Saturday, December 1, 2012


I am as guilty as everybody else. I proclaim my preference for things that may be considered campy, embarrassing, and unsophisticated by some misguided souls.

The guilt is not from liking them, but in that perverse pleasure of adding color and uniqueness to my otherwise ordinary and strait-laced life. Somehow there is humor in shattering people's expectations as they realize that there are more to you than meets the eye. Life becomes more interesting when you do things outside the box.

Hahaha, I am a paradox. Layers of contradictions, some kind of a biological puzzle. I am thirty shades of surprises. I am me.


1. MAXINE- that crabby character from the Hallmark cards, who says what she wants when she wants. At this time in my life, I still have to filter my words and refrain from rolling my eyes at some absurd people, lest I offend someone. Or lose my job.

When the time is right, I want to be Nurse Maxine.

2. FAVORITE MOVIES- There are movies that just stay with you long after the credits had stopped rolling.

Airplane- was voted as the funniest movie of all time with three-laughs-a-minute rating, as per a recent survey by Love Film. This spoof disaster film starred Leslie Nielsen of the famed "I am serious and don't call me Shirley” quote.

Sleepless in Seattle- at least once a year, I watch this romantic comedy by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. When “Sam” talked about missing his departed wife, I joined the chorus of “Awwws” from the radio listeners. The movie sound track was terrific, even the song “Makin’ Whoopee”.

Big- another Tom Hank starrer. This is a feel-good family movie of a child who wanted to be a grown-up. And he ended up having fun with the piano at FAO Schwartz. Heart and Soul and Chopsticks.

Harry Potter- turned J.K. Rowling from a welfare mom to the richest woman in United Kingdom, even richer than the Queen. I am a bigger fan of the book, but the movies mesmerize me. Especially the scene when Neville Longbottom, who used to be bumbling and mediocre, turned into my new favorite when he decapitated the snake Nagini. That deserved my loud “YES” (and fist pump) at the theater which earned an embarrassed laugh from my son. Have I traumatized him for life?

3. MUSICALS- I have been very vocal about my unrealized dream as a singer. It started when I got hooked with musicals, whether on stage or in the movies. It’s like being transported in an alternate universe of songs.

Singing in the Rain always leaves a smile on my face. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. Absolutely top-notch dancing with the milk rain and umbrella-twirling and upturned couches. Jean Hagen was hilarious as the shrill-voiced Lana Lamont.

Other favorites- Sound of Music, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon

4. ABBA, a Swedish pop group provided the background music to my high school and college years. The group had long disbanded, but their music stood the test of time, thankfully, with tribute bands and the musical and movie “Mamma Mia.”

"I have a dream, a song to sing
To help me cope with anything
If you see the wonder of a fairy tale
You can take the future even if you fail
I believe in angels
Something good in everything I see."


Out of curiosity, to see what the hype is all about, I bought the book. Only Book 1; I don't have any interest for Books 2 and 3. Mommy-porn erotica does not appeal to me. Men with BDSM predilections scare me, even though Christian Grey is hot, hot, hot.(fans self)

What started as an e-book Twilight-based fan fiction by E.L. James became a run-away best-seller and had spawned a whole industry of BDSM products and copy-cat books, and now a musical.

Critics bash the writing as "abysmal and sophomoric". My inner goddess says those critics are just jealous because E.L. James just got lucky and is now a very, very rich woman.

And that’s what I am impressed with. Every author dreams of hitting it big. Erika Leonard James certainly had a roller-coaster year, with a movie in the works.

I also love the jokes that came out from this book.I just get perverse pleasure in seeing the shock on people's faces when I unleash my quirky sense of humor.

Overheard at the book store, two females in their 70's were discussing the merits of the book Fifty Shades. The ladies were nicely dressed and made-up, with bouffant blue-rinsed hair.
Lady#1: "This book reminds me of the good old days."
Lady #2: "Huh, speak for yourself. My playground is still active."
They both looked at me when I chuckled.
Me: "Good for you, lady."

Funny how you can get different reactions from the audience. We had a meeting one day with the ED leadership to discuss some changes in our electronic tracking board, with ten people in the room.
Chief: "We need to change the color of this new icon to gray."
MD: "Gray is boring."
Me: "There are fifty shades of gray."
Reactions (coughing, laughter, gasps of horror, surprise, confusion.)
Me: "Just kidding; just want to wake you up."

How can I hit it big when all I really want is to write innocent Harlequin-book romances?


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Funny Thanksgiving

On this Thanksgiving Day, especially after Hurricane Sandy, there is a need to give thanks for the simple things in life. For family and friends. For our health and safety. For everything else that God provides.

For those things that make us smile. And laugh out loud.

The irrepressible Maxine who says what she thinks. When I get to be her age, I will definitely relish doing exactly that, lol.

This is the real Norman Rockwell drawing-

And before we place the blame on the tryptophan for the "turkey coma", the culprit is really the serotonin effect of all the protein-fat combination or just the gluttonous excuse of the holiday. Or it could just be the alcohol. These poor turkeys don't have a chance.

This is the Brits' version of their Christmas turkey-

And this is why I don't even try to cook turkey. Hello Boston Market.

Addendum: Nov. 26, 2013

For the first time since 1888, the two holidays of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will converge. This marks the first joint celebration of the two holidays named THANKSGIVUKKAH. Enjoy the holiday with family and friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

INC Giving for Hurricane Sandy Victims

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. (Proverbs 3:27)

Nov. 10, 2012- FAR ROCKAWAY, NEW YORK- -

Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc to New York and New Jersey last October 29. In its aftermath, a trail of staggering destruction of lives and properties brought the two states to a grinding halt.

Two weeks later, the recovery efforts were still on-going.

While others had quickly recovered, there were still parts in Long Island, Queens, Staten Island, and New Jersey still without electric power. No heat, no light, no homes; their lives completely unraveled by nature.

Today, November 10, our church, the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) conducted relief efforts in Far Rockaway in Queens. It is the easternmost section of the Rockaway peninsula and had gotten its name from the Native American Munsee language which means “place of sands”.

As with any disaster, there was a pervading atmosphere of gloom and devastation in the Rockaway area. Ruined cars were abandoned on the streets. Litters of debris were piled up in front of damaged houses. The street lights were still unlit. The boardwalk was swept away by the floods and the storm surge brought the coastal homes out to sea.

I got lost on my way to the distribution center in the park and found myself getting a first-hand look of what a disaster leaves behind. Driving through the shell of what once was a vibrant neighborhood, I felt a lump in my throat. So sad to see damaged possessions on the front yards. On the sidewalks was a lifetime of treasured mementoes. Souvenirs of family times, memories reduced to water-soaked photo albums and water-logged furniture.

A burly man came out of one of the houses carrying a box of soiled clothes. I don’t know if it was his home, but he suddenly sat on the sidewalk and just burst into heart-wrenching sobs. He did not see me parked across the street as I tried to fire up my GPS. I wanted desperately to comfort him, but I did not want to intrude on his private moment so I could only listen silently as he tried to compose himself.

