I’m not a fan of touristy places, and I prefer to avoid the crowd. While many are raving about the Eiffel Tower, I opted to see the French Riviera in 2019. Most of my friends’ bucket lists include a tour of Paris, while I’m still hoping to one day visit the French Alps in Grenoble. Until today. Ladies and Gents, this post is dedicated to the woman who made a huge impact in my life and just like the Eiffel Tower, she was strong, elegant, brilliant, and everyone loved her.
I took up a bachelor’s degree in nursing, but it wasn’t by choice. Just like how most parents want their children to have a good career after graduation. I didn’t like it to be honest, but I had to do it. I’d go to school, pass the tests & exams, submit my projects, then play DOTA with my classmates once we’re dismissed. Likewise, I wasn’t the studious type.
It was in my second year when I met Ma’am Tess, who became my instructor even during our clinical rotations. One day, she asked me why I took up the course and I bluntly told her I wanted to be a physicist or cosmonaut and that my parents only forced me (she laughed in response and said “Haaaaay POWLA”). Speaking of Paula, she was the only person in school who intentionally mispronounced my name, and the few students who she called by their first names. That wasn’t the “turning point,” no. I still procrastinated during those times. I truly didn’t like my course that I intentionally failed my subjects – the faculty even had to call my parents to address the issue. Not only that, but I was lost and confused, I wanted to quit and venture somewhere else.
That’s when she became my beacon, my personal Eiffel Tower. I’m not going to disclose what we talked about, but it was like a kick in the shin and a giant warm hug at the same time. Then, she gave me a book called The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and I broke down like a babe.
Things went better after that. I started to semi-like my course and focus on my studies. She was always there to lend a hand and push me to aim for what I thought was an impossible reach. I still procrastinated, though! Hahaha! Our relationship was like how a mom is to her toddler. I was her stubborn & disobedient child that she kept reprimanding to then say “Haaaaay POWLA” whenever she got frustrated (by how her lips twitched whenever she pretended to be ‘frustrated’, I know she wasn’t upset but rather being playful). Also, she was always the first to congratulate me whenever I top the tests and exams. She truly had the warmest smile.
Graduation was bittersweet, of course. It was fun to celebrate with classmates and the teachers who became my second family, but it was also sad to know that our four-year journey was over. However, I understand that commencement indicates a beginning, not an end, and I look forward to moving on and to prepare for the board exam.
Before the Nurses Licensure Exam, I talked with Ma’am Tess, and if I could vividly remember I was rambling about a video game I couldn’t defeat (I even told her how reviewing for the exam was interfering with my gaming – in response, she looked at me disapprovingly. Hahaha). But to be honest, It was one of the most emotional conversations I had ever had. I was once again plagued with self-doubt and wanted to join the third batch of examiners. She said, “I see great things in your future. Keep being who you are and do not lose your great determination and focus.” And it has become my life mantra ever since. She also gave me another book, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I swear to God, I cried-ugly that day. I was a mess, and it took two hot fudge sundaes to console me.
I didn’t see her for months after the exam, it was in March 2009 when I came to visit the school. I brought my Board Rating and Board Passing Certificate (and a box of pizza), super excited to show her. It was that day when I found out that it was she who recommended to the Dean to have me take the exam with the first batch and that I was one of her top 5s (by the way, I opted to take the second batch). “I told you you’d make it, you even topped the board exam!”
After the Oath-Taking in 2009, I received an SMS inviting me to the school. Confused, I called the number, and it was the office secretary who answered and said “Florence Nightingale ka daw sabe ni Ma’am Tess punta ka dito para masukatan ka.” (English: Ma’am Tess said you’re Florence Nightingale, come over so we can have your uniform fitted).
Florence Nightingale, often called “the Lady with the Lamp,” the British nurse and social reformer who was the foundational philosopher of modern nursing.
Sometime around 2010, I resigned from my job because I wasn’t happy. I didn’t know if she approved or disapproved, she only told me that there are plenty of opportunities out there and that you should follow what you desire to do. The week after that, I started to arrange my credentials, I told her I planned to take the US Licensure Exam for Nurses – she was very proud until I told her I also enrolled in pole dance classes, and she gave me this disapproving look. “You told me to follow what I desire, right?” And she responded “Haaaaay POWLA” then asked “Paano ba mag pole dance?” (English: How do you pole dance).
I was once again summoned to the school, that the Dean wanted to speak to me. It was a formal invitation for me to be the guest speaker for the Capping & Pinning Ceremony. That night, she told me that there were vacancies at our affiliate hospital with and to return next week to get my recommendation letter.
Three months into my new job, I saw her at the hospital. We chatted a bit though I wanted to invite her to lunch sadly, our schedules didn’t match. I also asked to have our pictures taken. Funny, she was assigned to my ward for a week. I ‘borrowed’ her from her students and I introduced her to my colleagues & Unit Manager, told them that Ma’am Tess was my mom and my mentor. It was she who molded me to become who I am.
My Unit Manger noticed that Ma’am Tess was “teary-eyed.”
Drama queen. 🙄
Personally, if I were to compare her to any famous landmarks, she would be the Eiffel Tower. She was La Dame de Fer in a nurturing way, she was firm with an obvious expectation of excellence; she was also quick to hug. She was strong and stubborn, but loving. She had no problem speaking her mind or putting you in your place, but she did so with gentleness. She was elegant in clothes, hair, speech, and, above all, prose. I was very impressed that she was always put together so early while most of us had just rolled out of bed five minutes before class. She was brilliant. She was great to have in class not only because she was such a giver, but because she was so willing to share not just her knowledge & skills, but also wisdom & insight, moral discernment & respect, and appreciation for others.
August 4, 2021, she passed away, but she will be remembered for her quiet brightness, and compassion that showed through the lives she touched and inspired during her years of service as a nurse and as an educator. Through all of her accomplishments and loves in life, her greatest pride was found in being a loving mother to her only son.
If I were to travel again, I’d definitely add the Eiffel Tower to my list and dedicate that trip to this strong, elegant and brilliant woman.