Memory of Nestor Sulpico



This post is originally posted and created by:Nestor Burgos Jr.

AN ILONGGO who worked as taxi driver in New York and was recognized four years ago for returning $70,000 worth of black pearls left in his cab died here on Thursday from stomach cancer.

Nestor Sulpico, who was called “New York’s most honest taxi driver,” died at 51 years of age without fulfilling all his dreams. But to his family and those who knew him, Sulpico was a hero.

Sulpico drew international praise four years ago after he returned $70,000 worth of black pearls that a passenger left in the cab he was driving in New York City.

His mother Elena said Sulpico, who died at his home in Jaro District, Iloilo City was diagnosed with stomach cancer shortly after he returned home from New York in December last year.

“He was complaining of continuous stomach pains,” Elena told a telephone interview.

His 20-year-old daughter Angel by his estranged wife found him dead in their room Thursday morning.

Sulpico’s mother said Sulpico was preparing to return to New York to finish a nursing course.

“He had two subjects left and he had wanted to be a nurse so that he could bring Angel with him to the US,” said Elena.

Sulpico came to the US in 1990. He drove a taxi up to 16 hours daily to earn a living in New York.

But his fate changed on July 15, 2004, after he found the pearls inside a backpack left by hedge-fund manager Lawrence Policastro.

In an interview shortly after he found the pearls, Sulpico had said that, at first, he imagined how the jewels, worth nearly P4 million then, could change his life.

“I thought of the days when I was just roaming New York, shivering in the snow, desperately looking for a job.”

But Sulpico said that returning the jewels was one of the easiest decisions he ever made in his life. “I believe that honesty is the most important virtue which serves as a foundation of all other virtues.”

He called Policastro through the mobile phone he found in the backpack and told the businessman that he had the jewels.

The deed earned him praises from New Yorkers, who called him “New York’s most honest taxi driver” because taxi drivers in there were notorious for being discourteous and for over-charging their passengers, especially tourists.

Policastro had offered him a $500 reward, which Sulpico was reluctant to accept. The businessman also raised at least $5,000 for an educational fund to help the Filipino driver finish nursing studies at the Bronx Community College.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also gave him an “integrity award” and a symbolic key to the city.

Sulpico returned to a hero’s welcome in Iloilo.

The Senate passed a resolution commending his honesty and he received a citation and P100,000 in cash from President Macapagal-Arroyo.

Elena said his son did not have any regrets.

“He lived and died with the virtues that I taught them since they were children. Nothing changed him even after he became famous,” said the 88-year-old Elena.

In an interview four years ago, Sulpico said his feat fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a hero.

“I could not ask for more and even if I die, I feel that I have become a role model for the younger generations,” he said.



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