For generations, Filipino nurses have been on America’s front lines

- Advertisement -

Elizabeth Capdangan is a nurse at Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, Maryland. She is among those Filipino nurses who have their lives documented by photographer Rossum Morton.

- Advertisement -

Jennifer Bulalong kept a close account of her working hours.

She arrived in the United States in 2019 with a group of fellow nurses from the Philippines, landing first in Florida before being posted to a hospital in Missouri. And thus began his count: 5,200 hours in three years, the terms of the contract he signed with his recruiting agency. After that, she was free to permanently join the rest of her family, who had been waiting for her in Maryland since 2016.


“That became the target, the target,” she said.

For years, he kept his head down and went hours away with nothing, from 12 hours to one, to close the gap between time zones. It is a story familiar to many other families of the diaspora, a tale of distance and difficult reunion. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Bulalong and many other Filipino nurses like her found themselves part of another story with bigger roles: frontline workers.

- Advertisement -
Jennifer Bulalong’s mother Leanne is also a nurse. She is seen on the right next to her youngest daughter, Jillian, on her laptop for a virtual nursing class. On the left is Jillian’s grandmother, Riccolia Ramos.

Jennifer, left, visits her family in Maryland in September 2020. Here, she cooks Filipino food to take him back home.

Jennifer, at left, says goodbye to her family before flying back to Missouri.

“During those first few months of Covid, you just had to stay focused. I had to do it, I had to help,” Bulalong said. “It took a few months for everything to sink in. I was (in) work mode.”

As the pandemic continued, grim statistics emerged, showing how it disproportionately affected Filipinos and other healthcare workers of color. According to the nation’s largest nursing union, National Nurses United, Filipinos make up 4% of registered nurses in the United States. but As of February 2021 report Published by the group, 26.4% of nurses who died of COVID-19 and related complications in the United States were Filipinos. They accounted for 83 nurses out of 314 deaths where race and ethnicity data was available.

These numbers bring to light a community whose role in the wider national story is often untold. And perhaps few are better suited to document this intersection than the photographer and nurse Rosem Morton, She immigrated to the United States from the Philippines at the age of 17.

Ernest Capdangan holds his newborn daughter, Eliana Grace, while his wife, Elizabeth, fills out their daily baby report. They both work as nurses in Maryland.
After coming home from work, Lovela Eugenio falls asleep in her car. She holds two full-time nursing jobs.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Morton used his photos to show the world Inside Baltimore Hospital, How she and everyone around her adjust to new rules and procedures, and how the risk of infection looms large in quiet moments at home with her partner, who is also a nurse .

His current project, “Diaspora on the Frontline”—funded by a National Geographic grant—is an extension of that earlier work. It seeks to reveal the inner lives of Filipino nurses and their families beyond the stories of trauma.

When Morton was young, she says she was often asked questions like: “Why is your English so good? Why are there so many Filipino nurses? Why are you taking our job here?” He’s facing the kind of questions so many immigrants like him have faced; questions to which he only had vague answers. But he’s on the history that informed the project. The deeper he delved into researching – the connections to tie the United States and the Philippines together – the more he gained a foothold in those answers.

Brian Chavez, left, and Mark Abordo get ready for work. They are both night-shift nurses in Baltimore.

Eberdo, left, and Chavez leave the hospital after a shift. They try to match their schedule as much as possible.

Chavez gets ready for bed. He often works back-to-back shifts in the hospital.

All the nurses Morton worked with came in contact with Covid-19 patients.

She photographed Lovella Eugenio lovingly leaning on her husband as he plays the guitar. Eugenio, who works at the same hospital as Morton, works two full-time nursing jobs and grapples through his own coronavirus diagnosis.

Ernest Kapadungan, who works in a biocontainment unit. He relieves stress by looking at memes to help him deal with the misery that he has to see daily.

Morton photographed Bulalong on one of his trips to Maryland. Bulalong’s mother, Lien, is also a nurse, and both her sister and father are nursing students. All of them, except Jennifer, tested positive for Covid-19 in December. And although they have recovered, Lean still experiences some of the lingering effects of the virus.

