I am not a fan of touristy places and prefer to avoid crowds. While many people rave about visiting the Eiffel Tower, I’ve decided to spend 2019 on the French Riviera. Most of my friends’ bucket lists include a trip to Paris, while I hope to visit Grenoble and experience the French Alps. That is, until now. Ladies and gentlemen, this article is dedicated to the woman who had a tremendous influence on my life. She was strong, elegant, and brilliant, exactly like the Eiffel Tower, and everyone admired her. Here’s why I’ve put the Eiffel Tower on my bucket list.

Why I’ve Added the Brilliant Eiffel Tower to My Bucket List

I pursued a bachelor’s degree in nursing, like most parents, mine wanted me to have a successful career after I graduate. To be honest, I didn’t want to do it, but that was the only option I had. I’d go to school, do my quizzes and examinations, turn in my projects, and then play DOTA with my classmates after school. 

Ma Tess and I met for the first time in my second year. When she asked why I was taking the course, I told her frankly that I wanted to be a physicist or an astronaut, and that my parents had just forced me to do so (she laughed and said, “Haaaaaay POWLA” in response). She was the only person in school who intentionally mispronounced my name, as well as the few students she addressed by their first names. No, that was not the “turning point,”  I still procrastinated during those times.

I was so displeased with my course that I intentionally failed a few of my subjects in the first semester; the instructors had to call my parents to address the situation.  Not only that, but I felt lost and confused, and I wanted to leave and shift to another course.

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That’s when she became my beacon, my personal Eiffel Tower. I won’t say what we talked about, but it felt like a kick in the shin and a huge, warm hug all at the same time. Then she gave me Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life, and I sobbed like a baby.

Things became better after that. I began to appreciate my course and concentrate on my academics; in fact, I received one of the highest marks on our Battery Exam. She was always willing to lend a hand and push me to strive for goals I thought were out of reach. Our bond was comparable to that of a mother and her toddler. She was the first to congratulate me when I excelled in quizzes and examinations, despite the fact that I was the difficult and rebellious kid she was always reprimanding accompanied with “Haaaay POWLA.”

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The Dean appointed Dana & me to organize the Clinical Graduation and said to choose an adviser… Automatically, it’s Mama Tess. ❤️
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Drama Queens

Graduation was, of course, bittersweet. It was exciting to celebrate with classmates and instructors who had become my second family, but it was also heartbreaking to realize that our four-year journey was coming to an end. However, I realize that commencement signifies a beginning, not an end, and I look forward to moving on and preparing for the board exam.

I spoke with Ma Tess before the Nurses Licensure Exam, and if I recall correctly, I was ranting about a video game I couldn’t beat (I even told her how reviewing for the exam was interfering with my gaming – in response, she looked at me disapprovingly. Hahaha).

We had a serious talk prior to the exam. To be honest, that was one of the most emotional conversations I’d ever had. Then she said, “I see great things in your future. Keep being who you are and do not lose your great determination and focus.” Since then, that has become my life motto. She also gave me another book, Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. That day, I swear to God, I cried-ugly. I was a mess and it took two hot fudge sundaes to make me feel better.

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Nurses’ Oath-taking 2009
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We were talking in between. As I complained about how itchy the uniform was and she was hungry.

I didn’t see her for months following the exam, not until I visited the school in March 2009. I brought my Board Rating and Board Passing certificates to show her (along with a box of pizza). She confessed that I was in her top five, and she was the one who recommended me to the Dean. “I told you you’d make it, and you did!”

Soon after the Oath-Taking in 2009, I received an SMS asking me to school. I phoned the number, and the office secretary answered, “Florence Nightingale ka daw sabi ni Ma’am Tess punta ka dito para masukatan ka.” (English: Ma’am Tess says you’re your batch’s Florence Nightingale; please come over so we can have you fitted for your uniform.)

Florence Nightingale, often called “the Lady with the Lamp,” the British nurse and social reformer who was the foundational philosopher of modern nursing.

I left my job in 2010 because I wasn’t satisfied. I wasn’t sure if she approved or disapproved; all she said was that there are lots of opportunities out there and that you should go after what interest you. When I told her I’d started pole dancing classes, she gave me a disapproving look. Again. “Didn’t you tell me to go after what I want?” And she said, “Haaay POWLA” then asked, “Paano ba mag pole dance?”  (English: How do you pole dance?).

I was called back to school, and this time it was a formal invitation to speak at the Capping and Pinning Ceremony. That night, she told me that there were job openings at our affiliate hospitals and that I should return the next week to pick up my recommendation letter. From the Dean.

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“Guest Speaker”
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The Brat & The Proud Momma

I ran into her at the hospital three months into my new work. Our stars aligned and her class was assigned to my department. We talked for a while, and I wanted to invite her to lunch, but our schedules didn’t coincide. I ‘borrowed’ her from her pupils and introduced her to my coworkers and Unit Manager, telling them that Ma Tess was my mentor and mom back in college and some other mushy stuff.

Ma Tess was “teary-eyed,” according to my Unit Manager.

Drama queen.

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I fangirled upon seeing her at my workplace.

Even after graduation, we stayed in touch through SMS and Facebook Messenger. She was one of the few individuals I confided in regarding my aspirations, achievements, sentiments, and other personal matters. I may be a full-blown extrovert to most people, yet I keep the most private things to a few.

One day we were talking about my love life and she made a joke about my future blue-eyed baby. The next thing I knew, she was gone. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I had to take a few hours off work, and it took me a few days to accept the news.

If I had to pick a famous landmark to compare her to, it would be the Eiffel Tower. She was La Dame de Fer, firm with an obvious expectation of excellence, she was also quick to hug. She was strong and stubborn, yet she was also loving. She had no qualms about expressing her opinion or putting you in your place, but she did so with tact. She was beautiful in her attire, hair, speech, and, above all, prose. I was always impressed by her ability to get ready so early, especially when most of us had only rolled out of bed five minutes before class. She was brilliant. She was wonderful to have in class not just because she was a giver, but also because she was eager to share not only her knowledge and skills, but also her wisdom and insight, moral judgment and respect, and appreciation for others.

She passed on August 4, 2021, but she will be remembered for her quiet brightness and compassion, which she showed through the lives she touched and inspired over her years of service as a nurse and educator. Her greatest pride in life was found in being a loving mother to her only son, despite all of her successes and loves.

When I travel again, I’d add the Eiffel Tower to my itinerary and dedicate that journey to this strong, elegant, and brilliant woman.

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Image Credit: Mama Tess’ FB Page & Canva

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18 Comments

  1. avatar

    this is such a heartwarming story. ang ganda ganda ng relationship niyo even after college. you are who you are because of her. im sure she is proud of you always.

    ps. although ive always wanted to go to Paris and se Le Eiffel. it is my son who is pushing me to go there soonest time possible as if kaya. hahaha

  2. avatar

    This blog was a surprise and im so sorry for your loss. Losing someone who meants a lot to us is tough, but we can always look back at the joyful memories we had together cause those are worth keeping.

  3. avatar

    She’s such a good person and a teacher to always guide you. In this world, there are only a few people who see the real us and our future. I’m happy you met someone like her. I know you’re hurting as she passed away but I bet she’ll be guiding you from above.

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Polly Amora is the señorita behind GoldenIslandSenorita.Net and the general manager of a privately-owned company in Manila, Philippines. She is a lifelong learner who is very outgoing, speaks four languages, is loud and outspoken, and loves to have adventures in the mountains, on the beach, and in the city. You can throw her anywhere, and she'll handle it like a pro. Ice cream and beer are two of her weaknesses.