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By Jonathan Monis, contributor

It was 9AM, September 15. Marco (name changed for privacy) rushed through every corner of his house as he prepared himself to attend the RH Bill talk of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago at UP Diliman. The forum was set to start in 30 minutes, yet he was still at home.

Looking in the mirror and combing his hair, he heard a familiar beep: the ring tone of his cell phone. He stopped to read the text message. A text from a friend said, “Bakit ganyan? Aktibista ka na? Anu na ba pinaggagagawa mo?”

A smile appeared on his face as he remembered how his life changed when he became an advocate. It all started after he graduated and passed the Board Exam in Nursing.

It was so tough to find a job. It seemed his credentials were not enough to land a hospital job. He felt that his license to practice nursing was rubbish and having the initials ‘RN’ on your name is was not enough. The ‘MBA’ (May Backer Ako) factor was apparently needed as well. Like any other fresh graduate, he felt hopeless about finding a job, and beyond hope regarding his profession.

Over 37,000 nurses passed the June 2008 licensure examination. This huge number joined the nursing profession – an additional 37,000 searching for work amidst limited nursing positions. A number like that would normally mean that you have to be the cream of the crop, which would be the case if MBA system weren’t so prolific. This resulted in the knights of Florence Nightingale being forced to stray into other industries or stay unemployed. The complex problems of the nursing profession took its toll on them.

After his plans failed to materialize, he became what is now typically called, “Nurse Tambay”: a nurse that you will see on the streets goofing around or on the couch and online almost all day, while spending the nights thinking about what went wrong in their lives after they passed the board exam.

These symptoms are often part of the depression and desperation a fresh nursing graduate feels.

Desperate enough to do something worthwhile, Marco approached a friend who’s active in an organization, and signified his intent to join. Marco wasn’t sure why he decided to do that. He was not previously active in any organizations–not even in the Red Cross, in which almost all nursing students are actively participating. He would rather play DOTA or go home early to watch his favorite TV shows rather than spend his time in advocacy work.

Marco’s friend welcomed his proposal, however, and invited him to join their regular meetings. That was when he met the core group of that special organization: the Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates (AYNLA).

The group was advocating the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and it seemed interesting. Marco decided to join the group. It was a tough year for the organization when he joined. The group was re-organizing at the time, after a difficult period. Nevertheless, Marco saw the vision of this organization, and he wanted to be a real part of it. So, he strived hard and laughed hard with the group to reach this goal. Since then, his life changed a lot.

The slope going to the goal became steeper as the organization stood up for the rights of Filipino nurses. It was a battle that only few dared to undertake, as it was hard to go against huge institutions and to break the status quo. At that time, volunteerism-cum-training was fast becoming a norm. They courageously stood up and took actions to end exploitation of nurses.

Working with AYNLA taught him lessons about how to fight for what he deserves, and to defend his rights. It likewise taught him to preserve his principles for as long as doing so doesn’t step on others.

He became more immersed in social issues and human rights activism when he became active in RH advocacy through the Youth Consortium for Reproductive Health. His advocacy for MDGs narrowed to reproductive health and youth empowerment. It opened his eyes to the cries for equality and equity, the fight against stigmas and discrimination against PLHIV, and young people’s struggle for meaningful involvement. It also broadened his perspectives on public engagement and politics.

At AYNLA, he was able to meet and converse with people that inspired him. He was able to learn from experiential leadership and management through exposure to different activities and people. It opened doors to several opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

Day after day, he realized that being an advocate certainly was more than worthwhile. Being an advocate was noble. It could teach you altruism and high moral ideals. It could transform you into a better person.

“So what! Well, I am proud.” he said to himself. He finished his morning routine, wore his purple polo shirt and ‘PASS THE RH BILL’ baller band. Then, he departed.

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