Filipino health workers are outstanding worldwide

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - April 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Over London nationwide television, British journalist and TV personality Piers Morgan said it perfectly when he expressed appreciation for Filipino nurses and healthcare workers in the UK, describing them as “unsung heroes” who are doing an amazing job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Amazing number of Filipinos working in NHS (National Health Service), are unsung heroes... Thank you to all the Filipinos who are here, doing all this... ‘It’s worth bearing in mind when we talk about immigrants in this country, these are the immigrants currently saving people’s lives. Coming here and actually enriching our country and doing an amazing job. So thank you to all the Filipinos who are here doing all these amazing work and to every other immigrant working at the NHS currently,” Morgan said.

Here in the US, it’s the same story. Filipino nurses, doctors, caregivers and healthcare workers are very much appreciated in so many states all over the United States. Most are frontliners carrying the heavy burden brought by the new coronavirus pandemic, working almost 24/7 as they help in the herculean effort to save the lives of people in the US. I remember even the Bush family expressed their appreciation for Filipino nurses. George Bush Sr. in his last two years was cared for by a Filipina nurse who became close to the family. 

In fact, it is not only the nurses but also all the other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have been around for a long time in the US who are very well regarded. I remember so well before his 2003 state visit to the Philippines, President George W. Bush jokingly confided that he gets his “briefings” on the Philippines from Filipino-Americans working at the White House, describing them as the country’s “secret ambassadors” to the world. 

Americans are generally a generous people. Even during these difficult times, they continue to assist other countries. But one thing is clear, they do have good things to say about Filipinos because of the deep people-to-people ties that have continued over the years. Despite certain issues involving the relationship between the Philippines and the United States, it’s no secret that Americans have a soft spot for Filipinos. At the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines, the US government immediately committed over $2.7 million through the USAID to support the efforts of the Department of Health to fight the pandemic.

And while it is also battling the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s generosity extends to needy nations all over the world with close to $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance on top of the financial support it already provides to the World Health Organization and other multilateral agencies. The US is also providing $18.3 million in emergency aid to ASEAN countries, with a big portion of that – about $4 million – going to the Philippines. The United States will be donating to the Philippine government 1,300 hospital beds for use in COVID-19 facilities all over the country.

A friend of mine told me there are a number of US servicemen who are saddened by the termination of the VFA because American soldiers and officers truly enjoyed working with our armed forces especially our soldiers with whom they have developed friendships during the Balikatan military exercises. They are all convinced that strong ties will continue even beyond the conclusion of the annual joint exercises. Actually, there are so many Filipino-Americans who serve in the US armed forces, most of them in the US Navy.

I personally witnessed the kind generosity of the United States when we called for help during one of our greatest tragedies – super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that battered Eastern Visayas in 2013, resulting in the death of 10,000 Filipinos. I will never forget those American servicemen from the USS George Washington aircraft carrier conducting rescue and relief operations in Leyte. For them, it was not just doing their job but a genuine desire to help, putting their heart into the rescue and relief efforts – because of the strong affinity between Americans and Filipinos and the enduring people-to-people ties that have been the strong anchor in the relationship between our two nations. 

Not too long ago, I was told about this very touching story involving a Filipino health worker from Leyte taking care of an elderly lady without pay. When asked why she was working for free, she simply answered, “I just wanted to pay back the Americans for what they did to save my family from being wiped out in my province during the super typhoon.” 

There is also this Filipina nurse working for over 24 hours at the Intensive Care Unit where she had a patient she was attending to. The nurse was the only connection to the patient’s family. Using her phone, the family and the patient were able to see each other via Facetime. The Filipina nurse continued doing that, until the patient passed away. 

No doubt the nurse is just one among the many who serve in the frontlines and go the extra mile beyond what is expected – going out of their way to ease the pain of the patient’s family, making them feel better that their loved one is being given special care. Filipino nurses are known to go above and beyond the call of duty.

That’s why I have always had a soft spot for our overseas workers – they truly define the kind of people we are. We should all be proud, and this realization never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

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Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

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