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Honoring global Filipino healthcare workers who have passed because of the pandemic

An estimated 4%, or about 150,000, of nurses in the U.S. are Filipino, but in some regions they account for a much larger share of caregivers. In California, for example, nearly 20% of registered nurses are Filipinos. One of every four Filipinos in the New York-New Jersey area is employed in the health care industry. And because of their Covid-19 exposure – – – the risk for #Filipinoheathcareworkers to contract the highly-contagious virus is elevated; and some have fallen to it.

And because of this, #kanlungan website was formed. www.kanlunga.net is intended to be a memorial to the transnational people of Philippine ancestry who make up a huge sector of the global healthcare system. And in this video, we interview two of its founders – Jollene Levid – a community and labour organizer for 17 years; a union organizer of United Los Angeles Social Worker; and also daughter and granddaughter of immigrant Filipina nurses; and NinotchkaRosca – an award winning novelist, journalist, former political prisoner of the Marcos regime. She founded AF3IRM in 1989 and remains as an active member of the committee alongside Jollene.

Kanlungan was created after the death of nurse Rosary Castro Ollega, first healthcare worker to die of Covid-19 in Los Angeles. Jollene knew at the time that it was their social responsibility to document the lives of healthcare workers who have died from Covid-19 through an online memorial, Kanlungan. Ninotchka, on the other hand, was committed to making the lack of support to healthcare workers a real issue that must be dealt with on a worldwide scale. As Kanlungan became more and more recognised overseas, hospitals from all over the world would contact the organisation directly regarding deaths of other Filipino healthcare workers. Ninotchka exclaims, “We are not invisible anymore. We made this sector of our community visible.”

Jollene further explains that Kanlungan is not only created to honour the dead but also a tool for healthcare workers to utilise when collectively demanding their needs for substantial protective equipment. Kanlungan is a place where people can share stories and trust that the data is true and whole. “It is a memorial meant to honour [our] healthcare workers the way the deserve to be honoured,” she said.

The Kanlungan team was then formed to include other female members such as Grace Regullano, Charlene Sayo, Cherisse Nadal and Iris Strauss to name a few.

Some of the stories documented in Kanlungan from Jollene:

  • Celia Marcos “sounded the alarm” by telling the hospital corporation that they did not have masks and PPE. She later died from Covid-19.
  • John Alagos was a 23-year old healthcare worker (fresh out of school) who also died from Covid-19 because he did not have sufficient protective gear.
  • Arlene Aquino who passed away in Los Angeles from Covid-19 was supporting a family of 5 and have now left 2 children without legal guardians.

It is not only sad but also upsetting to know that these deaths could have been prevented provided that these healthcare workers had the right protection they deserved. In fact, Nanotchka feels personally “enraged” and “disgusted” by the lack of support towards these skilled health workers. “One small victory is not enough” it is “either we win all or” more healthcare workers will keep dying – she added.

As we continue to shelter in place – we aim to share relevant and accurate information and tools to help the public manage during this time of global pandemic.

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