Ople family requests donations to migrant worker center in lieu of flowers
MANILA, Philippines — The family of the late Migrant Workers Secretary Maria Susana “Toots” Ople, 61, who died of breast cancer on Tuesday, has requested relatives and friends to donate cash to the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Center in lieu of flowers to push her personal legacy in helping and protecting Filipino workers abroad.
Hagonoy town Councilor Dalisay Ople-San Jose, elder sister of the secretary, said on Wednesday that supporting the policy center’s mission to assist distressed migrant workers would keep the legacy of her sister and their father “alive.”
“Flowers are very warm and sentimental but they just dry out so suddenly. Cash donations for the center will keep the legacy of both Secretary Toots and our father for the protection and interests of migrant workers,” San Jose said. The Ople family traces its roots to Hagonoy.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos were among the earliest visitors at the wake on Wednesday night at The Heritage Park in Taguig City.
The Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Center was founded by Toots on Aug. 23, 2004, in honor of her father, the former journalist and respected politician Blas F. Ople. The center marked its 19th anniversary on Wednesday.
During her last days, Toots delegated San Jose’s daughter, Diana, to succeed the secretary as the executive director of the center, according to San Jose.
Toots succumbed to stage 4 cancer at about 1 p.m. at St. Luke’s Hospital in Metro Manila. She was 61.
San Jose said that her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. She then recovered but the ailment recurred in 2022.
Before Toots passed away, the Ople family was still reeling from the deaths of her two brothers, Blas Ople Jr. and former Hagonoy Mayor and Board Member Felix “Toti” Ople on July 13 and 18, respectively, also due to cancer. Toots was the youngest of the seven children of Blas Sr., who died in 2003.
The eldest sibling, former Bulacan Board Member Raul Ople, also died of an ailment years ago.
On her social media account on July 19, Toots shared that she lost two brothers in a span of five days due to cancer.
Toots is survived by her three other siblings—San Jose, Luis, and Dionisio and daughter Susanne Laurie and her partner, Fort Jose.
The wake is being held at Heritage Memorial Park until Aug. 29. On Thursday, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Labor and Employment will hold a joint Night of Tributes and necrological service for Ople.
President Marcos earlier said Ople’s passing was a great loss to the country. Vice President Sara Duterte calls her a “beacon of hope and a source of strength for migrant workers.”