Dear Ate,

It is 1 a.m. here in the Philippines; I wouldn’t be surprised if you are still up (even if it’s already 2 a.m. there in Japan) and crying as I write this. Like me, you are still probably thinking about the result of the annual kangoshi kokka shiken (National Board Examination for Nurses) that came out hours ago.

It has, after all, been the reason behind the buckets of tears you’ve shed in the last four years. Because unlike the local boards here which you had passed in just one take, you flunked it not just once but four times in a row.

In your defense though, only a few Filipinos, despite a year of rigorous language training, pass the test, because the entire questionnaire is in Nihongo. This means you had to build your Japanese vocabulary, including the medical terminologies, from scratch. And even if you knew the answer to a question, misreading the very complicated Japanese characters had often screwed your chances.

We both excelled in school when we were younger, so I totally understand why it’s been tough for you to deal with the unwanted anxieties from failing that exam: the mounting pressure, the loneliness and envy of getting left behind by your blockmates, the frustration of failing to meet other people’s expectations of you, and the shame of making history as Fukushimura Hospital’s first five-time test-taker.

Being the eldest in our brood of four, you soldiered on, thinking of your “why” in going this far: To give our parents a better life. You know, the kind that you would surely not be able to provide if you stayed here; the kind that I myself have been striving to give them.

You, therefore, had to stay strong as you took care of frail elderly patients. As they could no longer look after themselves, you patiently brushed their teeth, bathed them, turned them in bed (to prevent pressure sores), changed their diapers, and assisted them whenever they needed to relieve themselves—all these while enduring your recurring back pain. You didn’t mind even if these tasks are usually done here by caregivers or the patients’ relatives.

Since June last year, you have also been assuming the responsibilities of a seikan (registered nurse) even though your salary did not go up pending your national certification. Still, you relish inserting IV lines and catheters, extracting blood, tube-feeding and administering medications despite the language struggles when talking with patients and colleagues, and accomplishing patients’ charts. For you, this setup is way better than being sent back here—and ending up jobless amid a pandemic—no matter how you terribly miss us, especially Pampi, our 9-year-old aspin.

Your perseverance is nothing short of admirable. Even if you’ve stumbled many times, you still manage to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, wipe those tears away, and keep going—living to fight another day and wearing your scars like a badge of honor.

No wonder why, last Feb. 14, you once again took a leap of faith, braved the exam, and subjected yourself, coincidentally, to another possible heartbreak.

Remember what I told you then? You will pass. I have always believed in you, Ate. Not to mention, many people were praying for you!

But then, much as you did not want to give up, you made up your mind that should things go south again, you’d be packing up and coming home for good—a decision that we had fully supported because your mental well-being is important.

After over a month of waiting, the moment of truth came. As soon as the clock struck 1 p.m., I started looking up your examinee ID number on the online results. But it was only after 21 minutes of nervously refreshing the webpage—which rather felt like forever—when my eyes turned wide upon seeing “90018”. After which I, with both hands shaking, immediately took a screenshot of it, sent it to you, and typed out the words: “Pumasa kaaaaa!!!”

Reading such must have evoked a whirlwind—no, a tsunami—of emotions in you as you replied, “Grabe umiiyak ako.” Then on duty, you later told us that you quickly ran to the break room where your female Japanese team leader for the day saw you crying and gave you a hug.

You’ve finally made it, Ate, just when you were losing hope.

Your success made me realize that sometimes, God’s “no” could mean “not yet.” That He will not open a door for us and lead us to it—just like your unexpected qualification as a nurse candidate under JPEPA (which our family considers a huge blessing)—if He will not bring us through it. As Philippians 1:6, the Bible verse that you’ve held on to tightly, says, “…He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…”

It is now 3 a.m. here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re still up and crying as I finish writing this. And that’s fine. At least I am now assured that it’s no longer tears of sadness but of joy.

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