There's a stereotype that all Filipinos are nurses, and to an extent this is true. My parents, most of my uncles, aunties and grandparents were nurses or were at least in the medical field. When I told my parents that I wanted to pursue filmmaking as a career, I knew it wasn't just a life update - it implied that my family history was about to change.
In the Philippines, being a nurse opens doors to opportunities. A lot of Filipinos move overseas to earn more money abroad than they ever could in the Philippines. There's a term, called 'OFW' or 'Overseas Filipino Worker', which captures this phenomenon. In this sense, being a nurse is almost like having a passport and a credit card in itself - it's no wonder so many people are drawn to the industry.
My parents have been in the nursing industry for almost 26 years now. Nursing was guaranteed financial security for my family.
Growing up, however, I found myself drawn to creative subjects. I started making short films for assignments and for fun at home - but it wasn't until I took a short editing course back when I was 16 when I realised that filmmaking was right for me.
At that point, I thought to myself, "Am I going to be one of those Filipinos who don't become a nurse? Will I be a disappointment to my parents, my relatives and - my country?" Deep down, I knew that nursing wasn't for me when I had trouble looking at my Year Four science textbook that had graphic pictures of broken bones, diseases and infections. If I had trouble in the classroom, would I really be able to treat living (and bleeding) patients in real life?
When I told my parents I wanted to do filmmaking as a career, they had different reactions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, mum was disappointed. So you don't want to be a nurse? Can you at least become a doctor or a dentist? Don't want to be in the medical industry? Fine. Why don't you do law instead? My mum saw filming as a hobby, not a career, and you can't earn money for your family from a hobby.
So you don't want to be a nurse? Can you at least become a doctor or a dentist? Don't want to be in the medical industry? Fine. Why don't you do law instead?
On the other hand, Dad was pleased. My dad was once a writer for television back in the Philippines but became a nurse instead when I was born. He knew that a career in the filmmaking industry did not provide enough stable income for his wife and newly-born and only child.
I remember all the stories Dad told me about the adventures he had as a film journalist and later, a TV writer, as well as all the Filipino celebrities he befriended during that time (to the point where some of the stars became my godparents).
One of my favourite tales of Dad's television career involved the way he had to think on his feet for the talk show he worked on. He would often be asked to come up with new questions and write them on a huge sheet paper as the cameras kept rolling. The questions would then be held up for the host to see, like that scene from Love Actually when Mark was confessing his feelings for Juliet.
Being able to follow my father's footsteps by being in the same industry has brought me closer to him. Every time I went home from a shoot I knew I could always talk about what happened on set and Dad would understand.
Being able to follow my father's footsteps by being in the same industry has brought me closer to him
Fast forward to now, my mum is happy with the industry that I have chosen. After showing her a short film I worked on during my graduation year at film school, she said, "I am so happy that you are doing the thing that you love doing." No mention of medical career options that time.
By breaking the nursing trend in my family, I feel empowered knowing that the career path I took resonated with me completely. At family events, it's quite fascinating to see relatives (both young and old) congratulating me for doing film and television rather than shaming me. Being the eldest cousin on both sides, I hope this inspired my younger cousins to pick the industry they truly want to work in.
Despite not following the family nursing tradition, I have incredible respect for the amazing frontline medical workers both at home and abroad. During the pandemic, I have gained a much better appreciation for my parents' job. Each time I see my parents leave for a shift at the hospital, I hope that they are safe and have the smoothest shift possible. Seeing them stay in their own industry for so long has taught me how to be resilient as a person - something that will continue to get me through the long days in my own work.