Linda Bennett

Linda came from the Philippines in 1975 to train as a nurse with children with learning disabilities at Botley's Park in Surrey. She upped her grade Staff Nurse and moved on to nursing with elderly psychiatric patients. Now retired from the NHS she works at a local Sue Ryder private care home.

The interview was undertaken by her daughter Lynda Lorraine, an award-winning artist, much of who's beautiful work, some seen here, explores the Philippine Diaspora. @lyndalorraine

What was the process? Did you come as part of a particular in-itiative or drive?

Mum applied directly to the hospital to study nursing for two years, she had made another application previously which wasn't successful – so second time lucky!

Did you have to apply for a certain type of nursing?

As she had initially trained as a primary school teacher in the Philippines, she applied for nursing with children and young people with learning disa-bilities. Shortly after submitting the application they checked her references and asked when she could start and had an interview with the British Con-sulate in Manila.

Were you scared or worried about leaving home?

She was worried as she didn't know anything about England or the UK as everything she knew is based on American movies and culture! But she was also excited to start and came alone. She was going with the flow and had no particular plans to come back or any time-scales as, though there was family there, there was little opportunity for interesting, secure work.

How did your family feel?

It was bitter sweet, they were unhappy she was leaving, but also happy that her application had been a success and that she had found stable work that interested her.

What were your very first impressions when you got here?

That it was cold! As she arrived in February, so the coldest time of year to get here! She was lucky enough to meet another Filipino woman on the flight that worked as a housekeeper that offered her house to warm up in before she took a cab to her final destination. She also quickly noticed how 70's British food was tasteless and watery compared to Filipino food – which she missed a lot. But she met other Malaysian, Indonesian and Mauritian women that studied with her, they learnt how to cook different types of curry together!

Were you homesick?

She was homesick, but after the first semester studying, another Filipino woman joined her group to study called Cherry, whom we always knew as Auntie Cherry and they are still friends today. Being able to speak Filipino together helped sooth her homesickness a great deal. My Grandad from the Philippines knew some people in London who visited her in Surrey, but they were busy with work so only came once in a while.

What has been the journey that led to you still being here? Do you go back home to visit?

Mum married my Dad who is English in the late 70's so she stayed here to have a family. The first time she went back to Philippines was seven years after she first came here to study, and by that time they had myself and my brothers in tow! When we, her kids, were a bit older and she had gone back to work she visited the Philippines more frequently.

How long did you work for the NHS? And in what capacity?

She worked as an Enrolled nurse with children with learning disabilities in the NHS, though eventually upped her grade to the equivalent of a staff nurse today. She took a break from nursing for six years to bring up her young family, and when my sister was born went back to nursing with el-derly psychiatric patients. As she worked in a psychiatric hospital she oc-casionally covered the secure wards, elderly patients with challenging be-haviour and other areas. Since she retired from working for the NHS, she has been working with a local Sue Ryder facility, a private care home that looks after people with neurological conditions.

How long did it take before it was really home, if it is for you? What do you miss?

Sometimes England feels like home, and sometimes it doesn't, but it's a hard one to define as she feels like the Philippines is still equally her home. She misses family and the food the most - though she cooks Filipino food a lot and is much easier to get the right ingredients now. I remember as a kid making special trips into China Town once a month to gather ingredi-ents as they were not widely available across the country yet. During lock-down last year she perfected her Filipino style bakery skills, like pan de co-co, chocolate pandesal, corn beef pandesal and Filipino cheese bread. I missed her mung bean and pork stew, chicken afritada, her mean adobo, sinigang, leche flan and halo halo the most. The first curry I learnt to cook was one of the recipes she had learnt from her fellow South East Asian nursing students back in the day! And as for family, though it's not the same as being with them in person, social media has made staying in touch with them so much easier!

What is your legacy here?

She feels her legacy is her kids and we are what has made it all worth it. She said with a huge proud smile!

Your best, most enjoyable, moment/day/era working for the NHS?

Mum loved making friends while working that were also Filipino. As well as knowing 'home' (mum always refers to the Philippines as 'home'), they uniquely understood what it was/is like to be Filipino in England.

And your worst?

Those times she was asked to cover in the secure wards in the Psychiatric Hospital, she found it scary.

Any regrets? Would you do it all again?

No regrets!