But there was also a sense of hope and renewal. FEMA, NYPD, and other emergency personnel went about their tasks in helping the survivors rebuild their homes. And along the way, there were multitudes of make-shift distribution centers for relief goods and clothing, even some food courts in corner stands meant to serve both survivors and volunteers. Random acts of kindness everywhere.

Clean-up helpers tried to change the landscape of ruined homes and properties. Friends, family members and volunteers were sweeping the sand that the water had left behind. In every corner I passed, there was a bunch of people, young and old, cleaning up the streets; most of them not even part of an organized group but just a group of people from out of town armed with mops and brooms. Strangers helping during a time of need.

The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well in New York City. The Church of Christ’s (Iglesia ni Cristo) relief distribution through the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation was an absolute success. It was a massive show of solidarity to a call to help.

The spirit of brotherhood among the church members was evident as everybody pitched in to usher our guests to the tables where the ministers and other brethren distributed the recovery tote bags.

Earlier, some of the members had knocked on doors around the area to notify the neighborhood of the donations. In the end, we even received additional boxes of relief donations from strangers.

It was a reality check for some of the church members to see suffering up close and personal. Far Rockaway was our Katrina. Disasters exposed our vulnerabilities and the poor and the underserved population suffered the most.

I have seen these sufferings in my ER. Our hospital in Brooklyn opened our doors to stranded victims from the calamity who were evacuated from the nursing homes and other hospitals brought down by power outage and flooding. We also received an influx of patients displaced from their homes; even patients who were dependent on medical equipment to survive. I was now in the very area from whence they came.

The victims of Hurricane Sandy still have a long road ahead of them, but they seem to appreciate any little help they got. Their faces lit up as they received the proffered tote bags from the ministers. Perhaps the gifts were just little tokens, but our efforts served its purpose: to show the community that we cared.

In the face of the challenges of their lives forever changed, the survivors cling to the hope that things will be better soon. Their resilience will be put to a test in the coming months.

I coaxed a smile from a three-year old girl who clung tightly to a stuffed toy that we retrieved from one of the boxes. Her older brother watched her while their mother stood patiently in line for diapers. That image is both heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.

November 22, 2012- TIMES SQUARE, NEW YORK CITY-

Photo by Irene-Ayie Sanchez

What a wonderful testimony to God's loving mercy and powerful reach. At the crossroads of the road, in the middle of Times Square, the INC brethren descended to show their generosity, as well as to proclaim their faith.

In a sea of white, the red, white and green flags were raised in pride. This picture sent shivers down my spine. Glory be to God.

"The Philippines-based church's charitable arm, the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation, made a total donation of $150,000 to the New York City Police Foundation, the FDNY Foundation, Bellevue Hospital Center and Coney Island Hospital - all of which were adversely affected by the huge storm."

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Cyber-bullying of Charice

There is no excuse to cyber-bullying. Especially if it is directed to someone who had struggled through a life of poverty and discrimination from her own people. Who had, time and time again, proclaimed her pride of her heritage even as she is celebrated outside her own country.

Charice had garnered the admiration of Oprah, Ellen, David Foster, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, and many more. Watch her on You-tube for her mind-blowing rendition of "All by Myself" and you should be amazed at the full standing ovation she received.

For making it through sheer determination despite her humble beginnings, she earned my respect. For always professing her love of country while facing her international audience, Charice earned my loyalty.

I was/ am still proud of her achievements. I was elated for the inroads she made in behalf of Filipino talents who dream of making it on the world stage. I was born and raised in the Philippines, so even after making the US my home for almost half of my life, I had always rooted for local artists who had succeeded to break the glass ceiling and to shatter expectations.

The competition for international attention is stiff; many had tried before her . Charice's successes are awe-inspiring and should be a source of national pride and respect. Just like Lea Salonga who continues to bring honor to the country.

Why the hate? What made her fair game? The bashing is vitriolic, cringe-worthy, and totally unnecessary. And sad.

Long before X-Factor Philippines, the local twitter world had been abuzz with negative tweets about Charice, criticizing her unfairly about trivial things, from her looks to her accent to her sexuality, and even her love of country. The microscope was upon her, ready to magnify the simplest indiscretion.

She had somehow become an easy target. Even at her most vulnerable, when her estranged father died, many had questioned Charice's sudden change of heart. Her detractors did not show respect on a daughter who grieved for a reconciliation that never happened. I cringed at the lack of sympathy, at the utter disregard of common decency.

The local media had no problem portraying Charice in a most negative light, while at the same time fawning about the foreign artists who flock to the Philippines for adulation. Even her own godfather had used his mighty pen to accuse Charice of not being Filipino enough because of her americanized accent and her colored hair.

How many of us had colored our hair? How many of us practiced our pronunciations? How many of us had copied American fashion, even Korean hair? How many of us bragged about our foreign-made bags, shoes, and clothes?

No wonder, Charice's own business manager, Courtney Blooding, a blonde American, questioned the support that Jessica Sanchez from American Idol received. For all intents and purposes, Jessica is an American who just happens to have Filipino blood. That Jessica loves her lumpia and pancit is well and good. I truly want her to succeed, she of the Filipino-Mexican-American pride.

But Ms. Blooding's statements had unleashed a torrent of denials, of insults, of counter arguments from the haters. They say that Ms. Blooding has no right to criticize her host country. She had offended the haters.

It needed a foreigner to ask a legit question. It was borne out of frustration. It exposes a fundamental wrong in our psyche. The truth hurts.

Of course, we can all like who we want. We are free to dislike any one. But there is a huge difference in just stating a preference (or a non-preference) without being mean. Crossing the boundaries with disrespectful remarks and vicious lies should not be tolerated. Bullying is hurtful. Plain and simple.

But there is no excuse to cyberbullying; it is wrong (and criminal) in all levels to inflict hurtful and malicious insults through words. Just because you don't like how Charice had transformed herself?

The tweets about Charice's physical appearance and actions had bordered on the ridiculous. Her transformation may not appeal to other people, but why can't she experiment with her look? How did the public claim the right to dictate what she should look like? It's her hair, it's her body. It's nobody else's business.

Charice is passionate about her team of singers at the recent X-Factor Philippines singing contest; if she cries, the haters call her dramatic. She had invested her emotions because she believed in her proteges. Damn if she does , damn if she doesn't.

Charice conducts herself with confidence, and she is perceived as "mayabang". She was supposed to remain meek and diffident.

Charice speaks English with a new accent. And why not? Does it mean that if she's in the Philippines, she can only speak with the Tagalog accent; and then she can easily switch to the American accent when she's out of the country? So, why is it that some Filipinos ignore many celebrities who speak English ALL the time, and yet, Charice is sent to the stake for the same transgression?

CRAB MENTALITY is the answer. INSECURITY may be another reason.

Crabs do not like others to succeed; they want everybody else to stay where they are. The claws come up, ready to pounce and to punch holes in her balloon.

Insecure people could not believe that one of their own can actually be better than other people with fairer skin, mestiza looks, and a taller stature. Did the years of foreign domination make some people forever mired in a mindset that only those with superior physical characteristics deserve to be idolized?

Is it against the law of nature that someone like Charice can actually be talented and worthy of emulation? Why can't we promote our own?

