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Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Dean Dianne Balogal: Beauty queen, dedicated nurse

Vanessa A. Balbuena - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  As the Hiyas ng Pilipinas crown was being placed on Dean Dianne Balogal’s head, fireworks lit up the sky in her hometown of Baguio City in culmination of its month-long physical Panagbenga festivities two years since the pandemic. The 23-year-old sees the timing as the “universe aligning” for her that evening of March 27 in Cebu City when the country’s first Cebu-based pageant held its finals.

Balogal, a native of Negros but who has since considered Baguio her home base, bested 33 other candidates in the inaugural edition of Hiyas ng Pilipinas.

“I really worked hard, I trained especially for my Q&A, I answered hundreds of questions. I had a notebook with me. In fact even before we went out on stage for the Q&A, I was still cram-reading previous pageant questions,” she said.

A Miss Baguio Tourism 2021 second runner-up, the 5’8”-tall mestiza will represent the Philippines this December at the Miss Tourism World pageant in England. It will be her first time out of the country.

“Spoiled” was how she described to The FREEMAN her entire experience with the Hiyas organization. “Free airplane tickets for all, and we were checked into a hotel the entire time we were in Cebu,” she shared.

Balogal said she is eyeing to win the title of Binibining Pilipinas International someday – following in the footsteps of her idols, Miss International titlists Precious Lara Quigaman and Kylie Verzosa (who also hails from Baguio).

“I saw how they widened their platforms to reach out and further their causes,” she explained.

During the coronation’s casual Q&A, Balogal, a nurse, was asked if she preferred staying put in the Philippines or work for better pay abroad.

She answered then: “Working in the Philippines is not really about the salary. It takes heart, compassion and dedication in order to work here. If you get to spend the time with your patients, you’ll see that they really need help and they need people who can inspire, empower them, and be that image of hope and strength to them. Especially in this time of pandemic, we are really struggling with under-staffing. But being a nurse in the Philippines is such a satisfying job and I would love to continue working here. Proudly.”

This choice to be of service at home becomes even more remarkable when Balogal shared to The FREEMAN her “horrible experience” as a new nurse thrust into unfamiliar ground during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Balogal first dreamed of becoming a flight stewardess, but changed gears during high school when she encountered their school clinic nurses who appeared to her as “soft, gentle, calm” beings who knew what to do during emergencies. Later on, it was having a grandmother riddled with many illnesses that turned her interest in nursing into a passion that burns to this day.

Balogal began her nursing career in December 2019 when COVID-19 had yet to enter the country. By February 2020, she found herself in Quezon City as a staff nurse for Capitol Medical Center – weeks before all hell would break loose.

“I was assigned in the pre-triage which was a crucial part because you are really the frontliner and you’re outdoors so it was very hot. Every time I take off my PPE, I was drenched in sweat and I’d have marks and bruises,” she recalled.

“I guess the most memorable part for me during that time was when I also caught COVID. That was the week that I was super exhausted. There were only a few of us left in the ER. Usually nurses on duty would be more than 10. That time, we were only five, or less than. The others tested positive and were on sick leave, emergency leave.”

She added, “There was a time the ER seemed like a morgue. Puno na ang morgue so doon nakatambak sa ER ang morgue. It was a horrible experience because I was new in the nursing field. Novice pa, I thought sasabak ako na staff nurse na normal lang. And when I was a student, we would handle one patient at a time. Tapos biglaan like buong area ang handle mo.”

After six months with the hospital, Balogal decided she had enough and returned to Baguio to work for another hospital. Despite the experience, she still chooses to work in the Philippines simply because “it’s a satisfying job.”

“I’m very close to my patients. I talk to them. That’s something I’ve been working on – not to be too emotional because I get attached to them once I hear their stories. I take care of them like they’re my family,” said Balogal.

With a wider platform that a pageant title now affords her, Balogal hopes she can help in making the government work for better conditions for Philippine nurses.

“I think the government needs to look at the situation better because sometimes they’re just looking at the outside perspective, kung ano lang yung binibigay na information sa kanila ng heads. Kailangan nila makausap yung mga nurses na nasa area,” she noted.

“Walang mas nakakaalam sa area kung hindi ang mga taong nagtatrabaho doon. Mahirap talaga ang understaffing. Kailangan maglaan sila ng pondo or protocols for the appropriate nurse to patient ratio. The ideal is one nurse to six patients but what is happening in public hospitals is one nurse to one ward – and one ward has 40-50 patients. There was one time I was alone for one week during the night shift.”

BEAUTY QUEEN

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