Tell us about yourself.
What influenced you to become a nurse and eventually a nurse leader? I am a grateful nurse leader who came from humble beginnings. My story most likely parallels many of the stories of your readers. I was born in Cebu, Philippines and my family immigrated to the United States in 1986. We ended up in Illinois where a former nursing classmate of my mother invited all five of us to stay in the basement of their home for two weeks until we found an apartment. Most apartment complexes have a rule that allows only 2 people per bedroom and only same-sex siblings in the bedroom. The landlord in our apartment complex was nice enough to allow us to rent a more affordable 2-bedroom apartment as long as we “hid” my brother!
Looking back, I would say that was probably one of the most exciting and scariest time of our life as a family. We were given a clean slate but yet it was unclear what lies ahead for our family’s future. My brother, sister and I will never be able to thank my parents enough for the sacrifices they took and for leaving life as they know it in the Philippines and come here to ensure a better life for all us.
Without a doubt, my parents have been the most powerful influence in my life. They instilled in the three kids at an early age the value of hard work, being grateful for our blessings, and giving back to the community. They never told us what to do, but we know to do our best at whatever path we chose. I think it was my childhood upbringing that really solidified my desire to become a nurse at a young age. My mother was a public health nurse at Mabolo Health Center and my father was an engineer and a land surveyor. During the summer break and on weekends, I had an opportunity to either go with my mother to the clinic or with my father to wherever remote province he worked at.
I enjoyed the time I spent at the health clinic and the outdoors. At the health center, I hung out in the waiting room and played with other kids while their parents saw the nurse, doctor or dentist. I was the official taste tester of the food whenever the nurses hosted “Nutrition Day” and they cooked and showed the mothers in the community how to make healthy meals from vegetables grown in their yard. I also went with the nurses on home visits and spent many afternoons playing with the kids in their home while the nurses provided care to the homebound patient. As a nurse in the community, it was not unusual for us to hear a knock on our door in the middle of the night and my mom had to go to a neighbor’s house to deliver a baby or be the first one to assess an elderly neighbor who is sick.
On the other hand, I always looked forward to the outdoor activity that my father’s work brought. In a country where land is inherited from one generation after another, he was often called to divide the land that was to be passed down to the children. I joined him and his apprentices as they traveled throughout Cebu in our 4×4 Jeep Willy’s and navigating through steep mountain terrains, crossing rivers and creeks and getting areas that can only be reached on foot. While he and the men carried poles, coils of measuring tape and other instruments…my sole role on these trips was to carry the client’s file. A job I took very, very seriously. Once we get to the area where we need to be…I once again often hung out with the client’s family while my father and his men did their work. I played with the town’s children, climbing trees sometimes helped them with farm chores, watched the women cook in an outdoor wood stove with ingredients that were from the farm straight to the table.
It was through these visits to remote areas that I saw the difference between towns with access to health care and those that do not. In the mountain areas, where the nearest clinic might be 2 hours away…It was not unusual to see a child die from a fever of unknown origin, a teenager die because he couldn’t get vaccinated with a tetanus shot, several families getting stomach flu due to contaminated water. I saw as a child the difference that a group of nurses made in the slums of Mabolo and what impact they could have had in the remote areas of the island. These experiences left an indelible memory that made me want to become a nurse.
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