catching up with Pinoys’ greatest gift to the NZ pandemic – kabayan health workers

[thank you, thank you and maraming Salamat sa mga kabayang nars na lumahok sa aming munting panayam, tulad ni Kristine Dianne Balatbat kasalukuyang nagwowork bilang registered nurse sa Capital & Coast District Health Board;  one of the most distinguished nursing professionals in NZ, Monina Hernandez (pink scrubs), president of the Filipino Nurses Association of New Zealand and Member of the Nursing Council of New Zealand; and Yen Canada-Wong, formerly of Hutt Hospital but now a full-time wife and mother. Yen had a personal connection to the 11 Pinoy nurses who perished in the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake. They are identified below by their first names in CAPS, comments edited for brevity. Mabuhay kayo idols! ]

I DON’T THINK anyone will argue with me right now when I say that the Pinoy community’s greatest gift to New Zealand in the middle of the Covid19 pandemic is our Filipino health workers, not least the 4337 (as of 2017) nurses that heal, monitor and give comfort to those suffering from the coronavirus and related illnesses in New Zealand.

Appreciated, overachieving and brilliant as they are, our health workers are very human, and very Filipino, meaning they need love, interaction and laughter as much as anyone of us in our barangay, whether we be in North or South Island, Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, or anywhere else in Aotearoa.

I approached these most essential of the essential workers (but our supermarket workers, food industry workers, emergency services and IT workers are equally important) and asked them a few questions, their off-the-cuff feelings and remarks on their job, the situation, and fellow kabayan Filipinos :

Anyone can react to this, and the answers are rather obvious, but I need to ask: how do we Filipinos thrive in the lockdown environment?

YEN : I think as Filipino, we are used to weathering the storms. As a migrant, I’ve learned to be flexible and basically make do. It might be daunting to be stuck at home but I’ve been trying a few Filipino recipes. Even made some homemade longganisa, it’s been going good for us so far.

KRISTINE DIANNE : But as Filipinos I believe nurses like me are resourceful and cope readily with these situations. I know Filipinos are very much prepared at this time as they buy the things and necessities they need during this said lockdown.

MONINA : Generally speaking, we all know that Pinoys are flexible, resilient and tech savvy. I suppose all Pinoys are thriving well socially speaking, even if they have to socialise via social media/phone/chats. I think one thing that would be a challenge is for those who are working in essential services. I think a huge proportion of Filipinos work in this area and with that they really have to be careful with how they carry on with their work because they are exposed to the risk of getting COVID due to their work. This means that they are also exposing their families to the risk of COVID because they have to get out of their ‘bubbles’ all the time. Another risk that Pinoys have to face is the loss of income due to business closure or perhaps losing a job. In these instances, I suppose our kababayan here in NZ may need some support from government if they belong in this category.

“We don’t have the virus. Please stay at home for us

as we stay at work for everyone.”

How has Covid19 impacted your profession and work?

KRISTINE DIANNE : The current covid 19 pandemic changed our lives as healthcare professionals. Other workers are staying at home, but we need to stay outside in order to help other people, especially the sick ones. It plays a huge impact especially when you are going to  use public transport and there are times some people will discriminate against you, while some will highly respect you. Each day I wake up thanking the Lord for being alive that I can serve the people again. I know it is a difficult part of our work as healthworkers as we are the frontliners. Since NZ announced the lockdown, the biggest worry for me is how to go to work and how to go home safely as we’re allowed limited time on public transport.

As an individual who lives alone in NZ, there is also a worry as I am thinking about my family way back home. But I am very privileged we have the modern technology to reconnect to them and a videocall wouldn’t transmit the virus anyway.

MONINA : COVID has been a huge challenge to the nursing profession because of the risk of exposure and the demand for them to cover for other colleagues when they have to self-isolate or when they are sick.

The biggest challenge?

KRISTINE DIANNE : (answers the question with a request) the challenge for ourselves and our kabayan is to not to make us feel discriminated against. We don’t have the virus. We are taking care of ourselves and please, during the lockdown, stay home for us as we stay at work for everyone. Please be kind at the midst of the crisis. Let us not be selfish. Let us offer our help to our fellow kababayan.

Bonus question. The craziest or most inspiring story about your job since the lockdown?

KRISTINE DIANNE : The craziest story I’ve  heard since the lockdown is about people who try to avoid you because they think you have the virus, thinking you are carrying the virus but in fact you follow stricter safety measures compared to anyone else. But the most inspiring story I had Kuya is when people in the hospital like me try our best to cope with the stress by diversional activities like having a good sense of humor out of everything.

MONINA : The craziest? Everyone seems to want to have online meetings! Inspiring – Everyone who follows the rule in staying in their bubbles. It’s not easy and everyone is making a sacrifice. They have learned to adapt though with their creative activities at home.

Another would be all the essential workers and of course the health workers (who are of course, part of essential services), what they do and their sacrifice to make our lives resemble normality. Health workers are gearing up for the worst which builds the country’s capability to respond to very critical times, as when the numbers of Covid19 positive cases in critical condition go up. Lots of trainings, sourcing of resources, engineering work, etc. are happening behind the scenes to prepare for this. That is very reassuring, because we are ready.

*****     *****     *****

Very well said. Spare a thought please today for all our essential workers and front liners!

Do you have a story about yourself as a health professional or about someone you know as a health professional and frontliner that makes all of us Pinoys in NZ proud? Please tell us all about it via the comments section below or email us at  Mabuhay!



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