By: Melody Garcia
It is with a heavy heart that EXQUISITE International Magazine write a tribute piece, commemorating the life and legacy of a friend to our and our sister publication, Manila Up! International Magazine’s passing. The story broken on international news circuits report that the late Worshipful Hertsmere Mayor Councillor Cynthia Barker passed away suddenly mid-September due to a serious illness. The outpouring of condolences has left the writing staff – that have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing her – emotional, and so they channel that emotion into heartfelt recollection; celebrating her life and the time they spent together.
MAY HER LIFE SONG SING TO YOU:
A SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO CYNTHIA BARKER AND THE LEGACY SHE LEAVES BEHIND.
“Hi everyone, my name is Mayor Councillor Cynthia Barker from the United Kingdom. Keep making a difference in this world!” This was the last message I had recorded on my cell phone of her from when we met in London back in July 2019. Taking that moment into consideration, the world now has seemingly halted after hearing the news that this game changer – who broke glass ceilings and shattered impossibilities on her journey to becoming the first British Filipino Mayor – was called to her final resting place on September 15, 2020. The news sent shockwaves of disbelief and sadness through those who knew her personally, through the community she loved serving, and throughout the heritage she so fiercely represented; the Filipino culture.
Global media outlets summed-up her career and accolades. Having met her last year, I can confirm that she was indeed “everyone’s friend”, as stated by her 30-year friend Jowee Morel; a film director, producer, and cinematographer. Cynthia Barker had a presence about her; she was soft spoken, kind, graceful, and possessed a melodic laugh. Everything about her was grounded in humility, and had a heart centered on leadership. Her joy came from being able to serve and show up as needed – and beyond that – even when least expected. Why just a few short weeks ago, despite having responsibilities that demanded her attention, she still managed to carve out time to join a virtual Zoom meeting (which I was a speaker at), representing the United States at a Global Women Empowerment summit. I was surprised she had attended, but moreover, she sent me a private message: “I wouldn’t miss this for the world”. That’s why her death hits home so hard. She gave what she didn’t have much of…her time. “Keep Breaking Barriers and Speak truth with grace and own your journey” she encouraged.
Last November 2019, Cynthia had asked me to mentor her in one of her biggest speech deliveries she was to present at Oxford University, with some of their prestigious alumni and members of the British Parliament present. It was one of my most humbling experiences; that she – in all her power – was asking me to help her prepare, review, and rewrite her speech. She reassured me, “You are the best in this field”. Months later I became a part of her legacy. From her Oxford delivery to my own Harvard presentation, in just three months she had inadvertently passed the torch. She recognized something within me from our first meeting; “Here lies another game changer, another glass ceiling breaker”, and from there we were interconnected. It felt as if we were paving the way for others to rise to their own calling. And now, I invite you to know her beautiful legacy left behind, via excerpts from her speech delivered that I had co-written:
I am my Mother’s Daughter, and that’s my story! “It is important for me to acknowledge my late mother who traveled from the Philippines to the United Kingdom in 1970s as an overseas Filipino worker. She paid the ultimate price for going abroad; separating from the family, leaving us five young children behind, to give us an opportunity to have a better future. She left her motherland, her children, and although it broke her heart to do so, she had to keep her eye on their future so she sought a job overseas, going through many missed birthdays and holidays so she can provide for their future. I will always have the utmost respect for migrants; her dedication and sacrifices led the way for me and the future generation to become the leader that I am in local government.”
MY LEADERSHIP GOAL
“My goal is to leave a legacy of impact that would help transform lives and create a wave of new leaders to emerge to carry the mission forward. […] It’s probably cliched but I want to be remembered for making a difference and I want to make a difference; being British Filipino I am the first among 350,000 in this country to have been involved in local politics, and [who has] returned to an elected position of Councillor back in 2015 and again in 2019. Since then I have been elected as Deputy Mayor of Hertsmere. […] It is so easy to just keep going and performing continuously, it is clearly vital to take a breather now and then to consider what one has been done so far, review it and make adjustments as necessary. I’d like to think that I’m in fact making a difference, inspiring other women not just in my community but in the black and ethnic minority communities to integrate and reach for their dreams.”
