Some 70 Filipino nurses in the United States recently scored a huge victory in a suit concerning the use of the Tagalog language in their workplace, a hospital in Delano, California. Because of their legal triumph, these nurses were awarded $1 million in damages.
But what is more significant and heartwarming is the fact that Tagalog, the basis of our national language Filipino, has finally gained its place in the sun, so to speak. And the brave Filipino nurses have proven to all and sundry that they have the guts to fight for what they believe is right and just, and that they are no pushovers.
The case they filed stemmed from the policy issued by the hospital management prohibiting the use of Tagalog in the nurses’ conversations with their fellow Filipinos. Why were they singled out? Other ethnic groups were not banned from speaking in their respective mother tongues.
I have observed this at close range. From big hospitals like the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center and Glendale Memorial Hospital to small clinics such as the QueensCare and Glendale Community Health Center, Latin Americans are allowed to use Spanish even if there are other nationalities around. Why the discrimination?
Filipino nurses are in demand in America and elsewhere. They are known to be efficient, courteous, caring, sincere and concerned with the wellbeing of their patients. No offense meant, but they are unlike the nurses of other nationalities who have been observed to be stern and detached from the patients under their care.
Even Americans themselves are said to prefer Filipino nurses rather than their fellow Americans. In fact, they say that they easily recover when our compatriot nurses are the ones attending to them. This is a tribute to the qualities of Filipino nurses.
As a Filipino, particularly for one formerly connected with the Institute of National Language (Surian ng Wikang Pambansa), I am elated over the victory of the Filipino nurses. Once again, Filipinos have demonstrated their capacity to fight for their rights and principles.
Mabuhay ang wikang Tagalog! Mabuhay ang lahing Pilipino!
—EUSEBIO S. SAN DIEGO, founder, Kaguro and former president, Quezon City Public School Teachers Association