Trailblazing Filipina Cynthia Barker, mayor of UK town, dies

Filipina-British Mayor Cynthia Alcantara Barker of Hertsmere, Hertfordshire county in England died due to a "serious illness" on Monday, September 14.

Her family announced Barker's death in a statement shared by her brother, Gene Alcantara, on Facebook.

“It is with extreme sadness that we announce the passing of The Worshipful Hertsmere Mayor Councilor Cynthia Barker following a bout of serious illness,” the family said.

“We will be issuing further information in due course, but may we ask please to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time,” the family added. 

Trailblazer, role model

The Hertsmere Borough Council paid tribute to Barker, who was appointed as Hertsmere mayor in June. Prior to her appointment, she served as deputy mayor in 2019, and was a borough councilor for Borehamwood’s Kenilworth ward since her historic election in 2015.

“She was the first Philippines-born elected representative in the borough, extremely proud of her heritage and committed to doing her utmost to champion equality and diversity for all our communities in Hertsmere. She was also chosen as one of the 100 most influential Filipinas by the Filipina Women’s Network,” the council said in a statement on the Hertsmere website.

Councilor Morris Bright MBE, the leader of the council, said that “nothing was ever too much” for Barker.

“She thrived at being a local councilor, always wanting to help residents with their issues. She left a lasting impression on the council and Borehamwood,” he said.

“We are all struggling to take in the sad news at the moment but I am sure we will all remember Cynthia as a kind, wonderful person who was a hard working community representative. My thoughts and prayers go out to Cynthia’s family and friends,” he added.

Councilor Jeremy Newmark, leader of the Labor group, said Barker was  “a trailblazer and role model for women and minorities in local government.”

“She brought grace and dignity to the office of Mayor but was always approachable and down to earth, particularly when engaging with children and young people.  Her commitment to charitable causes, notably the NSPCC and the Rotary Club, was relentless. May her memory continue to inspire us all,” Newmark said.

The NSPCC refers to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

OFW's daughter

Barker was born and raised in San Pablo City, Laguna, and moved to the UK with her family to join their mother, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW). She has 4 siblings.

“[My mother] made the same sacrifice that most OFWs make, sent all her money home while she worked long hours to ensure that the family was well-fed and educated,” Barker had said in an interview with the Filipino Expat.

According to her profile on the Hertsmere website, Barker – a Hertsmere resident for 29 years – served as town councilor for Elstree and Borehamwood and borough councilor for Potters Bar from May 2015 to May 2019.  (READ: First Filipino borough councilor elected in UK)

In May 2019, she was reelected to Hertsmere to represent the Borehamwood Kenilworth ward. – Rappler.com