Henedina Estranero

Henedina came from Santiago, Ilocos Sur, Philippines February 10th, 1976 to be an auxiliary nurse at the Royal Hospital.

She worked in the NHS for 35 years, climbing ranks, winning many awards as a nurse and supervisor. She and her husband have two children and gone onto build the St Cecilia primary school back in Canton City, in the Philippines

Her story is filmed and told by her son Mark Gadong

He also filmed and created her beautiful video below.

Mum, what was your motivation for coming?

I wanted to come here because I saw our neighbours who had come had been successful and they were living an abundant life.

What was the process?

The requirement was to have two years hospital work experience. But back then, I only had one and a half years work experience but luckily, the doctor gave me a reference for two years work so then my application got approved! My sister helped me organise all my papers so that by the time I came over, they were already waiting for me to work with them.

Was there a certain type of nursing that you wanted to go for?

I only applied for Nursing Auxiliary. It's called a carer today.

When you came over, did you travel by yourself?

There were six of us from different provinces. The night we left, one of them was crying, saying 'if I knew it was going to be this hard, I wouldn't have left'. She said missed her boyfriend. I said 'Can't you wait for four years and then you can get married?'. The others also felt lonely. I felt the same way but I did not cry. It was also hard for me as I also left my boyfriend behind but I thought to myself that if he can't wait then we're just not meant for each other. The next day, the other lady decided to go back home!

How did Grandma feel?

My mum and dad said if they knew I wanted to go, they would have just broken my legs so that I couldn't leave! When we were at the airport, my mum was crying. I also wanted to cry, but I held it in and didn't want to show them.

What were your first impressions of here? What were the big differences?

The houses were beautiful. I thought everything was concrete, but then I realised that there were lots of countryside and greenery.

The food! They have fish here, but I miss the fish from home. Also winter, it's so cold and my feet were freezing!

It was also hard to adjust to the accent, but if I listened carefully I could understand.

Were you ever homesick?

Not much. At first I was, I would cry alone in my room as I would feel lonely, especially at night. Thankfully, I had my uncle and sister to guide me. To overcome loneliness, I would also pray.

I would remember my boyfriend, but later on I did not feel sad anymore because he got married to someone else!

I still do miss The Philippines, mainly the family gatherings, which are better there!

Why did you choose to stay in the UK?

Everything I worked hard for was here. I started a care home business, and slowly I've been able to own three houses. And I enjoyed it here!

How often do you try and get back home?

Back then I would try and go home every year. But once I had my business I could only go back for emergencies.

When did here feel like it was your real home?

When you were born, it finally felt like this was home. It felt like this was my destination. By that point I felt like I had spent more time here than in The Philippines. Plus we had our house here, so I thought this is where we belong now.

Where do you feel most at home? Is it here or over there?

I much prefer it here because as a senior citizen, we have plenty more privileges.

Are you proud of your decision to move over here?

Definitely! I am so proud! Everything I dreamt of, I was able to achieve here. I have a big house, a business and properties back home. I still don't know how I was able to achieve all of that.

What do you leave as your legacy?

Our life is just so good. I'm so happy. Me and your father are so proud of you. You have also achieved a lot. You are really successful and you have a good job. I'm so happy about that. That last thing we desire is for us to have some grandchildren.

What do you do to occupy your time now?

When we go home to the The Philippines, we manage the school that we've built there. It's still operating, your dad and I are very proud it is popular and it's one of the top private schools in Candon City.

What are your best memories of working in the NHS?

The memory I cherish the most was when I got awarded as the top performing nurse. They would give out bonuses, but I would have preferred certificates because I would have collected a lot of them!

Were there also some tough times?

There were tough times but I was ultimately happy. I once had a supervisor who would ask me to do a lot of things. But then the hospital sent me for further training and when I got back I got promoted to the same position as my supervisor. She was shocked because I was now wearing the same uniform as her! And then she questioned as to how I got promoted. And I just responded with a smile and giggle. But deep inside I was upset because I felt like she was underestimating me. I brushed it off as I was happy to be promoted and I'm proud of that.

Do you have any regrets?

Nothing. It was my dream since I was a kid to be a nurse and take care of my parents when they grow old and also be of service to my community. That was my dream, to become a nurse, and I was successful at it.

If you were to start again, what sort of advice would you give your younger self?

Don't worry, darling. You will be alright.