Wednesday, May 11, 2011


For someone who shunned attention, Zenia Castillo is going home quietly inside a diplomatic pouch bound for Manila.

Castillo’s decomposing body was found about two months after she was believed to have died between Dec. 6 and 10 last year, inside her Northwest DC condominium. The remains were in such a bad state, it took medical examiners over two weeks to confirm her identity, issue a death certificate and release her body.

It was cremated free of charge by Rendon Hill Funeral Homes in Maryland. “I’ve been in the business for quite awhile and I found out that certain communities need help,” said its owner Richard Rendon, adding “It makes me feel good.”

Castillo was a naturalized American and lived alone in Washington DC for over two decades. Her only known relative is a niece in California that she’s never met. She worked as a caregiver in a Chevy Chase, MD retirement home.

Her ashes will be turned over to Philippine Embassy lawyer Sofronio “Loy” Cortel and will be delivered by diplomatic pouch to the Office of Migrant Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.

“Because she was an American citizen there has to be someone from the Philippines, a member of her family who should request for the ashes to be sent back home. The family can claim the remains at the DFA or delivered to them,” explained Grace Valera of the Migrant Heritage Commission.

She explained they did the same thing for the remains of Filipino nurse Rey Cabanban, who died from cancer just weeks after arriving in the US and before he could start working for a DC area hospital.

Yden Ayap, her only known friend, said she last talked to Castillo before Thanksgiving because she went on vacation in the Philippines. A Fil-Am neighbor, Perfecto Paras of the Filipino Community of the Most Blessed Sacrament, tried to have building administrators break her door but was rebuffed because only Ayap was listed as contact person.

“All I knew she had a thyroid condition but she was taking medication for that. She worked evenings and had a part-time job during the day,” Ayap recalled.

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