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ALTER- IEC ties up with over 15 universities in Philippines,
with global exclusive rights for programs in medicine,
engineering, Pharmacy, Optometry, Physiotherapy and various
other programs taught in English.
Nursing to the Ends of the Earth
By Erwin Cabucos?MANILA, Philippines
- Theresa Lisondra’s hands were trembling when she
hung up the phone in a small company clinic in Zamboanga
City. It was the call she had been waiting for. The words
of the caller from the 20-bed hospital in an outback town
in Australia kept drumming in her head. In need of a nurse.
As soon as possible. The nursing supervisor had been forthcoming:
“It’s a small healthcare facility and the
town is not much bigger either. And we need your help.
Will you come and work for us?”
Theresa dashed to an Internet café, hardly blinking
as she scanned the screen: “Welcome to Balranald,
New South Wales. Wheat’s everywhere. Population:
1500. Forget about clubs, cinemas and food courts. There’s
an IGA, a local cooperative sort of general store, and
the next Woolworths, the major grocery chain in the country,
is one hour away.”
She breathed in and felt her palms sweating.
“Should I go for it?” she thought. “Will
I survive there?” She made a decision. “At
least it’s in Australia,” she reassured herself.
If she could survive the poverty in the Philippines, she
could make it in the outback, she thought.
Her initial worries, she recalled, were
the duties she’d be assigned to do: Would they be
different from what she was doing in the Philippines?
How about the people I’d be working with? “At
that time, I still hadn’t been exposed to a proper
hospital setting,” she added.
After flights from Zamboanga to Manila,
then on to Melbourne, the shy Filipina nurse hopped on
a bus for a 15-hour journey to a town “so quiet,
I could hear the chirping of a bird on a wheat stalk at
the side of the road.” There was only one bank—the
Commonwealth Bank, which is serviced by a post office
Despite the challenges of her new environment,
Theresa considered herself lucky. The only girl among
three children born to Tirso and Victoria Lisondra of
Zamboanga City, she now had the opportunity to earn dollars
and send money to augment her family’s survival
Actually, it was not Theresa’s
first time in Australia. She had been on an AusAid Scholarship
to study Nursing at the University of Newcastle, which
is situated in a coastal town two hours by car north of
Sydney. While at the university, she did her practice
as a clinical nurse at the city’s John Hunter Hospital
and the Mater Hospital.
After completing her degree in Australia,
Theresa returned home to practice her profession in Zamboanga’s
needy areas, only to find that her Australian nursing
degree was not recognized in the Philippines. “I
was appalled! I had studied for four years in a first
world country and yet what I learned was not good enough
for the Philippines!”
She learned that to be recognised as
a registered nurse in the country, she had to go through
two more years of studies and had to work in a hospital
setting. “I wasn’t prepared to do that,”
says Theresa. “At the back of my mind, I had plans
to somehow find the means to go back to Australia.”
In the meantime, she found work as a
clinic nurse in a plywood processing company in Zamboanga,
treating wounded workers and earning six Australian dollars
a day (about P200). She laughs about it now. She currently
receives about 50 Australian dollars or about P1,900 an
hour on weekends.
“And it was hard work at the clinic,”
recalls Theresa. “You attend to a wounded patient,
apply first aid, call a doctor and organise transport
to a bigger hospital if needed, and so on.”
Things were not as busy in Balranald,
she adds. “I had to do physiotherapy, blood letting
and collection, injections, cannula application, time
management, taking charge of the ward, etc. But I get
to have a rest as well.” The staff were very helpful,
she says. “I was in a small town where people had
Eventually, Theresa admits, she got bored.
“I asked my supervisor if there was a Filipino community
in town, and she gave the name of the local pharmacist
whom she thought might be married to a Filipina.”
This was after all a small town where everyone kind of
knows everyone else. “My head nurse called the pharmacist
straightaway and she was right: the pharmacist’s
wife was the only other Filipino in town! I was given
When she attended Mass that Sunday, Theresa
found that there was actually a third Filipina in town.
Her two kababayans didn’t even know each other,
she recalls. “I had to introduce them. It seems
they mostly just stayed indoors for fear of becoming dark
from the sun. I laughed.”
Apparently, the two other Filipinas had
thought that Balnarald Hospital’s predominantly
aboriginal patients had gotten their dusky color from
Australia’s fierce sun. Theresa took it all in stride.
“My patients’ skin color does not matter to
me. When I help, I help genuinely—and that’s
what drives me as a nurse. It’s so rewarding to
be able to help someone, seeing them getting better.”
Like other professionals, Theresa faces
challenges in her job. She recalls instances when she
had to collect blood from a drunken patient. “The
needle wobbled as his arm shook. It was scary,”
she says. “There were also times when my patient’s
family would look for another nurse even when I was in
the room with them. I felt degraded and belittled. I suspect
that some people, Caucasians especially, believe that
because I’m Asian, I’m not good enough.”
