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Rey Vital, SIKAP's president for 38 years, dies of cancer

21 June 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap


Rey Vital kept SIKAP intact, strong and relevant for nearly 38 years

One of the most-loved Filipino community leaders in Hong Kong passed away yesterday, Jun 20, after a long bout with cancer.

Rey Vital, known to many in the community as the founder and leader of SIKAP (Samahan ng mga Nagkakaisang Pilipino), the oldest migrant workers’ group in Hong Kong, died less than two months after returning home to his hometown of Sta Ana, Pampanga.

He was 65.

He is survived by his wife Amy, a fellow migrant worker who worked with him in the same household in Hong Kong for decades; and their son, Reyniel, who was born in the city and is now a permanent resident here.


Unknown to many except for SIKAP members and some close friends, Rey had struggled with colorectal cancer for years, and had been through several rounds of treatment in Hong Kong hospitals.

But in-between his treatments, Rey always went back to driving for his employer, and when he was off, would go early to the Wanchai Tennis Court to book hard-to-come-by courts for his friends and fellow SIKAP members.

On Apr 25, he met with his SIKAP buddies at the Wong Nai Chung tennis grounds to say goodbye and for the first time since 1984, relinquished the group’s leadership to his longtime friend, Ben Bataller.


As he boarded the plane on his final return home on May 1, Rey told The SUN that his doctors had told him that they had done all they could for him. He was given three months to live.

Rey is survived by his wife Amy and their son, Reyniel

But ever energetic and feisty, he did not let the dire prognosis stop him from doing what he loved the most - which was tennis, and tennis coaching.

Fifteen days before he was rushed to hospital where he breathed his last, Rey was back in court for the first tennis clinic in his name co-organized by his friend and kabalen, actor Allen Dizon.

Though looking noticeably thinner and frail, Rey could be seen in photos taken at the event intently giving pointers to the young participants, and even standing up to throw them balls and correct their stance.


Dizon was to post after being told of Rey's death: "You will be missed, koy (short for koya, or brother). Dakal sa salamat, koy." (Thank you very much, brother).

Rey (in blue) coaching young tennis enthusiasts in his hometown on Jun 8

Eight days after the tennis clinic, a visit by some of his best friends from SIKAP who are now all back in the Philippines, reportedly left Rey teary eyed. He was so beside himself with joy that he ordered them the best Pampango dish he could get at short notice, and even arranged a visit at a nearby park near Mt Arayat.

This was vintage Rey, always generous, both with his time and resources, and always making sure people around him were well-fed and comfortable.

One of his visitors was Jo Campos, who along with three other ex-migrant workers who used to be with SIKAP, were known to be especially close to Rey.

Press for details

Jo said Rey again reminded her how happy and proud he was to have been proved right about her writing skills. It was Rey who got Jo to write about their group’s events for  The SUN, not because he wanted the publicity but more to push her to write more regularly.

O di ba, hindi tayo napahiya?” Rey again remembered to tell Jo. (So, you did not me embarass me after all).

Remembering that visit, Jo said in a Facebook post Monday, “Last year, a day before my birthday I lost my sister. Today, a day after my birthday, I lost my bff Kuya Rey Vital. He was an inspiration to many. A kind hearted and selfless leader who untiringly shares his knowledge in tennis, and to be a better person.

“He once told me that I will be a better writer than a tennis player. It was true. (But I still learned to play tennis as much as I could). He introduced me to the editor and publisher of The SUN who took me under their wings and trained. (Later) he would sometimes tease me, saying ‘parang nagsisisi ako na pinakilala kita sa The SUN kasi hindi mo na ako naalala puntahan dito sa SIKAP.



“Rest well in the arms of our creator. I love you, bff.”

Another member of the group that came to be known as SIKAP’s Fab Four, Liza Cortes, wrote: “I am grateful to have been one of Kuya Rey’s friends in life…a father figure, a mentor in tennis, my closest confidant.

“You were so beautiful inside-out. Death snatched you away from us who love you, and we could only watch helplessly. Someone who is so kind and selfless like you could have stayed a little bit longer…I wish you never had to leave this early.”

This visit by Jo, Liza, Jen and Weng from SIKAP left Rey in tears

Another of his dear friends is Lester Esquilona, who has just been elected as vice-president of SIKAP.

Lester wrote: “Rey Vital is my kuya, my best friend, mentor and coach. Most of all, he was a very good leader of one of the oldest Filipino community organizations here in Hong Kong.”

Ben Bataller, who takes over the helm at SIKAP, was one of the pioneers of SIKAP, and had been with Rey throughout all its ups and downs. He said: “SIKAP was born through the hard work of Rey Vital. Rey was an excellent leader who was well-liked. He was one of a kind and worked towards the good of everyone. We have survived this long as an organization because of him.

“We the SIKAP family are mourning the loss of our great leader. Kuyang, we will miss you a lot. As the new president of SIKAP, I am asking our members around the world to offer a prayer for our late leader. Pare, may you rest in peace.”

Equally poignant was a post from Baba Gozum, a longtime resident and Rey's kabalen who has now resettled back in the Philippines.

He wrote: “Dear Koyang Rey, you took me under your wings like a little brother and made my initial stint in Hong Kong bearable.

I grieve with the thought that another beautiful soul is now gone, but at the same time, a piece of me silently shouts in glee for another angel will be welcomed in heaven.

We will be praying for you as you also pray for Ate Amy, Reyniel and the countless OFWs whose lives you’ve touched, when you’re up there.

Farewell, Koyang. You will be missed. Rest easy.”


A memorial mass in Rey’s honor will be said by Fr Jay Flandez, chaplain for Filipinos, at St Joseph’s Church on Garden Road, Central this Sunday, Jun 26, at 1pm. Please help us celebrate his life.


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