To Promote Health, Equity, Service, Advocacy, Education, and Collaboration in the communities that we serve.

HISTORIANS: Norma Bariso & Isabelita Paler

Sometime in September 1978 in a casual friendly chat, Cely Marcial, Rose Daria, and Mary Ann Ramos planned to organize a professional organization that was later named the “Philippine Nurses Association of Tidewater” (PNAT). The response from the Filipino nursing community provided enough members to form the necessary committees. The organization’s goals and objectives reflected the desire of Filipino nurses’ for personal and professional growth and to assist the pre-board applicants. Levy Paler, Rose Daria, and Cecile Incognito volunteered to conduct review classes. Soon it became evident that leadership was necessary to facilitate the growing demand for the organization. Araceli Marcial was elected as the 1st president on December 19, 1978. The major accomplishments in its early years were the strong bond among Filipino nurses and the attempt to seek charter membership with the Philippine Nurses Association of the Philippines.

Rosalinda Quiambao was elected as the 2nd president on November 16, 1980. Increased professional involvement of the Filipino nurses in the community was the highlight of Linda’s leadership. Each president brought her unique leadership style that shaped the organization’s culture and values.

Victoria Constante served as the 3rd president in 1985 with fundraising as her goal. Norma D. Bariso served as the 4th president in 1986 and catalyzed the PNAT membership to the National Organization of Philippine Nurses in the United States (NOPNUS). Soon, NOPNUS became the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA). A collaborative relationship between PNAT and PNAA began. The PNAA president was Emma Nemivant. A renewed interest in preparing nurses for licensure brought about review classes with positive outcomes.

The PNAT participated in various community health programs in Tidewater, the Eastern Shore, and Tangier Islands. Educational materials, medical equipment, and medical supplies found their way across the ocean to the Northern Christian College in the Philippines. Operation Smile holds a special place among the PNAT members and became the first recipient of the annual donations.

Peregrin C. Francisco, the 5th president, succeeded Norma in 1987. Perry focused on strengthening the in-service education programs. In 1988, Nancy A. Dimaano took the helm as the 6th president. The need to create a stable financial portfolio prompted this leadership to focus on fund raising activities. The president launched a successful raffle to finance its projects. The involvement of the PNAT members extends beyond local bounds. In June 1988, Linda Quiambao was elected auditor and Perry Francisco a member of the PNAA Board of Directors at the national convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Norma D. Bariso wore three hats as the PNAA Assistant Treasurer, Co-Chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee, and Chairperson of the Membership Committee. The PNAA president was Remedios A. Solarte.

Priscilla (Precy) Custodio became the 7th president in 1989. This was a busy year for the organization. The PNAT hosted the 10th PNAA National Convention in Virginia Beach. The PNAA president was Filipinas J. Lowery. A scholarship program was established during Precy’s presidency to provide financial assistance to students interested in a nursing career.

Leonor Sabado was elected the 8th president in 1990. She brought to the organization members who were motivated and goal oriented. The lifetime membership was approved. The PNAT Constitution and By Laws were revised as we face the challenges of the 90’s. Continuing education was highlighted by a nursing seminar entitled “The Nursing Challenge: Developing Competency.” The “PNAT Newsletter” was revamped to reflect the professionalism and ongoing growth of the organization.

Cecilia Incognito became the 9th president in 1991 and brought the organization closer to the community with health programs such as health screening for the elderly and life saving CPR skills for families.

Lolita Labuguen became the 10th president in 1992. Lolita spearheaded the volunteer work for the Chesapeake Care Clinic and became a member of the clinic’s Board of Directors. The year was highlighted by the election of Norma D. Bariso as the Treasurer and Chairperson of the Finance and Budget Committee of the PNAA.

The year 1993 set the stage for the leadership of the 11th president, Isabelita (Levy) Paler. The organization changed its name to the Philippine Nurses Association of Hampton Roads (PNAHR) to accommodate our expanding membership. Brochures were developed to showcase the activities and mission of the organization. The newsletter was published under the new banner, “The Filipino Nurse”.

As we brought 1994 to a close, PNAHR stood tall with its accomplishments under the guidance of the 12th president, Carmina Bautista. History was made as Levy was appointed to the Virginia Board of Nursing and the Board of Health Professions, the first Filipino nurse to gain a prestigious position on the Board. She was the first nurse educated from the Philippines to serve on the Board. This was written in the “Virginia Board of Nursing History 1903-2003”, authored by Corinne Dorsey, Executive Director of the Board of nursing. Levy provided an in-service on the role of the Virginia Board of Nursing and shared legislative updates that affect nurses in Virginia. At the national level, Norma D. Bariso was awarded the “Excellence Award as the Entrepreneur of the Year” by the PNAA at the Las Vegas National Convention. Carmina was elected to the Board of Directors and Norma kept her position as Treasurer and Chairperson of the Finance and Budget Committee of the PNAA. The PNAA president was Beatrice Miranda.

