofundme.com (https://www.gofundme.com/ronaldordinario) last Nov 16 with an earlier goal of raising $7000 for Nie-Ann and the children. The monies donated were to go directly to Nie-Ann to help her take care of her family. In a few days, the original goal had been reached and thus was raised even higher. The outpouring of support came from people of all backgrounds, from beyond the small Filipino community, from beyond Vancouver.
Ron held three part-time jobs to support his family – as a school custodian with the Burnaby School Board, as an electronics assembler at the Data Network Assembly and as an office cleaner at night. Ron was the sole income earner, made even more significant because Nie-Ann was still recovering from post-partum complications, with a new baby to take care of. But he made time to spend with his wife and children and the children will always have those memories.
It was a full-packed church on Nov 14 when the people who knew Ron and Nie-Ann came to say their final good-byes during the funeral service at the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows. At the end of the service, everyone watched as the children released white balloons into the sky to say their goodbye.
Ron in his death brought together the many communities he worked in, engaged with, and played with when he was still alive. The images flashed on the screen inside the church held the proof that Ron was more than a kababayan who died way too early. Ron worked hard but he enjoyed life too. He belonged to the union of custodians at the school board. He biked with a Pinoy cycling group, he belonged to the “couples” as the CFC members are called, and he was an active member of Migrante BC right from the start, as a founding member, along with Nie-Ann, when it was launched in 2008. Ron was the commissioner. He belonged to the local church of Our Lady of Sorrows and would have been happy to know (from wherever he is) that Fr. Eduardo and two other sisters visited Nie-Ann and prayed with her, days before Ron’s body was released by the police. Ron was a man who had a huge heart and a ready smile.
His absence is felt in our community and all the people he touched. In death, as in life, it is not one’s racial background that shines, but one’s life. Ron was that kind of a person. He was a kind man, a responsible provider, a reliable friend, a brother and a son that would make any family proud, and an active member of Migrante BC – and Ron also happened to be one of our kababayan.
We wait for justice to be served. This is a small comfort to his family who has lost a husband and a father and who will never have him back. But it is comfort nonetheless.
Our deepest sympathies to NieAnn and her family, to Nanay Elsa and the Ordinario family.