My final thoughts, as it is hard to close this chapter and just move forward after knowing her physical presence is no longer in this world, is this: time is a gift that no one should ever take for granted. Let your last words always be in kindness and love. Let your life mean something bigger than your perceived limitations. Dare to defy the odds and stand up for those who can’t. Speak for those who aren’t able to as a humanitarian advocate. Dare to make a difference. Do all of these things in love, the way God created you to be; the way Cynthia Barker dared leave her legacy. She did make a difference, and what an incredible and unforgettable difference at that; making everyone feel that their existence and voice matters. She lived beyond the accolades. She loved deeply. She was a loyal friend. She was a tenacious leader and visionary. Above all, she completed her purpose. “Cynthia Barker epitomized the Proverbs 31 woman “.
A STRONG WOMAN IN A PETITE BODY
By: Gilda Pineda Dionela
As I sat across from the woman of the hour, I said to her “I can’t believe that a beautiful Filipina; short, brown-skinned, with a tiny body, is able to cope with all of the energy and wit required to perform all of the tasks on your shoulders”. She responded, “My background helped me a lot. I studied Industrial Engineering in the Philippines…”, and then our interview began. That is how I got to know her. Cynthia Barker, the first Philippine-born elected representative in British politics, rocked and shocked the borough of Hertsmere and Filipinos all over the world with her sudden demise. She was formally appointed as The Worshipful Hertsmere Mayor Councillor for the 2020- 2021 year on 24 June 2020.
It was the night of 14 September 2020 that a friend sent me a message, asking if the breaking news she had just read about the death of The Worshipful Mayor Councillor Cynthia Barker was true. I said, “It cannot be true, we exchanged text messages just recently. And it is too embarrassing to send her text message now about the issue. I am sure it is just fake news”. Then I read a Facebook post by her brother, Gene Alcantara: “following a bout of serious illness” – that was when I realized it was true. That is how Cynthia Barker will be remembered. A low profile personality who was always ready to reply to any questions that you have; a successful servant in her community, passionate in promoting unity and diversity for all parts of Hertsmere, and most importantly, who championed the campaign for all Filipinos to integrate into British Society as a show of gratitude for the land that we considered a home away from home.
She managed to keep any personal challenges she faced to herself, so as not to burden anyone else – especially her loved ones. She had a short but fully-lived life, not for herself, but for her family and others. Our sister publication Manila Up! International Magazine featured her two times; citing her detailed achievements, beliefs, activities, and family life. She was a strong woman in a petite body, yes! While it is true that she is no longer with us on this earth, her strong legacy and what she was fighting for lives on. For us left behind, it is a reminder that it is not about how long you’re around, but the longevity of what you’re really fighting and living for while on earth that matters. Our prayers go out to her family and friends during this difficult time.
By: Mark Anthony King
God scripted cosmic collision.
A desperately necessary and divine mission.
Faith and determination did spark….
The inspiring life of a powerful woman….
who’d one day leave an equally powerful and inspiring mark.
A dazzling destiny, your pure light illuminated and blinded the dark.
Embodying your Kingdom purpose, boldly and gracefully you set sail.
Owning your truth, this passion ended stigmas and your legacy blazed a brilliant trail.
A burning commitment to humanity, you stood in your purpose fully ready.
And when the time came to move nations, your message was powerful.
Your voice was steady.
Breaking through barriers and shattering ceilings.
You sent injustice recoiling and the ungodly reeling.
Empowering words, blanketing humanity with the warmest of feelings.
You offered your wisdom and strength for others to borrow.
Yet, this absence is pained.
Both community and race plagued with the pain of your loss.
Tears giving away a collective grief and a heartfelt sorrow.
Longing for your luminous presence.
That brilliant smile that filled hearts with faith.
Your message of hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.
May you rest in paradise, peace, and power.
Nourished by God’s love, as a wildflower rejoices in an afternoon summer shower.
With our love you go, into the great ever after.
Because now it’s heaven’s turn…..
To experience the depth of your compassion.
The magic of your spirit.
And the beautiful music that is your laughter.
God Bless you Cynthia.