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This article was published 2/3/2019 (732 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Through hard work, determination and a deep commitment to the service of others, Theresa Ilagan changed the lives of the people who crossed her path prior to her tragic death at 36.
Those who knew Ilagan remember her as a tireless nurse, entrepreneur, wife and mother, who had big plans for her future but always placed the needs of others before her own.
"She was a very kind person, not only to her immediate family, but to her friends here in Manitoba and also in the Philippines. She was a very thoughtful person," said her husband, Leandro Ilagan.
"I think of her sincerity and how she was helping others. Not only her family and friends and relatives, but also everyone she meets. That will be something I’ll always remember about her."
Ilagan (maiden name Galauran) was born Sept. 28, 1982, in Metro Manila, Philippines. She was one of six children.
In early 2009, she met Leandro in a bookstore in the Philippines while perusing the business section. He said he was immediately attracted to her, and struck up a conversation, thinking the two might have similar interests.
"Of course, I was attracted to her physical beauty and also because I found her very smart. And later on I found out she’s very affectionate and loving to her family and her loved ones; that was something that I really liked and loved about her," he said.
"I courted her, and a few months later we became girlfriend and boyfriend. But then after a few more weeks I learned she was moving to Canada to become a nurse in Manitoba."
Despite the short length of their relationship and the prospect of living in different countries, the two decided they were meant to be together. Ilagan settled in Virden in May 2009, and began working as a nurse at the Virden Health Centre.
During these early years, Leandro (still in the Philippines) and Ilagan would talk daily over Skype and make plans for their future, which included dreams of raising a family in Canada and starting their own businesses.
Ilagan travelled home in 2013 so they could be married. In 2015, she gave birth to their only child, a son named Lance, and the following year Leandro moved to Canada.
Between 2009 and 2017, Ilagan helped relocate nine family members (including four siblings) and three friends to Canada. Upon their arrival, she helped them establish their lives by finding work and places to live.
"All four of her siblings became registered nurses in Canada because of her help. She was very passionate about health care and helping other people. She helped a lot of people, the patients and their families," Leandro said.
In 2015, Ilagan started her own business, Elite Intellicare Staffing, a nursing agency that connects clients and families with health-care professionals and certified health-care workers.
She turned her company into a family business that — in addition to her siblings — employed roughly 300 contractors throughout the Prairie Mountain Health Region (which includes Brandon) and across the province.
The couple settled in Winnipeg and opened up a second business in the food distribution industry. After a lot of saving, they were able to build a home for their burgeoning family in 2018.
Given their success in Canada, Leandro said they felt a desire to give back in their home country.
"She was very driven and after we got married, we really planned a lot of things in our lives. We really planned to have our own businesses, but to also be able to help other people," Leandro said.
"We also had a goal of helping unfortunate kids in the Philippines. That’s one of the purposes that I’m going to continue of ours."
Despite her position as owner of the company, Ilagan still filled shifts as a nurse from time to time when there were staff cancellations.
On Dec. 27, 2018, a staff member dropped out of a shift at the last minute, so Ilagan decided to fill in. That morning, she kissed her husband and son goodbye, and began the multi-hour drive to work in the Prairie Mountain Health Region.
Along the way, however, she was involved in a fatal head-on collision with an ambulance between Gladstone and Neepawa. The RCMP believe poor road conditions were a factor in the crash.
"It’s really painful when she left us. We still had a lot of dreams in life. We wanted to help more people. I will really miss how she (took) care of our son... We’d just built our house three months ago. She loved this house, but unfortunately it was time for her to go," Leandro said.
"That morning, my son... woke up and he didn’t want his mom to go out and work. He was trying to force his mom to stay at home in bed."
Ilagan is survived by her husband and son, as well as family members she helped relocate to Canada and family in the Philippines.
Elite Intellicare Staffing remains in operation.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.