So, if the haters are not crabs or insecure, why do they bash Charice? There is no rhyme nor reason in life sometimes, so maybe some people are born to hate. Maybe, some people are just shallow and superficial. Maybe, they just find joy in spreading their negative vibes. Maybe, they are just cruel.

But most of all, how can you really sleep at night when you intentionally defame or maliciously hurt somebody. just because you don't like him or her? How can one hide behind the excuse of freedom of expression; there is an inherent responsibility in the freedom of speech- that is, express yourself responsibly.

Cruel words leave a deep scar. It is so unnecessary. Why do it?


June 2, 2013- - Today, Charice had finally admitted a long-held secret. In the past year, rumors about her sexuality abounded, fueled by changes in her appearance that were considered too drastic by the public : boyish hair and clothes and tattoos. On Philippine national tv, she faced her interviewer Boy Abunda and ended all speculations. She finally breathed a sigh of relief and admitted that she is a lesbian.

It may not have been a surprise to some who had witnessed her physical transformation from a sweet long-haired teenager to an adult who had freed herself from the constraints set by other people. And yet, it had sent the twitter world on fire.

I was disappointed, yes, because I was afraid for her. Life was difficult enough before. If she had struggled through all the hatred and the bullying before, she probably would get more of the malicious, indignant, and self-righteous vitriols. In our society, there had always been intolerance for what was perceived as out of the norms. It was a courageous revelation. Charice bared her heart to the public, even asking forgiveness to those who were disappointed by her confession.

I am a Christian and my religion prohibits practicing homosexuality, but I firmly believe that God will be the final voice. I would never ever impose my religious beliefs on someone else. My spirituality does not interfere with my respect for every person's right to live their life they want it to be, as long as nobody gets physically hurt. To each his own.

Charice had spoken from her heart. It is her body, her life to live. Her sexuality did not diminish her talent. Let Charice be herself, once and for all.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Survivor and the Rocker in Me

Excuse me, Marie Osmond. I'm not country but I'm more rock and roll. The Soft rock and roll, still with the head banging and the fist thumping, but no acid hard rock. More Journey and Eagle than Metallica and Kiss. There's actually more spice (and probably repressed rebellion) in me than what you'd expect.

Hey, I'm not always in the mood for Easy Listening; there's always a time and a mood for those melancholic melodies of the Carpenters and Aiza Seguerra.

But sometimes the mood calls for angst-relieving, blood-pumping, hey-what-are-you-looking-at, middle-finger-alternative and stress-reducing songs that are perfect entertainment for a solo drive with my Pilot along the highway. With no one to remind me that I'm out-of-tune.

I love rocking survival songs by women singers. I'm more Kelly Clarkson than soft bubble gum pop Taylor Swift. More Pink than Katie Perry.

Long after the tears had dried, long after the pain had gone, long after I have uncurled myself from a fetal position of feeling sorry for myself, I realize that I am much stronger because I have survived against all odds.

I am a survivor! And if I may say so, I rock!

Somewhere over the rainbow, there's an elf with an armful of my newest Nursing Vignettes book and my friends and co-workers are planning more book-signing events.

Beyond the dark clouds, there are thirty shades of the silver lining.

Behind the curtain, there's my son belting out "Amore" and "L-O-V-E" to a roomful of people who laughed good-naturedly when I blurted out "He's my son."

And at the end of the day, there is hope.

STRONGER- Kelly Clarkson


SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE- Kelly Clarkson- she's just fabulous!! All those angst!

FIGHTER- Christina Aguilera

SO WHAT?- Pink

I WILL SURVIVE- original by Gloria Gaynor, but like this version by Charice which she performed at the 8th Annual Woman's Day Red Dress Award in New York in Feb. 2011.

But there is another song that needs to be included. Lee Ann Womack is a country singer who crossed over to pop with this beautiful song. With the song in full blast, it can also be a rock song.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Thirty Two Years Later- Thanks to Facebook

(AUCN Class '80 Reunion, Section 2- August 3-5, 2012)

How can thirty two years apart just dissolve and bring us back to the years of our innocence when we were just student nurses at Arellano University in the Philippines?

We've led our own lives, raised our families, and lived through life's ups and downs separately and many thousand miles apart.

But on a hot sweltering long August week-end in New York and New Jersey, we've time-traveled back to reminisce about old times and laugh about our todays. The bond of our nursing student years remained and made us "sisters" and "brother".

How funny is it that our classmates were brought together by FaceBook? One by one, we discovered each other and learned about each other again. Last year, on September 30, nine classmates gathered in Las Vegas and met with two other classmates. Then we planned for the East Coast reunion.

So, on Friday, August 3rd 2012, in the middle of the Heat Wave, we (Nenita, Arlene, Ces, Lita, Luz and Janita) descended upon Manhattan and gave our respects to the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. It was also the scene of the disintegrating sandals and of talks about liposuction.

The Millenium Hotel provided sanctuary from the heat. Finally, we met up with Cely, her husband Manny, sister Lucy and daughter Michelle. We were the "tambays", who partook of their water and their restrooms. And yes, Luz and I got matching bright pink flip-flops with the bling-bling. No AUCN museum for my torn sandals, just the serviceable garbage cans of Century 21.

Off to South Street Seaport we went. More chitchat, more laughs, more jokes especially from Arlene.

More pictures. Really, how many cameras did we have? Why couldn't we have just tagged each other?

Saturday, we suffered through a frustrating drive through Manhattan in search of the elusive Double Tree hotel. Lita's GPS gadget didn't know the difference between West Side and East Side, and seemed to want me to drive my Honda Pilot on to the Hudson River.Why can't downtown Manhattan be as easy to navigate as uptown numbered streets?

I was having road rage (not normal for me, I assure you), and my passengers sat patiently through the ride, and Cely and her family sat even more patiently for two hours waiting for us. Finally, after we picked up Arlene on the way, we (at long last)arrived at Ampy's house in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

More classmates , more screaming, more hugging. But before the talks, the ravenous group enjoyed the sumptuous feast prepared for us. Yoly with the sackful of corns, Primo and Ces with the desserts, Nenita and Marites with the cake, and of course, the generous hosts, Ampy and Opre.

We talked about our missing classmates- Rose, Trelly, Heidi,Althea,Carrie, Lorna Alma, Norma, Del, Fe, Louie, Inciong, Solly, Matilde, and Nancy Calma, and those who still needed to be lured to Facebook- Manny, Margie, Mildred, Cata, Janet Catalan, Shirley, Evelyn, Imee, Maribeth, Beth, and a lot of other classmates that we still have to hunt down.

We also tasked Lita with an important mission- "you know what we mean", (wink, wink):) of tracking "you-know-who".

There were twelve of us from section 2, Class '80. Ampy, Nenita, Yoly, Marites, and the husband-and-wife team of Primo and Ces had enjoyed each others' company long before we came tired from all that driving.

The pictures told the story. It is so uncanny and really marvelous that the long years in between just vanished in an instant, and we just chatted away, laughed at each others' jokes and picked up like we just graduated yesterday.

