With outpouring of aloha, friends remember slain woman as a selfless public servant

Teresita Canilao worked for many years at the Philippine Consulate in Honolulu and the Filipino community she served bid her aloha.
Published: Oct. 15, 2022 at 7:46 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 16, 2022 at 8:59 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dozens gathered Saturday to remember the life of a 76-year-old woman brutally murdered, allegedly by her estranged husband.

Teresita Canilao, or Tessie as many called her, worked for many years at the Philippine Consulate in Honolulu, and the Filipino community she served bid her aloha.

A solemn memorial was held at the Co-Cathedral of Saint Theresa in Kalihi, a church Canilao visited almost daily.

The Philippine Consul General and those who knew her spoke of her selflessness, in spite of suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

“Her selfless focus on others and her genuine humble desire to accommodate them helped so many to feel at home,” she said.

Canilao’s children could not attend in person and watched via Zoom, her daughter Mary Francis Schwartz shared words that were read aloud.

“She believed in everyone, and in the virtue of mankind, even those for whom forgiveness may be hard to justify,” read Grace Bulos, consul for the Philippine Consulate of Honolulu.

“We must all take comfort in the belief that she is at peace.”

Friends say she was a devout Catholic, a kind and compassionate soul who touched many lives, which makes her brutal death even tougher to understand.

“There was an outpouring of love and aloha for her. We needed this, we needed to gather together to mourn, but at the same time to celebrate her life,” said friend and state senator Bennette Misalucha.

For many Filipinos in Hawaii, “Ate Tessie” was the older sister who cared for everyone, a pillar of strength but always humble.

“You don’t have to be this person in the forefront to have an influence. I think she was behind the scenes. And yet, she left her mark,” said Misalucha, calling Canilao a quiet influencer who guided many diplomats over five decades.

And while those who knew her prefer to remember who she was — and not how she died — they hope other domestic violence victims speak out so she did not die in vain.

“People are silent. But I think that violence also brought us here together. So that violence has to end it should not waste we should not make her death unjust by being silent about that. So we should reach out to each other,” friend Carolyn Hildebrand said.

Rogelio Canilao awaits trial for murder and remains in jail.