Ronald Eugenio plays guitar while his wife, Lovela, decompresses after a nursing shift.

Leane Bulaong takes care of her plants as a way to decompress.

Ella Bontogan paints at home during her discharge from the hospital.

Elizabeth and Ernest Capdangan work out in different areas of their home. They try to stay active on their days off.

“I want people to pay attention to this community because they are an important community apart from statistics. These people are living really full, diverse lives that we need to know.” Morton said. “It is important because these people have always contributed to the good of the country, the world.”

Filipino health workers are at once ubiquitous and invisible in the United States.

Immigrants to the Philippines make up more than 13% of all foreign-origin health care workers – more than any other country – according to – 2018 figures from the Migration Policy Institute. And then there are the US-born Filipinos who are following in the footsteps of relatives.

but JokeI, As once said at the Emmys, you rarely see him on medical TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “ER.”

Lovella Eugenio wears a mask and tries to distance herself as she spends time with her mother, Lolita Flores. He is worried about his mother getting sick.

A note on Eugenio’s family board says: “Happy Mother’s Day. We love you – the cool kids.” She replies: “Thank you my kids. I love you all too.”

Elizabeth Capdangan keeps a mask, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies in her car.

However, their presence is an enduring legacy of the United States’ colonization of the Philippines in the first half of the 20th century, a history of which Morton himself was not previously fully aware, but is now eager to explore further.

“I feel like I’ve opened this box. I was furious at what I learned,” Morton said. “It’s really important for us to learn, just to understand why we’re here.”

In “Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History”, a 2003 book that serves as a reference for Morton’s project, the author Catherine Ash Choy Challenges the “philanthropy” with which the United States accepted immigrants from the Philippines. During his rule, the United States imposed its culture, values, and language on its colony. Choy found that this created an Americanized nursing program that inadvertently primed Filipinos to fill the nursing shortage after World War II, thus setting off a mass emigration.

Red Cross nurses in the Philippines pose for a portrait in 1919. (Yutcon Collection/Alamy)

Rudolfo Eladio Essena poses for his 1919 graduation portrait at the Philippine General Hospital School of Nursing in Manila. A year after graduation he moved to the United States. (Courtesy Buring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry)

Felicidad Nolasco Akeena poses outside the Filipino YMCA club. Asena was a Filipino nurse who moved to Cleveland in 1926. (courtesy boring center for nursing historical inquiry)

According to Choy, a combination of US and Philippine government policies, as well as the interests of American hospitals, Filipino recruiting agencies, and professional associations, contributed to a culture of migration that encouraged Filipinos to work in the United States.

These days, nearly one in four working Filipino adults in the country is a frontline healthcare worker, according to data cited by One. jama network report. And Filipinos continued to heed America’s call, especially as the pandemic and the psychological toll caused nurses to leave in large numbers.

Like many in their profession, both Bulalong and Morton are re-evaluating the role that nursing plays in their lives after 18 months of fire. Bulalong has since completed her contract and finally moved to Maryland with her family. Morton is taking some time off to focus on photography. But this year alone, Bulalong has seen his hospital in Missouri bring in more nurses from the Philippines each month.

Mark Bontogon wears personal protective equipment before entering a patient’s room. He works as a telemetry nurse in the night shift.
Elizabeth Capdangan sees her husband Ernest on his way to work.

Those nurses still think about their home country, their desperate response to the pandemic, and the relatives they left behind. But the nature of his work, his life in the United States, demands that he also save his energy for the battles fought here.

“The way we’ve been programmed[that]we want to go to America because that’s how we’ll make it, that’s how we’ll make our lives better,” Morton said. “Not the narrative that America even needs us to be here.

“I think it has definitely changed the way I look at my profession and I want other people to see it as well.”

Credit :

- Advertisement -
Mail Us For  DMCA / Credit  Notice

Recent Articles

Stay on top - Get the daily news in your inbox

Related Stories