"The Way We Were"
A Graduation Ceremony Remembered: Nilda R. Berguido, RN
By Marilyn Abalos
“My ambition was to be a nurse and serve God, my country and my people. My motto is that ‘Sincerity and Humility are the virtues in woman and Love is the harmony of the world.’”
These are the words that have guided my mother, Natividad Ronquillo Abalos, as a woman, a wife and mother – and a nurse. I found this passage a frayed two by three inch hard-bound journal which she had written more than 70 years ago in Oton, Iloilo, Philippines.
Mom was a nursing student at the Iloilo Mission Hospital’s Nursing School. The American administration had offered full scholarships in nursing and medicine to students in Iloilo in the 1930s. “The Americans paid the tuition for girls to study nursing and medicine for the boys.” She received her RN degree from School of Nursing, Iloilo Mission Hospital in 1935.
It was her nursing career that took her across the Philippine Sea to the US Territory of Guam. Mom was part of the first wave of Filipino immigrants who traveled to Guam as part of the US Military effort to rebuild the island following the devastation of World War II.
Photo Courtesy by the Abalos Family
Sentosa Nurses: Land a Mark on US Labor History
What was the Sentosa 27++ is all about
This is the case of the 27++ nurses and related healthcare workers who were directly hired by the recruitment agency, Prompt/Sentosa Enterprise from the Philippines to work in New York nursing home care facilities.
In April 2006, these nurses allegedly walked-out from the Avalon Gardens, apparently creating a staff shortage that “endangered the welfare of patients”.
In March 2007, the nurses were indicted by the Suffolk District Court, together with their legal counsel, Atty. Felix Vinluan for a professional advise that it was the nurses right to resign, which was considered “a solicitation to commit a crime.”
The advocacy by several former Sentosa nurses, now known as the Sentosa 27++, to expose the fraud and misrepresentation in the immigration process that they believed resulted in the discrimination and abuse of immigrant Filipino nurses began.
The nurses filed a suit, the agency countersued, and vice-versa
The nurses filed the first salvo of complaints against Sentosa Enterprise before the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Immigration Practices. A few days later, Sentosa filed breach of contract cases against the nurses before the New York Supreme Court in Nassau County. It also filed administrative complaints against the nurses before the NYSED-Office of Professional Discipline, charging the nurses with patient abandonment.
The nurses countersued the Sentosa-affiliated nursing home facilities for breach of contract. They alleged the facilities were the ones that actually breached their contracts by not providing them any employment. They contended they were made agency nurses of Prompt Nursing Employment Agency, doing business as Sentosa Services. Prompt/Sentosa Services is an entity distinct and separate from any of the contracting nursing home facilities.
Violation of the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution fell on Filipino Nurses
The 13th Amendment was written in 1865 to forbid slavery and involuntary servitude. “The imposition of such a limitation upon the nurses’ ability to freely exercise their right to resign from the service of an employer who allegedly failed to fulfill the promises and commitment made to them is the antithesis of the free and voluntary system of labor envisioned by the 13th amendment”, the judges said.