We spent overnight in Ampy's house, after a quick trip to Atlantic City. They gambled, I sat sipping my milkshake, despite the concerns from my friends that I might be picked up if I stayed alone by myself. Who would, when all around me young women paraded around in skimpy clothes? We really should be talking about Janita's winnings,

We celebrated Cely's birthday and 30th wedding anniversary. It was pure pleasure to see Cely's enjoyment of the occasion. How ironic is it that our visitor from the Philippines was the one who treated the group to a late lunch in Olive Garden in the middle of Times Square in Manhattan.

We met with the Norwegians Alma and Homer, who dropped off to NYC , from a tour of the US. Another 30-year wedding celebrants.

What's wrong with these people? Okay, that was just my inner goddess smirking because they apparently have not heard of the "impakto" exes.

There were a lot of memories and shared remembrances. I am proud to know them again. My classmates have "grown up". We've come a long way.

Our successes come in different ways. Despite the trials in our lives, we have achieved what we wanted in our lives. We all realize that it really doesn't matter what our status in life is. What matters is, there is someone out there, aside from our families, that we can call "sisters" and "brothers".

Friday, August 3, 2012


I am so happy to announce that my FIRST BOOK is now available for purchase. Please share among your friends. This is not just for nursing or for Filipinos. This is for all of you with dreams in their hearts. This is my lifelong dream, finally realized.

Excerpt from my Introduction:

In 1980, as I lit the candle at my pinning ceremony, my heart was brimming with excitement for the future. In my imagination lived a nurse whose hands touched lives and whose compassion made a difference.

Nursing in America is a delightful journey into independence and self-fulfillment. As a young nurse living thousands of miles away from family, life was filled with challenges to both my personal and professional lives. Like countless other Filipino nurses working abroad, I have carved my own little niche in my chosen profession.

More than ever, I realize how fortunate I am to belong to a service profession that is most definitely and infinitesimally life-affirming and emotionally rewarding.

My life is enriched with the fascinating vignettes that gave meaning to the long hours and hard work.

I have lived my mother's dreams, which had become mine as well.

Here is my other dream, a book that chronicles some of those stories that make me proud to be a nurse. This is my journey as a Filipino nurse in America. But my stories of life as an ER nurse reflect what any other nurse had gone through.

We only need to believe in ourselves.

Dream some more.

Have faith.

Update: 8/11/2012

Yes, we've been #1 for several days now on the Amazon Hot New Releases chart.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Soldier, The Nurse...TWO WORDS (Skyline Pigeon Part 3)

We kissed. It was twenty-five years later after we first met, and thankfully, it was not just a dream.

Sammy tenderly held my face as we kissed. I felt like precious china in his embrace. My tears continued to fall as I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this moment that had brought us together. I felt him tremble as he controlled his emotions.

We did not stay long at the restaurant. He brought me back to the hospital, and gave me a private tour at the hospital where we first met. My friend Althea, the Chief Nurse of the hospital who arranged the emergency preparedness symposium, was unreachable (by purpose, I'm sure), so Colonel Dr. Samuel drove around the huge campus to give me a funny and entertaining narrative of the changes in the landscape.

I used to be his student nurse, but I flew away to the United States to fulfill my American dream. He was my one-eyed patient; a victim of the wars in Southern Philippines. We never spoke of our feelings about each other until the last day of my clinical rotation; but there was an undeniable attraction, that just could not be fulfilled at that moment in time.

He went on to become a medical doctor in the army. He continued to serve his country and helped the soldiers that he is still is. Sammy recounted that I served as his inspiration to move to the medical field. Despite being devastated by my leaving, he took comfort in the fact that I cared for him, even for just a short time.

We spent the rest of the day together, driving through Makati and Intramuros. I ditched my blazer and bought some cheap sandals from a sidewalk vendor. Sammy changed into a simple t-shirt. Pretty soon, after Sammy had safely parked his Mercedes in a hotel parking lot, we opted out of fancy restaurants.

We were like any other couple strolling hand-in-hand along the boulevard. We sat closely on a bench and watched the famous Manila Bay sunset, and talked, argued about politics, and laughed at each others' jokes.

Dinner was Chicken Joy, fish balls, and halo-halo. Cheap date, but the best I ever had. Priceless.

I pushed back all the other concerns, and all that mattered was that moment. I went into his warm embrace willingly; basking in the upsurge of emotions. We just held on to each other; fearful of being brought back to the reality that in just three days, I would be going back home to New York.

But reality stinks. I had to go back home to New York, back to my 20 year old son who still needed my presence. Although he was preparing to go into medical school, I still needed to guide him as he transitioned to his own adult life. Sammy had thought that I was staying for a month as I had posted on Face Book, but I explained to him that my plans had changed because my son had to transfer to his new dorm in a week.

He drove me home and met my mother, who eyed him with suspicion.

"He looks like a movie star. Even with just one eye, and his grey hair, he would still get all the girls. Have you not learned from your no-good ex-husband.?", my mother asked right after he left.

In two days, he had totally charmed my mother. Sammy came back the next day, and brought all of us in the family to his house in Tagaytay. He was a humble man, despite the opulent surroundings and his well-furnished mansion.

Up there in the mountains, away from the teasing eyes of my family, Sammy spirited me away to another secluded place. We shared sweet kisses and fierce embrace.

He pulled out an old picture; it was a group picture of me and my classmates looking towards the make-shift stage when the patients in Sammy's group gave us a short program. I was at the center of the picture, in profile, my long hair pulled back in a pony-tail and my lips curled up in smile.

"I took this picture, and it has been in my possession for twenty-five years." he sighed. "I knew you had your dreams to follow. That's the only reason I did not pursue you after you left."

He said, "Last November, I woke up from a deep sleep, and as if somebody was calling me and touching my face. For whatever reason, I remembered the picture I have of you."

I gasped. I told him, "It was November of last year on Veteran's Day, when I was watching a Sam Milby movie. I paused the film, covered Sam's left eye, and thought of you."

Sammy hugged me close, and we both shivered at the strange coincidence. I believe that it was Divine Providence. Running his hands on my hair, Sammy confided that he prayed and asked God to help him find me.

"I found you; I will never let you go again."

And yet, I went back home to New York, back to my son. Sammy could not come to the airport because of a hospital emergency. On the phone, I said goodbye to him, my voice cracking with emotion. He was trying to tell me something but the sounds of the planes flying overhead drowned out any more conversation. I never even got to tell him that I love him.


I walk down the aisle with my handsome son escorting me. He tells me that I have never looked better. All around me, my friends and family smile and applaud; all sharing in the joy of this blessed moment.

I am marrying Sammy, twenty-six years after I met him.

Unbeknownst to me, Sammy and his two sons followed me to New York after my vacation, and met up with my son to ask for my hand in marriage.

My son arranged for me to meet him at the Roosevelt Tram station on Roosevelt Island, only to surprise me when he arrived with Sammy and his two sons. And there we were, just the five of us, up in the air in the tram when Sammy proposed to me.

Just as I have written in another blog post (where Sammy took the idea), the glorious orange, red, and purple colors of the sky over the East River on one side and the Manhattan skyline on the other side provided an awesome backdrop to the proposal.

I jumped in delight and the tram swayed in agreement. The four men all paled and grabbed the siderails inside the tram. Just after I said a resounding "Yes", all four men had tears in their eyes. It was perfect.

