Facing up to discrimination
CEBU CITY—When she first worked at a nursing home in Wayne, New Jersey, Evelyn Galicia had to contend with discrimination from her coworkers.
“Some Americans think of Asians as inferior. But it’s up to you if you will take that as a challenge or (concede) defeat. I took (it) as a challenge,” said the 49-year-old Galicia, a native of Naval town in Biliran, in an interview conducted through the Internet.
Despite her determination, the road was not smooth for Galicia, who has been working in the United States for 25 years.
The Filipino nurse decided to work abroad to help her family. She was also raising a daughter single-handedly.
Galicia had been working for only two years with the Philippine Heart Center, which hired her immediately after she graduated in 1983 from the Cebu State College (now Cebu Normal University), when she was hired by Atrium Hamilton Park in New Jersey as a staff nurse.
Faced with discrimination in the work place, the Filipino decided to prove her coworkers wrong. She worked hard and took administration-related courses.
Slowly, Galicia rose from the ranks, eventually becoming head nurse. She was transferred to the hospital’s management department as a supervisor and later as a director and assistant administration officer.
After 21 years at Atrium,Galicia accepted the offer from Wayne View Care Center, a nursing home in New Jersey, to be its administrator, with the authority to hire new employees. The position enabled her to hire more Filipinos.
She pointed out that Filipinos abroad were diligent workers. They accepted any work-related challenge and would find a way to accomplish the task assigned to them.
She said being an administrator allowed her to help many Filipinos “who, I believe, are very smart and hardworking.”
Ethics, not English
But she said Filipinos had to overcome their insecurity over their inability to converse well in English.
“Filipinos have to realize that work ethics is more important than the ability to speak English as fluently as the Americans,” Galicia said.
For providing jobs to Filipinos in New Jersey, Galicia was named in 2010 Woman of the Year in the nursing profession by the Pan American Concerned Citizens in Action League Inc. (Paccal).
According to its web site (paccal.org), Paccal is a “multi-service organization” that aims to assess and address the health and human service needs of Filipinos and other Asians in Jersey City.
Organized in 1992, it was partly funded by a Community Development Block Grant from the Jersey City Division of Community Development, the web site said.
Just as she intended, Galicia’s success benefited her family. When she started to earn more, she brought her daughter to the US. She also continued to support her parents in Biliran, sending them a monthly allowance until they passed on (her father Ismael died in 1987 and her mother Conchita, in 2004).
She later had a son in the US whom she also raised as a single parent.
Her daughter is now a physician and is back in the Philippines. Her son, who will be in college next year, stays with her in the US.
“The secret to juggling roles as a mom and a worker is time management. Lay out your plans and make sure you (accomplish) them,” she said.
After working with Wayne View Care Center for only two years, differences with the chief executive officer made Galicia leave. She was then offered the position of wellness director of the Hamilton Park Care Center, another nursing home facility in New Jersey.
Galicia said she planned to return to the Philippines after she retired from this new job.
“I just couldn’t wait to go back home,” she said. “There’s no place like the Philippines and there are no people like the Filipinos.”