Why are there so many Filipino nurses in the US?

By Rodel Rodis/Inquirer.net
This was the question posed to me by a curious TV reporter on May 7, just three days after a stretch limousine traveling across the San Mateo Bridge carrying nine Filipino nurses to a bridal party suddenly burst into flames killing five of the occupants, including the bride.

When she interviewed me in my law office in San Francisco, Ann Notarangelo, the reporter who is the weekend anchor of CBS 5?s Eyewitness News, explained that she was only asking the question because it was on the minds of her viewers. She thought I might know the answer as I taught Filipino American History at San Francisco State University and I am the legal counsel of the Philippine Nurses Association of Northern California. Plus, I added, I am also married to a Filipino nurse.

Ann said that she was frankly surprised to learn that 20% of all the registered nurses in California are Filipinos, a considerably large percentage since Filipinos number only 2.3 million (officially 1.2 million) out of a state population of 38 million.

“I never noticed it before,” Ann told me, “because I generally don’t see people in racial terms.” But, she said, in reflecting back on all the times she visited friends and relatives in hospitals all over California, she now recalls seeing Filipino nurses everywhere. Not just in California, I said.

There but not quite there

The seeming anonymity of Filipino nurses in the US – of being there but not being quite there – is likely no more. The video clip of the fire-engulfed limousine was the top story in the US over the weekend. The media reported that the fatalities included Neriza Fojas, 31, a newlywed bride who was planning to get married again in the Philippines in June; Michelle Estrera, 35, the bride’s Maid of Honor who worked with her at a Fresno medical facility; Jennifer Balon, 39, and Anna Alcantara, 46, of San Lorenzo, who both worked at the Fruitvale Healthcare Center; and Felomina Geronga, 43, who worked at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland.

Americans also learned about the nurses who escaped the fire and were treated for burns and smoke inhalation: Mary G. Guardiano, 42; Jasmine Desguia, 34; Nelia Arrellano, 36; and Amalia Loyola, 48. In a TV interview shown all over the US, an anguished Nelia Arellano blamed the limo driver for failing to stop immediately and for selfishly refusing to help them get out of the burning limo.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/limo-passenger-to-driver-after-fire-help-me/2013/05/07/d4dfd631-e67b-4b16-b01b-503c68b0e28f_video.html?tid=obnetwork

As the TV camera started rolling, Ann posed the question to me: “Why are there so many Filipino nurses in the US?”

There are push and pull factors that are at play, I explained. The main push factor is the poor Philippine economy where an average RN earns only about 5% of what an RN is paid in the US. The main pull factor is the nursing shortage in the US.

Americans should not to be too surprised at the large number of Filipinos in the US. After all, the Philippines was a US colony from 1899 until the Japanese occupation in 1942 and, some would argue, a “neo-colony” for many decades after the Philippines was granted independence by the US in 1946.

It does not surprise the British to see many Indians and Pakistanis in England, nor does it surprise the French that there are many Algerians in France. They understand that people from the colonized countries generally tend to gravitate and immigrate to their “mother” countries, even after their native countries were granted independence.

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