Angelo Tuyay lost his life while saving the lives of others — and for that he is being hailed as a hero.
The word “hero” was used in many of the tributes made about Mr Tuyay at requiem Masses at St Mark’s church in Pakuranga on October 15 and October 20. Mr Tuyay, 59, died at Hotwater Beach on the Coromandel on October 14, after he went to the aid of two girls in difficulty in the water.
He reportedly pushed the girls closer to the shore and others hauled them to safety, but when they looked back for him, he was underwater.
There were attempts lasting nearly an hour to resuscitate him on the beach.
Media coverage of his death, which included thanks from the family to those who tried to save him, sparked debate about the funding and provision of surf-lifesaving services and also about communications with emergency services.
Mr Tuyay, who came to New Zealand from the Philippines in 1989, was a farmer near Ngatea on the Hauraki Plains, where, according to his twin brother Peter, he farmed a variety of animals, including quails.
“He had a green thumb for animals,” Peter Tuyay told NZ Catholic.
At the requiem Masses, friends and family described a man who was loyal, generous, hospitable, hard-working, down-to-earth and funny.
“Through our entire marriage, he always found a way to make me smile,” Charina Tuyay said of her late husband at the October 20 Mass.
“He always told me that life is short — that we need to do now what we can do as we never know when we will be called by our master.
“But honestly, I thought you were just making that your excuse for you to be able to go seconds on your sweets and pork crackling.” This comment brought ripples of laughter from the congregation.
“So Dad, you may not have been perfect in everything,” Charina Tuyay said, “but you always had your perfect love for us.”
“We may not have seen everything eye to eye, but what mattered to us, at the end of the day, we always walked hand in hand.”
“When you add the number of nights that Angelo and I had been apart during our entire marriage, this would only have been a handful, because we have always been together.”
Mrs Tuyay spoke of leaving their home in Ormiston in Auckland so Angelo could fulfil a dream of having a bigger farm.
“Thank you for loving me so much and for giving me such a beautiful family,” she concluded.
Angelo Tuyay’s three sons also spoke at the October 20 Mass.
“The way Dad passed was a true testament of who he was as a person,” said Aaron Tuyay, his second oldest son. “He went to others as if they were his own.”
“Dad, it hurts so much,” said Andrew Tuyay, the oldest son, “it’s not fair, but you lived a good life, and you made a positive impact on many lives, and to be honest, I didn’t know you had so many friends.”
Andrew thanked his father for showing him how to be a good Dad to his own son Noah. Family members repeatedly thanked people for the support given since Angelo Tuyay’s death.
At the second requiem, Peter Tuyay spoke of their early lives in the Philippines, how the twins would “cover” for each other in youthful adventures and of other humorous incidents.
At the October 15 Mass, Pakuranga parish priest Fr Oliver Aro, MSP, spoke of knowing Angelo when Fr Aro was stationed in Coromandel/Hauraki Plains.
“He was a man who gathers the scattered people,” Fr Aro said of Angelo, describing the way he would gather young Filipino men and couples working on local farms to meet in his home.
“And tonight he gathers us together as well — we came from different places, but we are here. He gathers us together — that is his nature.”
At the later requiem, Fr Valerian D’Souza, OFMCap, parish priest of Coromandel Peninsula and Hauraki Plains parishes, spoke of Angelo’s passing as a “great loss” for the parish and the district.
This was because of the liaison role he played with the local Filipino farming community.
Angelo was a local resource person for Couples for Christ, Fr D’Souza said.
He is understood to have been one of the early promoters of the organisation in New Zealand.
Fr D’Souza said the message he had from Angelo was: “Before we expire, we need to aspire to inspire”.
Although he was involved in CFC (Couples for Christ), “today he is HFC — hero for Christ”, Fr D’Souza said.