And here we are, back in the Philippines for the grand day. The chapel is bedecked with flowers. My friends had gone crazy; they've been waiting for this as a payback for those wacky bridal showers I have thrown before. So, why are they all wiping tears as I march under the outstretched swords of the military guards?

My groom, the colonel, the chief medical officer, my one-eyed soldier is waiting for me at the front of the chapel. Although we had only been together for a short time, I am certain that he had never looked better. Tall, and fit with salt-pepper hair and his left eye patch. My handsome Sam Milby/ George Clooney soldier. His full-dress white military uniform commands attention; his insignia gleaming on his shoulder board. He is a prince. Mine.

His beautiful smile makes my heart sing. I want to run towards him; he's just a hop-scotch away but decorum insists that I march along with my handsome son. Besides, haven't we waited all these years already, so I can wait for just a few more minutes. We have the rest of our lives to spend with each other, but would one lifetime be enough?

The minister delivers a great sermon. I try to hold back my tears. But then I see the choir members crying.

Now, it's time for the wedding song by the soloist. To my surprise, the minister hands a microphone to Sammy.

My eyes widen in alarm that Sammy will sing "My Skyline Pigeon" here on our wedding day. It is a special song for us, and will always be "our song", but even I feel that it would not be appropriate for a wedding song.

Sammy winks at me, and as he holds my hand, he makes a promise with this song.

"I Do." Two words that seal the deal. And on this hour, I am being wed to my prince charming, who had held me in his heart and in his mind all these years.

I say "I do" for all the right reasons, for all the beautiful things that have happened to me since we've found each other, for these wonderful feelings of being cherished for who I am today.

I do want to spend the rest of forever with my soul mate. To discover more of the man that I love. I do want to make up for the lost time, not really regretting the years in between because I am today for what I've gone through. I do, because he makes me deliriously happy.

And so we will love each other, for all eternity, more than twenty-five years.


PART 1- (Actually happened)

PART 2- (Absolute Fiction)

PART 3- Of course, like Part 2, not happening. :(

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Soldier, The Nurse... KUMUSTA KA? (Skyline Pigeon Part 2)

April 2012

"It's more fun in the Philippines", the tourism banner proclaimed. As I walked through the Ninoy Aquino airport, I wondered what my two-week vacation would bring.

I have gone back to the Philippines for short vacations over the years. Of course, vacations always excited me, but this time, I was coming back for several reunions. The grand family reunion, the college and high school reunions. Like going back in time, to recapture old memories with family and friends.

The past was coming back full force with all its memories. We have led separate lives, gone on to different pathways, but we were ready to reminisce our younger years. Frankly, I was apprehensive as to who I will be seeing after all these years.

And through my college friend Althea who's now the Chief Nurse in the military hospital where I was once a student, I have also been slated to speak at an Emergency Preparedness symposium. Just a few months ago, I reconnected with Althea through Face book. The miracle of social media. Reach out and touch someone.

Coming back to the hospital where I first met Sammy, my one-eyed soldier. The one who sang "The Skyline Pigeon" to me when I was a 19 year-old student nurse, twenty-five years ago.

On a cold November day in New York, six months ago, nostalgia crept in as I watched a Sam Milby film on TV. The Filipino actor's uncanny resemblance with Sammy made me catch my breath and I felt my heart fluttered, as it did when I took care of Sammy in the Plastic Surgery ward.

Was it because it was Veteran's Day that I started to reminisce about my Sam Milby look-alike soldier?

Sammy's left eye was enucleated from injuries sustained in the battlefield in Southern Philippines. But despite the injury, I felt drawn to this handsome young soldier, his good right eye as beautiful as it could be, even made more special because he lost his left eye in service of country.

Although nothing untoward happened during my clinical rotation at the Plastic Surgery unit, there was apparent awareness of each other, an attraction that never had a chance to prosper. I was a nursing student, he was a patient. Our worlds were not supposed to come together.

Just before my month-long clinical rotation was finished, Sammy confided his feelings for me, but he conceded that I needed to follow my American dream. Much as I was enamored with him, I realized that I had to leave.

Because I wanted to explore the world and because I wanted more for myself and my family, I said goodbye. Just like the skyline pigeon in the song that he sang to me. And so, in a few years’ time after graduation, this skyline pigeon flew away to the distant lands. I have never heard from him again.

And now, I'm back at the same military hospital. It was ironic that Althea worked there now. Two days ago, we sat together at our college reunion and talked about my presentation. I attributed her exuberance to the upcoming event at the hospital that she had organized.

I have been teaching emergency preparedness to my nurses in my hospital in New York. My audience today will a combined group of nurses and doctors. I would be sharing my knowledge gained from years of disaster management classes and actual experience volunteering as part of the Medical Reserve Corps and a few disaster relief groups to Haiti.

The hospital had a facelift. Now, another impressive building stood on the right side of the big compound. A full-service hospital with 1,000 beds to serve the injured soldiers; it is now a modern, fully-equipped hospital; so different from the quaint hospital I knew 25 years ago.

I smiled at a group of student nurses who passed by me. They looked immaculate in their nurses' uniform and starched apron, white nursing caps, and dazzling white shoes. I heard them chattering about their new assignment and their cute clinical instructor.

I remembered my student days; those carefree days, of new discovery, of new experiences, and budding love. With our stiff aprons, blue and white sheer sucker uniforms and white nurses caps, we breezed through the years with carefree equanimity and optimism, fully aware that the real life of nursing would be a lot different.

Then, an image of Sammy as he surprised our group with a song at our going-away party brought a sensation of regret for that interrupted romance. He had a beautiful baritone voice, haunting in its earnest sincerity. I guarded the secret of my feelings to this man, and only wrote about our story in a blog, many years after the fact.

I met Althea in the hospital lobby. She looked different from the happy-go-lucky student nurse I knew. Tall and slim, she looked authoritative in her military uniform. I forgot she's now a Lieutenant Colonel; all the servicemen bowed in deference as she passed, and they eyed me, a stranger, in my power suit and high heels.

I caught my image in a mirror. Not bad for a 45 year old, but too old for these servicemen. With my short hair with brown highlights, and my trim body (thanks to the Zumba classes), I looked years younger, modesty aside.

But I didn't come here looking to flirt with anyone; I had been divorced for ten years and the memory of the heartache was enough to turn me wary of romance. My son was still in 2nd year of college, majoring in Biology, my future doctor. He was unable to come for vacation because of school.

Althea and I were walking down the long corridor leading to the Administrative Offices when her cell phone rang. She excused herself and moved a few feet away to accept the call. I entertained myself by looking at the massive murals of Philippine landscape that adorned the hospital walls.

"Hi, Jo." I knew the voice, but I didn't turn around right away. I was sure I was just imagining it; that I was so caught up in the emotions of my return to the hospital that I would conjure up the voice that had filled my dreams in the past.

He cleared his throat, and I turned around to face Sammy. After all these years.

If this was a movie, this would have been in slow-motion. I looked up to his face as he towered over me. And I whispered his name in recognition, "Sammy."

His expectant face lit up, as if he was holding his breath and did not want to assume that I will recognize him. He gave me a most beautiful smile. Breath-taking.