She decided to approach them nonetheless, asking confidently
and with a smile if she could help them. “I wanted
to show them that I was just as qualified as the other
nurses,” she recounts.
After a year at Balnarald, Theresa was
able to buy her own car. No longer dependent on public
transport, she drove to the cities and decided to transfer
to the coastal and cosmopolitan cities on the east coast
of Australia. She went back to work at John Hunter Hospital
and the Mater Private Hospital, in the same city where
she had studied nursing. Surrounded by acquaintances from
her university days, she felt quite at home. Filipinos,
one of the fastest growing migrant groups in Australia,
were everywhere and maintained their social ties through
community events and festivities.
But Theresa wanted to see more of this
vast continent and registered herself through a nursing
agency. Being single and free, she thought she could have
the time of her life seeing more of Australia. From doing
the big cities, she was eventually posted to small New
South Wales towns, including Denman (population: 1500)
and Yeoval (population: 450), and later to big cities,
including Canberra—the nation’s capital with
a population of over 320,000.
Looking back on those years, Theresa
compares working as a nurse in remote areas, with her
nursing duties in cosmopolitan cities. “In the city,
you only focus on ward duties. The blood letting, physiotherapy
and other tasks are assigned to other professionals.”
Two years after, she applied for—and
was granted—permanent residency. After a couple
more years, she got her citizenship. But Theresa never
forgot Balranald and says that given the chance, she’d
like to come back to work in one such quiet place because
she could easily save and send more money back home.
For the Balranald assignment, Theresa
applied online through websites like mycareer.com.au and
seek.com.au in Australia and sent them her resume. “Far
Western Area Health Service, which manages the Balranald
hospital, was the only one that responded,” she
recalls. “They interviewed me over the phone and
sent me the visa to work on a contractual basis. It was
so easy. I was even given an establishment allowance,
including a plane and a bus ticket.”
Theresa says it is easy for other Filipino
nurses to have their degrees updated and to work as registered
nurses in Australia. Salaries can reach up to $65,000
a year. Filipinos who have degrees other than nursing
can also have their previous studies assessed by the National
Office for Overseas Recognition or NOOSR.
“It is easier to study nursing
in Australia than in the Philippines,” she says.
“Students in Australia are only given tasks to study
or practice, or to write about as an essay to complete
a subject. Students in the Philippines are given exams
every week or every two weeks. That can be very exhausting.”
As for possible life partners, Theresa
pauses before admitting that she hardly sees any young
men her age. They could be in the pub, she surmises, not
exactly her scene. “I think I’m really destined
for a Filipino guy,” she says. “And anyone
interested in applying for the position of that special
one simply needs to speak up and not be shy,” she
This year, Theresa hopes to be able to
bring her mother to visit Australia. “I want to
show Mamang the beautiful places here. I’ll think
she’ll enjoy them all.”
Erwin Cabucos writes fiction and non-fiction for Philippine
publications, including Filipinas Magazine in New York
and Bayanihan News in Australia.
The Seoul Times
Philippines Becomes ESL Destination
By Jake Reed
Staff Writer/Assistant Editor
By Jake Reed
Staff Writer/Assistant Editor
When Koreans think of studying English
abroad countries like the USA and Canada come to mind.
Yet, for almost 30 years, South Koreans have been being
educated in English in the Philippines.
In order to create awareness of the benefits of studying
English in the Philippines seven school
representatives set up booths at Coex's Pacific Hall in
Seoul for the bi-annual Korea Student Fair on March 29-30,
2008. Hundreds of Koreans could be seen seeking information
on their educational future abroad.
As an underdog of in terms of ESL education,
this South Eastern island nation has been pushing forward
an awareness campaign in South Korea.
First secretary and consul of the Philippine
Embassy in Seoul, Sylvia Marasigan, gave her thoughts
on as to why people should study in her country. "The
distance to the Philippines is shorter and the prices
are more reasonable than other countries offering English
education" she said.
Having qualified personnel teaching students
is also a concern. The Philippines is certainly not lacking
in such. "Filipinos speak English from birth and
the language acts as the medium in which we are educated"
exclaimed the first secretary.
She also feels that "the South Korean
government should allow people from her country to teach
English just like people from other recognized countries
that have it as their national language."
uition depends on how long you want to
study. The shortest curriculum is 8 weeks and the longer
ones peak off at 24 weeks. The cost of living is also
considerably cheaper than other western countries who
attended the Student Fair.
The history of the South Koreans learning
English in the Philippines started in the 1980's and became
immensely popular in the early 90's. The most popular
cities are Manila, Cebu, Baguio, and Boracay. In terms
of costs, Baguio is amongst the most inexpensive places
for accommodation and tuition. Some of the pricier cities
include Manila and Cebu.
The Philippines offer a competitive alternative
to already established English teaching destinations with
a more than fair price and a much shorter trip