Surrey man dies of lung cancer while his brothers wait for visitor visas

Posted by admin on May 20th, 2008

Catherine Rolfsen. Vancouver Sun. Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Faustino Vinluan, a 72-year-old Filipino immigrant living in Surrey, died Saturday after urging Canadian immigration officials to allow his brothers visas to visit him before he dies. If the two Filipino brothers of a Surrey man are granted visitor visas to travel to Canada this week, it will be for his funeral, not for their longed-for final goodbye. Faustino Vinluan, a 72-year-old Filipino immigrant, died Saturday of lung cancer, surrounded by his extended family.

But two people were missing: Vinluan had been fighting to stay alive long enough to see his brothers again.

“He was trying to hang on longer,” said his daughter-in-law Rica Vinluan in an interview Monday. “He kept on asking, ‘Are they coming now?’ “

He succumbed to his illness just days before the brothers expected to receive visitor visas, after having their initial applications rejected.

“They are going to go to a funeral,” Rica Vinluan said. “It’s a shame, because had that initial application gone through, he would have spent at least a couple of months with them.”

When Faustino Vinluan was diagnosed with terminal cancer in January, his brothers Juan and Marcelino applied to Citizen and Immigration Canada for a six-month visit, sponsored by Vinluan’s son.

Their request was denied, and the family learned through their local MP’s office that the government feared the brothers would try to stay in Canada indefinitely.

But they persisted, reapplying for visas to the Canadian Embassy in Manila, and enlisting the support of MLA Dave Hayer, and MPs Nina Grewal and Hedy Fry.

Last Thursday night, the brothers reported the hopeful news that they had been asked to come to the embassy on Monday with their passports and the visa fee.

Although they had no confirmation that the applications had been accepted, the family was sure this meant they were on their way.

By press time Monday, the brothers had not yet found out whether they would receive visas, and officials with Citizen and Immigration Canada could not confirm the results of their applications.

At any rate, the decision came too late. “In the last week, he just said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to see them. I don’t think I can wait,'” Rica Vinluan said.

On Friday night, Faustino Vinluan was admitted to Surrey Memorial Hospital with difficulty breathing.

By Saturday, he was unconscious and the doctor didn’t think he would make it through the day. About 30 people — children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and his wife of more than 45 years — came to his bedside.

“We basically said our goodbyes in his ear,” Rica Vinluan said. “My mother-in-law went to the hospital and she finally said to him, ‘If you’re too tired, you can go.’ And it was not too long after that that he stopped breathing”

The family broke the news to the brothers that evening. Rica Vinluan said they still hope to receive permission to travel to Canada for his funeral, which has tentatively been planned for next Monday.

Rica Vinluan said she’s frustrated that the immigration system’s bureaucracy denied her father-in-law his final wish.

“They should treat emergency applications with more importance, with more significance,” she said. “It’s sad, because dad could have spent the last two months with his brothers and at peace, and not fighting this.”

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