The years had been good to him. He looked as handsome as I remembered him. He still had an eye-patch on his left eye, but the same beautiful, long-lashed brown right eye twinkled in amusement at my startled gasp. What was it with that pirate look, I thought. It gave him a dangerous, exciting look.

Sammy stood tall and distinguished-looking in his military uniform. A full-fledged colonel. We both said the words, "Kumusta ka?" And we just stood there looking at each other. All those years apart, and all we could say was "Kumusta ka? (How are You)".

We both chuckled, and then he softly hummed the song by Nonoy Zuniga; a whimsical take of that awkward moment when former lovers meet after years apart. and they both become tongue-tied.

Kumusta ka?
Ikaw ay walang pinag-iba,
Ganyan ka rin nang tayo ay huling magkita
Tandang-tanda ko pa habang ako’y papalayo,
Tinitingnan kita hanggang wala ka na
Kumusta ka?

A whirlwind of emotions kept me speechless. My heart was beating fast, and I felt like a nineteen-year-old again.

Althea's sense of timing was perfect and prevented me from embarrassing myself with a senseless remark. She came back from her phone call, and, without any sign that she noticed anything unusual at the sight of us just staring at each other, introduced me to the Chief Medical Officer of the military hospital, Colonel Dr. Samuel....

Sammy nodded to me, and shook my hand, and whispered "Later." It sounded like a promise.

I did not know how I managed to go through my one-hour lecture. The auditorium was filled to capacity with nurses from the different units in the hospital, as well as a good number of medical doctors. Teaching came natural to me, and pretty soon, I had engaged my students in my presentation.

I was supposed to spend lunch in a small catered affair at the administrative offices together with the rest of the speakers, but I was ushered by Althea's secretary to a waiting Mercedes outside the lobby. Sammy was at the driver's seat. He had changed to a crisp, nicely-pressed Barong Tagalog in deference to the hot weather.

Inside the air-conditioned car, Sammy's smile made my heart melt as he said, "Welcome back, Jo."

I asked Althea for the privilege of your company, Jo. “, he explained. “I hope it’s okay with you.

I nodded my agreement, secretly doing a high-five in my mind. I fumbled with my seat belt and he reached over to attach it. My cheeks felt hot at the closeness, but I managed to maintain a calm facade, despite my turbulent emotions.

Surreptitiously studying his profile, I decided that with his salt-and-pepper hair, his firmer jaw and his air of confidence, he looked more like George Clooney now. Gone was the self-consciousness of his younger years, when he was still a man coming to terms with his injury.

He looked like a man secure in himself, who had achieved far beyond than any other man in his league. He wore success like a second skin.

The years apart fell away as we slipped into the easy conversation that we've always had when I was the student nurse and he was my patient.

Sammy told me that he went right to medical school after he was discharged from the hospital. He had been outfitted with an artificial eye, but did not feel comfortable with it, and instead opted for an eye patch. He recounted that he had never married; had two long-term relationships but had never married, although he has two grown-up sons who both finished college.

It felt natural to talk to him about my own life, and my failed marriage. He seemed to enjoy my stories about my close relationship with my son. The ride to the restaurant seemed short, and we were both reluctant to leave the car.

I could not remember much about the restaurant, except that it was quiet, with subdued lighting and that we were seated at a secluded table with a grand piano at the side. It was romantic.

The food was excellent, but we hardly touched it. There was an undercurrent of excitement that brought a flush to my cheeks. Was it because he kept looking at me with such fierce yearning? Or was it me looking at him with hungry eyes?

After the dessert, Sammy pulled out a bouquet of roses from an extra chair. Did he order it in advance? He tentatively reached for my hand. I was surprised, but I did not pull my hand back. I was past the age of innocence, and I welcomed this new beginning.

We were being swept by a force much stronger than ourselves. I felt powerless to resist the pull of his smoldering eye; I just felt that the moment was right, and that twenty-five years apart just vanished, and we were at an important crossroad of our lives.

"I have been waiting for this moment, Jo. I never thought I would ever see you again." Sammy's sad smile brought me back to my clinical rotation in the Plastic Surgery unit when he sang Elton John's song to me.

He continued, "I'm good friends with Althea, but I never knew that you were classmates, until she started talking about your college reunion. I discreetly asked her about her classmates, and then saw an old picture of you in her Face book account."

I couldn't help laughing at that, and we soon were doubled up in laughter as he recounted also joining FB just so he could browse my own account. He had conspired with Althea to invite me to the Emergency Preparedness symposium.

I feigned annoyance, "Hmmph, I should have made my FB setting private."

He snorted at that, "I also found your blog post about me."

I must have looked shocked at his revelations, because he looked alarmed, probably thinking that he had pushed the limits. I was just completely overwhelmed, but I reassured him by squeezing his hands. All those feelings had rushed in, but I was excited at the chance to be with him again.

Sammy stood up, and led me to the piano. As we sat together at the bench, he asked, "Remember this?", and proceeded to play "our song".

Elton John's song is not a love song, but at that time, just like as it was twenty-five years ago, My Skyline Pigeon felt like an expression of love that could not be denied anymore.

I felt tears falling down my cheeks. Here I was, sitting beside this man, and I did not want to fly away again. After all these years, our shared passion came back unbidden. I had survived being alone for many years; my friends had often complimented me for my strength against adversity. I was at peace, and happy being with my son.

I had resigned myself to a lifetime of being alone. But until now, I never realized that I had an empty space in my heart. I thought I would not feel loved again. I had long ago given up hope that I would find the courage to fall in love again.

Here was our second chance at happiness. What was important was that we found each other after twenty-five years. It was destiny.

As he sang to me, Sammy's face looked radiant, and full of love. The magic enveloped us, and I did not care that we were a middle-aged couple, and that we lived several continents apart.

After the last note, Sammy tenderly dried my tears and held me close. And then, he kissed me. It was meant to be.

I thought, “Oh God, please, do not let this be a dream.”

Part 1-

NOTE: Part 2- Just a figment of my very bold imagination. What if? LOL.

Part 1- Actually happened . I did not have any contact with Sammy at all after we parted ways.

Part 3-

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Letter from My Son and Reflections on My Mom on Mother’s Day


My son would probably not appreciate it that I will share his letter with you. TMI, Too much information, he would say. Since he’s not my friend on Facebook, I doubt he will know anyway that I kind of “violated” his confidence. I hope you'll not blab that I blabbed. But I’m sure he’ll understand.

Because I am a proud mother. On this Mother’s Day, I do not need a gorgeous bouquet of flowers nor any fancy dinner (not yet anyway until he's done with school). I don’t need any ostentatious display of affection. His letter, written in a ruled student paper and sealed in a plain envelope, with the admonition to read it after he left the car, said it all.

He wrote:

Dear Mom,

In these past years, our relationship has changed. You’ve become more than a mom to me. We bond over silly things like venting about ridiculous people and we laugh at things until our heads fall off. I can come to you for advice whenever the overdramatic people start crazy drama. We can tease each other freely without feeling bad because that’s just what friends do. I’m so glad that I can feel this comfortable around you, and even more glad that it has morphed into a friendship. For these and many other reasons I know I’m blessed to have you as my mom.



