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'We'll take dad's ashes home' - siblings orphaned by virus

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Miguel Plancga

Miguel Plancga

Mikee Plangca and her siblings Chekie, Michael and John hold a photo of their father

Mikee Plangca and her siblings Chekie, Michael and John hold a photo of their father

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Miguel Plancga

Four siblings left orphaned by Covid-19 are planning to take their father's ashes home to his native Philippines once restrictions on air travel ease.

Miguel Plancga (55) died in May, leaving his children orphaned. Their mother Gilceria passed away from cancer six years ago.

He worked night shifts at the Birdseye Ireland plant in Naas, Co Kildare, and had moved to Ireland from the Philippines 20 years ago in search of a better life.

"We are still dealing with the shock of it all," his 21-year-old daughter Mikee told the Herald this week.

"We are doing OK. Dad had been sick for about a week in the house, with a cough and what he thought was a cold and then he ended up in ICU. He spent nearly six weeks there before he died."

Coping

Together with her siblings Michael (19), John (14) and Chekie (12), Mikee is left with no living parents.

Since their father's death, the siblings have been living with their aunt Fely, who followed in her brother's footsteps and moved to Ireland herself in 2009.

She later married an Irish man and settled in Naas, where she works as a childminder.

"We have been trying to cope as best as we can," said Mikee.

"We had our father cremated in the hope that we can bring him to the Philippines once we can fly again and lay him to rest beside our mother. It's important that part of the process is done.

"We still want to live our lives in Ireland and complete our education here as our father wanted."

A GoFundMe page set up to support Mikee and her siblings in the aftermath of their father's death has raised close to €300,000.

The money will be held in trust for the children until it is needed.

"In the meantime we are hoping to get a small modular home installed next to our aunt's house," said Mikee.

"Her husband, my uncle, has space on the site and that's where we want to be. She (Fely) is in the process of applying for guardianship of my younger siblings so that is keeping us busy.

"We have had a huge outpouring of support, with the donations and the well-wishes of so many and that has shown us the generosity of the Irish people.

"We lost our father and the memories of that are very painful, but this is where our home is."

Mr Plangca became ill with a cough and a temperature in March. He was later admitted to hospital where he spent 41 days in ICU.

Last year, the Green Isle pizza manufacturing site in Naas where Miguel worked, was bought by Birdseye.

Colleagues at the plant, where Mr Plangca was on night shifts on the packaging line, remember him as a kind and gentle colleague.

When he became ill in March, the local Filipino community stepped in to look after his young family.

Mr Plangca became an Irish citizen in 2015 and his children resided in Ireland as his dependents.

"We want to stay here in Ireland because this is now our home but we don't know what will happen," said Mikee.

"It's what we want, especially for my brother Michael, who has special needs. We have friends here and we are part or a community," she added.