Carmelita Sideoco, 1935-2009
Pillar of the Filipino community
As a nursing instructor at Vanier college for 25 years, Carmelita Ongpauco Sideco was an energetic den mother to hundreds of Filipino-born nurses and nannies in Montreal. Active in the Filipino community, Sideco was founding president of the Phillipine Folk Art Society of Quebec and chairperson of the Montreal chapter of the Overseas Philippine Tourism Advisory Council.
She died of pneumonia at the Royal Victoria Hospital on Feb. 25, one month shy of her 74th birthday.
Carmelita Ongpauco was born in Nagcarlan, Laguna, in the Philippines on March 25, 1935. She was the second of three children in a school teacher's family. She obtained her nursing degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1955 and emigrated to the United States in 1958. In 1960, she came to Canada to work at St. Joseph's Hospital in St. John, N.B., before moving to Montreal's Jewish General Hospital in 1963, where she became assistant director of the hospital's school of nursing. After the Quebec government closed private hospital nursing schools in 1972, Sideco taught nursing at Vanier College.
At the same time, she continued her studies and received a diploma in Collegial Education from McGill University in 1987, before furthering her studies at the Université de Sherbrooke.
Cheerful and forever an optimist, her parish priest nicknamed her Miss Sunshine.
After she retired from Vanier in 1997, she became a consultant in community affairs and human resources. She was on the board of the University Women's Club, a founding member of the Filipino Nurses Association of Quebec, on the board of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, an executive member of the English Speaking Catholic Council of Montreal and a director of the Mount Royal Liberal Party association.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Irwin Cotler, the member of Parliament for Mount Royal, remembered Sideco as a trusted adviser on community health-care issues.
"She was one of the great and beloved pillars not only of the Filipino community but of the larger community of Quebecers and Canadians," said Cotler. "She personified the best of Filipino values of commitment, compassion, community service and selfless giving of herself for the well-being of others."
"Carmelita was a leader," he said later in a telephone interview. "She was a wonderful, kind, compassionate, committed and engaged woman."
Cotler said the Filipino community was the first ethnic community he spoke to after winning the riding in 1999 by-election, and ever since it is always the first constituency he visits after each election victory.
Sideco's son, Arne, said he remembers his mother as "being always on the phone. She had friends everywhere, her conversations were cross-cultural, cross-generational. She liked to provide leadership without being overstated. She operated under the radar, but she was an achiever."
Sideco leaves her husband of 48 years, Edgardo Sideco, a physiatrist, and four sons, Eric, Ian, Neil and Arne.
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