My Mother

And now, I am thinking of my mother in the Philippines. My still vibrant mother. She still dances her ‘chicken dance” when she’s happy. She still drinks her San Miguel beer at night to relax.

I wish I make her as proud of me as I am of my son. I wish I have shown her how much I love and appreciate her. She had given me much more that I can ever thank her for.

My Nanay, Marina "Neneng" Cerrudo, beautiful in her costume as a young lady in her native Aklan and beautiful still in her favored housedress today. She weathered all the storms in her life and had remained strong after all these years. She is a fireball of energy and humor.

With her unconditional love and her selfless heart, she shaped my character and guided me through life's ups and downs and gave me the confidence to live my life to the fullest. As the matriarch of the family, she is our strength and our moral compass.

And when things were rough, her unwavering support held me up. Through the years, she remains the ideal of what is grace under pressure, of quiet strength and fortitude.

I can never thank her enough for all that she had done for me. Happy Mother's Day. I love you, Nanay.

On this Mother's Day, I would like to share the songs that say the sentiments I cannot articulate enough.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Love Songs I Enjoy All By Myself

The pitter-patter of the falling rain put me on a melancholy mood. Moments like these make me yearn for the days when I can snuggle up to the one I love. As the radio played the beautiful melodies , I started to sing along.

Then the mood was broken. The reality is, that loved one had gone away, and the pain is just a distant memory. Thankfully, I had emerged from the storm of life with the resolve to enjoy the little things that bring happiness.

I can still enjoy a beautiful love song, all by myself.

Just to show that I am still a hopeless romantic, I gathered some of my favorite love songs.

How did you know
I needed someone like you in my life
That there's an empty space in my heart
You came at the right time in my life

You are the one who makes me happy
When everything else turns to gray
Yours is the voice that wakes me mornings
And sends me out into the day.

I'll always love you for the rest of my days.
You have won my heart and my soul with your sweet, sexy ways.
You gave me hope when I needed someone near.
You bring me happiness every day of every year.

Always and forever
Each moment with you
Is just like a dream to me
That somehow came true, yeah

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

Grow old along with me
Two branches of one tree
Face the setting sun
When the day is done

I don't want to close my eyes
I don't want to fall asleep
Cause I'd miss you babe
And I don't want to miss a thing

If tomorrow never comes
Will she know how much I loved her
Did I try in every way
To show her every day
That she's my only one

Facing you who brings me new tomorrows,
I thank God for yesterdays,
How they led me to this very hour,
How they led me to this place...

Have I told you lately that I love you?
Have I told you there's no one else above you?
Fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness,
Ease my troubles, that's what you do.

Tomorrow morning if you wake up
And the sun does not appear,
I will be here.

If in the dark we lose sight of love,
Hold my hand and have no fear,
‘Cause I will be here.

Through the years, you've never let me down
You turned my life around, the sweetest days I've found
I've found with you ... Through the years
I've never been afraid, I've loved the life we've made
And I'm so glad I've stayed, right here with you
Through the years

Maybe I didn't treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn't love you
Quite as often as I could have
Little things I should have said & done
I just never took the time

But you were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

Ikaw Ang Lahat Sa Akin
You Are Everything To Me

Kahit ika'y wala sa aking piling
Though you are not with me

Isang magandang alaala
A beautiful memory

isang kahapong lagi kong kasama
a yesterday that's always with me

Dapat ba kitang limutin?
Must I forget you?

Paano mapipigil ang isang damdamin?
How can a feeling be suppressed?

ang panahon upang ikaw ay mahalin
the time to love you

Ako'y maghihintay pa rin
I'll still wait.

All by MySelf
When I was young
I never needed anyone
And makin' love was just for fun
Those days are gone

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Firsts... as a Nurse in the U.S.

I came to America with just a Red Cross work experience. I had taught first aid, responded to disasters, and did some fund-raising. But my excellent n0-holds-barred clinical experience as a student nurse in military hospitals had provided me with more than what any US-trained student nurse had ever experienced, then and now. So, I embraced my foray into the United States, with unbridled enthusiasm and with great expectations and anticipation.

The bright lights of New York City beckoned. Across 8509 miles and 20-hours of turbulent plane ride. As a 22-year old, the world was my oyster. It was the promise of a fantastic adventure that had sustained me through five years of nursing school. I was more than ready for my many firsts.

First Hospital

In January 1983, there were twenty of us young nurses who came on our first plane ride across the continents. We were the first big wave of recruits to descend on Roosevelt Island, a waterfront community situated in the East River of New York City between Manhattan and Queens.

The brochure for Bird S. Coler Hospital in Roosevelt Island looked much more impressive than the hospital itself. Coler Hospital is/was one of two chronic care hospitals specializing in rehabilitative care (the other one is Goldwater Hospital) located on the island.

It proved to be a great first hospital because it was not a jarring first exposure to the American hospital system; it was a slow and easy transition to independence for this Manila city girl who had ventured outside the safe haven of my native land under the protection of family and the comforts of home.

My first unit was the Intensive Care Unit, but it really was more of step-down unit for acute episodes that needed more care, and some patients had to be transferred to other acute hospitals when we could not provide any more services.

The breath-taking view of Manhattan across the East River and the expansive grounds of the hospital made up for the not-so state of the art facility. The winter months brought in the magical Currier and Ives display. And the Fall foliage reigned supreme with its riot of color that framed the hospital building like a Monet. In the spring and summer months, we lunched on the hospital grounds surrounded by the lush gardens and the flowering magnolia and cherry blossoms trees, with river breeze on our faces.

We occasionally waved at the passing sailboats, and even threw some kisses at the bare-chested men on those boats, emboldened by the fact that we would never see them again.

First Tram Ride

On our first month, we were housed in a dorm near the hospital. The Nursing department had given us a week to settle in before our Orientation. Our group of 12 ventured out on our second day. Our destination: Manhattan. The rest of the nurses were still in bed crying out for their families in the Philippines.

Our group was luckier; we were single and unencumbered by the sentimentalities. That’s what we told each other in the morning, although we had muffled our cries in the pillows as we wept for our mommies.

The Roosevelt Island tram was scary and exhilarating at the same time. We dared not take the bus that would have taken us circuitously to Queens just so we can take the underground subway train into Manhattan. Anyway, the tram was the direct way to reach the place we've just seen in the movies.

So off we went to explore. I asked the security officer for directions, then also asked if he had a map. He looked bewildered by my request, then turned around and grabbed a "mop" from a passing housekeeper. That was my first lesson to mind my accent and my pronunciation. We quickly learned that there was a huge difference between "bag" and "bug". We were now being "americanized".

With the cable car suspended and swaying 250 feet up on air, like the newbies that we were, we whooped excitedly and unashamedly as the east side of midtown Manhattan skyline came nearer. The sun was setting down and we were bathed in the glorious colors of orange and red. The Queensboro bridge was the backdrop in this post-card perfect scene. It was a magnificent welcome to our new home.

Then we were in the middle of 59th Street, with too many cars, and too many people rushing off to everywhere and the impressive (and expensive) Bloomingdale's store in front of us. The city was vibrant and humming with activity; the City that Never Sleeps. We had arrived!

First Patient

I called her "Sessa" ; a 75 year old Hispanic woman who had been in the unit for years for chronic renal failure and thrice-weekly peritoneal dialysis.

