Strangers come together to send elderly Filipino home

Published May 17, 2021, 11:26 AM

by Jaleen Ramos

Five months after strangers found him, Marcelino Cofinco was finally able to go back to his home in the Philippines.

Photo courtesy of John Sunglao/ MANILA BULLETIN

Cofinco was left with no family in the United States after his brother passed away two years ago.

He rented a room from a non-Filipino family who allegedly took his pension money, forcing him to beg on the streets.

“Hindi maganda ang trato sa akin. Pumunta ako sa Filipino food (restaurant) dito sa Pioneer ( I was not treated well. I went to a restaurant offering Filipino food here at Pioneer),” Cofinco said in a report from Balitang America.

And then he met John Sunglao who later changed his life.

“Sabi ko kay John, ako ay may problema. Gusto ko umalis doon sa tinitirhan ko (I told John, I have a problem. I want to leave the place where I was staying),” Cofinco said.

Sunglao said it all started when he ran into Cofinco at American Ranch in California.


“All he was asking for was four dollars,” he said.

Sunglao set up a “Reunite Lolo Marcelino Cofinco With His Family” campaign in February to raise money to help Cofinco. A Southern California group on Facebook also joined hands to support Cofinco in the past five months.

Aside from the financial support, they also managed to track down Cofinco’s only daughter who is living in the Philippines whom he has not seen in six years, the report said.

Cofinco’s flights continued to get cancelled amid the pandemic. Fortunately, a travel agency reportedly stepped in to secure him a plane ticket.

Photo courtesy of John Sunglao/ MANILA BULLETIN

In a Facebook post, Sunglao said Cofinco originally attempted to board a flight home in February last year but was denied boarding due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

With the help of the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles, Cofinco received dual citizenship to comply with the requirements for him to travel back to the Philippines.

His second attempt, however, also failed as flight cancellations were made due to the tighter travel restrictions to the Philippines.

“So, we took advantage of this extra time and got him fully vaccinated, paid off all his outstanding loans, got his finances in order, visited the optometrist and got him some new glasses, visited the ophthalmologist, visited the Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat (EENT) doctor, and took some much needed R&R at the beach,” Sungalo wrote in his post.

Cofinco finally made it on his third attempt.

On May 6, Sunglao happily announced that Cofinco finally made his way back to his family in the Philippines.

“We are sad to see him go, but happy to see him back where he belongs… HOME! And just in time to spend his 91st birthday with his daughter and her family for the first time, together! THANK GOD and THANK YOU!,” he said.