By Bernie V. Lopez,
During my eastwind adventures in Europe, I met Filipino nurses in Rotterdam working at the Kanker Ziekenhuis (Cancer Hospital), from whom I learned many lessons about life. I was eating sinigang na ulo ng isda (fish head soup, a Filipino delicacy) with two Filipino nurses.
CYNTHIA – We Filipino nurses used to get these monstrous fish heads for free at the market.
ME – Really?
EVA – We just say it’s for the cat with a big smile to the vendor. They find us so cute, you know.
CYNTHIA – They just give it away. The Dutch do not eat fish head.
ME – How come they are no longer free?
EVA – It’s this stupid nurse. He told the vendor we make it into delicious soup.
CYNTHIA – After so many years, it was for free, now they sell them to us.
EVA – Still cheap, but no longer for free.
CYNTHIA – Now the Dutch are starting to eat fish head after we taught them how to cook it.
EVA – So prices started going up, hay naku (sigh).
ME – Tell me about your work at the Ziekenhuis.
EVA – 3 to 5 patients die of cancer every day. I can’t stand it anymore. I can’t sleep at nights, so I started stealing valium. In time, I became a valium addict. It was bad. I got over it in time, becoming numb to people dying, but I had to pass thru that trauma, my baptism of fire.
CYNTHIA – Dutch patients like Filipino nurses a lot, you know.
ME – How come?
CYNTHIA – This old woman said, “How come when you dress my wound, I don’t feel any pain. How come when a Dutch nurse does it, it is painful?” I told her, “It is cultural ma’am. It doesn’t mean we are better than the Dutch.” So they call us liefde (darling).
EVA – We are so much in demand, not only as nurses but as housewives.
ME – This was 40 years ago. I wonder how much a giant fish head cost per kilo today.


Once I met a Filipino nurse in Rotterdam married to a Dutch. She was in deep depression. 
ROSA – (Sobbing.) My marriage is on the rocks. Please help me.
ME – Why what’s wrong?
ROSA – My husband can’t seem to understand me. It’s hard to explain. He mistreats me.
ME – He is blind to Filipino culture and ways, that’s why.
ROSA – Whatever. So what do I do?
ME – Tell him to visit your family in Bicol alone without you. Tell him to stay for a month.
ROSA – What will that do? Sounds ridiculously to me.
In time, in desperation, Rosa agreed to my plan. The husband readily agreed. He stayed for one month at their Bicol home with her mother and six sisters. The guy had a crush on one of the sisters, so the plan almost fell apart. But the mother found out and sent the sister away. 
When the husband came home, Rosa was in tears. He was a changed man. He said he learned about Filipino values and ways. He became kinder, gentler, more patient and loving. He even started cooking Flip food for Rosa, which he learned in Bicol. Now he is proud to invite guests to eat Filipino food. He is proud to be Filipino, Rosa to be Dutch. Now they are happily married.
I myself was surprised that I was such a good amateur marriage counselor. Try it. Advise cross cultural couples whose marriages are falling apart to try cultural immersion. It’s like magic. It opens up hearts and minds. No need for books or sermons, just experiential wisdom from immersion. 


eastwind Posters 18c – 24a – pptgen126
Miraculous rose petal depicting the Holy Trinity
Our Lady Mediatrix of Grace, Lipa City, Philippines,
Pray for us and for the conversion of China.

Hubble space photo, NASA
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