In my group, I was the first nurse to volunteer to learn the complicated bedside procedure using the Tenckhoff catheter. Pretty soon, I was an expert on dialysates, instill time and dwell times. I was bold and fearless. It helped that our nephrologist was the very cute Dr. C. We had great memories of his different colored Lacoste polo shirts with the matching briefs that we have spied when he bent down to talk to Sessa.

Sessa was cantankerous, and expected me to speak to her in Spanish. I struggled with my pidgin Spanish (even though I had four years of instruction in school). She turned out to actually speak good English, and I passed her test because I did not cower and break into tears. I treated her as my grandmother, and always had a hug and a kiss for her.

First Patient Death

Sessa was my first patient death. Just before we came on shift, she suffered a cardiac arrest in the unit and passed away. We just spent six months together and I never even had a chance to say goodbye. Two other nurses (who she had proclaimed as her other favorites) assisted me as we washed her uremic skin and combed her gray-matted hair. There was no relative coming to claim her body, but we wanted her to look her best.

As I cleansed the gel from the defibrillator paddles off her fragile chest, the finality of the moment gripped us all, and soon all three of us were crying. The head nurse offered to take over, but we refused, controlled our emotions, and resumed in giving Sessa her last bed bath, our final respects.

First Leadership Experience

Our bunch of RNs, BSN-prepared novices took over the reins from the LPNs who used to be in-charge of the units. Suddenly, here we were, naive and timid, suddenly being groomed to run the unit. Within two years, I was appointed as the day head nurse in an in-patient unit, with a staff of eight RNs and twelve nurses' aides.

We adapted very well, and for my part, I felt that the nurses' aides welcomed us and treated us as family. We only needed the flimsiest of excuse to have a party. Our shared food bonded us. We feasted on Caribbean jerk chicken, Indian samosa, American hot dogs, Italian lasagna, and of course, Filipino food (adobo, pancit, lumpia). The "lechon" was a big hit among the hospital staff.

I had great nursing supervisors, but I learned more about leadership from two nurses' aides: Elena and Mrs. H. They showed me how to lead with humility, love and respect by giving me their perspective on how to win the other staff over. They did not dazzle with an alphabet soup of degrees and certifications, but they possessed the wisdom of being the matriarchs of their families. and an innate understanding of emotional intelligence and common sense.

Elena and Mrs. H told me what I needed to hear, not what would have pleased me. From them, I learned how to mean what I say and say what I mean without being mean. They taught me how to listen, to really listen with my heart.

First Snow

I remember like it was only yesterday. My first snow happened on my second month in America.

We have moved to a new apartment off Roosevelt Island. I was standing at the bus stop near the hospital shivering in the cold winter air. Fully bundled up, thick wool coat, scarf, and ear muffs. Then, the white fluffy crystals came down from the sky. There is something magical, and cleansing with the first snow. I raised my face up to the heavens, uttered a simple "Thank you" to God, opened my mouth and caught the snowflakes on my tongue. Sweet!

The next day, the hospital grounds were blanketed in six inches of winter wonderland. My friend and I looked at each other, and by mutual agreement, veered off the path to the bus stop. We went to the side of the hospital where the ground was unmarred by footsteps. Virgin snow, and no one around to laugh at us. We quickly laid down on the ground and made snow angel; arms and legs outstretched and flapped them up and down in and out. We giggled as the disturbed snow swirled around us.

Our shared bliss was suddenly interrupted by muted laughter. Not to worry, they were just two other friends who had the same idea. Soon, there were four of us, Filipina nurses on the snow-covered grounds. Good that there were no patients to witness this.

It was two decades later when I did the snow angel again. In my backyard with our dog Brownie on top of my chest, peering in curiosity at me as I laid down on the snowy ground. Sweet!

First Doctor Crush

Dr. L was a brown-eyed blond doctor who moon-lighted every week-end in my unit. With his Nordic good looks, he probably had a girlfriend in every hospital he worked at, but he was the first ever non-Filipino male who tickled my fancy. My other friends said that he was a snob with a God-complex, but for some reason, he was always nice to me.

One day, I was waiting for my turn at the cafeteria, and pointed out the french fries to the cafeteria worker. From behind me, Dr. L chuckled and said, “I like french fries, too”. Who’d think that such a simple sentence would make me stammer and render me blubbering like a fool?

Then, as bad a timing as it can get, Dr. L’s pager beeped. A code arrest in one of the skilled nursing units. Romance (and lunch) interrupted. He looked at the soda can that I was holding, and with a sheepish smile of apology took it from me, sipped from it, returned the soda can and said, “Thank you.”

Woah! What else can I do but give the soda can back to him, and said “Take it”. I don’t know how I should I have handled it like a more sophisticated woman would do, but his gesture was a sensual action that I was too naive and uncomfortable to respond to. I thought, “Dalagang pilipina ako!”, a typical conservative Filipina. I was overwhelmed.

Truth be told, a tiny wild part of me swooned. But, in all my innocence and probably due to my unfamiliarity with modern courtship, I convinced myself the blatant flirting was disrespectful. I gave him the cold shoulder the next time we met in the unit.

The internet search yielded a recent picture of Dr. L. He’s now a hematologist in the Bronx. He still sports the same round-rimmed glasses, older but still has a boyish charm that had captivated me all those years ago.

First Save

The evening head nurse screamed at me one day for failing to oversee a nurse who was taking care of a patient who fell and sustained a hip fracture at noon time. In all our confusion, the patient did not receive any pain medication, until the evening shift came. The primary nurse was busy passing medications for the rest of the unit, and I was too caught up in preparing the incident report and the transfer papers for the acute hospital in Queens.

I started to protest, but then I realized that I had command responsibility. I was hurt, but I accepted the censure. My inexperience was showing, and it took my more experienced peer just a few minutes what I failed to see. We failed the patient; the guilt kept me up that night.

The next morning, I was rounding with this head nurse (she had done a 16-hour shift) when I heard a gurgling sound. The elderly patient's color was still good, but she was gagging. I looked at her mouth and saw a big mucous plug at the back of her throat. With a gloved hand, I reached in, scraped the thick plug off the roof of her palate. And the gurgling stopped.

The evening head nurse patted my back and said, "You just saved a life." I went back to check on the patient. She was resting comfortably; she had dementia and probably had no idea what just happened, but I squeezed her hand and whispered, "I'm glad I was around when you needed help. Thank you."

The incident had sparked an interest in me to try emergency nursing, where saving lives happened every day.

There were many firsts...

My four years at Coler had given me much more in terms of my growth as a nurse and as a person. It did not matter that it was a small hospital tucked away in a small island. I loved the hospital and its warm-hearted quaint community of staff and patients... my first hospital.

It was the start of an incredible journey in a foreign land, away from family and childhood friends. I was young, adventurous, and full of dreams. Suddenly independent, suddenly an adult. And I was surrounded by my new friends and the patients that I cared very much about.

Sadly, I had lost contact with my nursing friends; we went onto different paths and we don't see each other anymore. Some of my patients had long been gone, and the hospital had changed and merged with the other hospital but the fond memories are forever locked in my heart.