In 1995 PNAHR amended the Constitution and Bylaws to accommodate a two-year term of the officers. Venus Tomaneng, the 13th president from 1995 to 1996, provided strong leadership with a focus on commitment to the community. The formation of the Filipino Health Alliance made up of PNAHR, The Philippine Medical Association of Eastern Virginia (PMASEV) and Philippine Association of Medical Technologist (PAMET) solidified our coexistence and expansion of the health services to the community. The appointment of PNAHR members to different boards and commissions at the local, state, and national level is a testament of our strong capabilities: Levy Paler, was elected vice president of the Virginia Board of Nursing; Perry Francisco, Member of the Board of Health Profession representing Audiology, Speech, Language Pathology and the Mayor’s Committee on Health of Virginia Beach; Carmelita Pineda, the Commission on Human Rights; Mary Ann Ramos, Board member of the Virginia Nurses Association; Venus Tomaneng, the Mayor’s Committee on Aging of Virginia Beach. Lolita Labuguen, received The Volunteer Achievement Award of Hampton Roads for her work at the Chesapeake Care Free Clinic. Other accomplishments included: Norma D. Bariso first recipient of the PNAHR Most Outstanding Member Award; the formulation of policies and procedures to operationalize the bylaws; and the expansion of the scholarship program to members pursuing BSN and MS degrees. Norma continued as PNAA Treasurer and Chairman of Budget & Finance Committee. The PNAA president was Carmen T. Galang.

Ciony Gamboa, the 14th president from 1997 to 1998, committed the organization to host the PNAA 18th annual convention on July 13, 1997 held at Sheraton Hotel in Virginia Beach. The theme was “Exploring New Horizons in the Changing Health Care Environment.” The Legislative/Policy Forum presented issues that affect the regulation of nursing in Virginia. Levy Paler presented the PEW Report and its implications to Nursing. Carmina Bautista and Ciony Gamboa were elected in the Executive Board of the PNAA for the next two years. The PNAA president was Ampy Dela Paz. Levy Paler was elected President of the Virginia Board of Nursing in 1997 for one term. She received the PNAA Nursing Excellence Award in Nursing Administration at the PNAA National Convention in San Diego. The fall issue of the “Nursing Notes” showed the president’s message to all nursing licensees noting the strategic plan, multi-state licensing initiatives and tele-health. Leonor Sabado was the second recipient of the Most Outstanding Member Award.

Sol Aguinaldo, the 15th president from 1999 to 2000, initiated the PNAHR’s membership with the National Federation of Filipino American Association, a national civic organization and the Council of the United Filipino Organization of Tidewater (CUFOT), an umbrella of several Filipino organizations in Tidewater. Diosa Dimalanta and Levy Paler represented the organization as members of the Board of Directors of CUFOT. The ties between PNAHR with CUFOT was short-lived. Levy continued as Board of Director of CUFOT representing her regional organization. The PNAA president was Lolita B. Compas. Levy was reappointed to the Virginia Board of Nursing and the Board of Health Professions for the years 1998 to 2002 and served as a member of the Board of Health Profession’s Research Ad-hoc Committee on Telehealth. She was the third recipient of the PNAHR Most Outstanding Member Award.

Bella Nocon took the helm as the 16th president for 2001 to 2002 with the theme “Bridging Health Care in the Millennium” through Commitment, Accountability, Respect, and Excellence. The PNAA president was Pete-Reuben Calixto. The PNAHR applied for 501C3 tax exempt status. The Annual Miles for Smiles was established to continue our support for Operation Smile. To increase health awareness, PNAHR started a walkathon wellness program for the members. On the national level, Carmina Bautista was elected the PNAA Secretary and Norma D. Bariso was appointed Chairperson of Human Rights Committee. Seny Lipat was the PNAA president. Governor Mark Warner appointed Nancy Dimaano to the Council of Maternal & Child Care. Prescilla Custodio received the fourth PNAHR Most Outstanding Member Award.

The 17th president, Elizabeth Cuento Reyes, led PNAHR in 2003 to 2004 with the theme “Visibility, Vitality and Viability.” Lyndon Remias, CPA, expedited the 501C3 status and its new name Philippine Nurses Association of Virginia (PNAVA). The Constitution and Bylaws were revised with guidance from our legal adviser Atty. Greg Montero. Beth was re-appointed to the Advisory Board of the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services. Jeanne Tolentino received the outstanding award of the “Top 40 under 40” for excelling in the business world and for community volunteerism. Nancy Dimaano was elected to Region 6 Virginia Association for Home Care Board of Directors. The PNAA president Mila Velasquez appointed Carmina Bautista as Chairperson of the Membership Committee and Perry Francisco as Co-Chairperson of the Education Committee. PNAVA hosted the 6th PNAA Eastern Regional Conference in 2004 at the Sheraton Virginia Beach and culminated the two-day
event with a successful dinner and dance.

“Partnership in Leadership” was the theme as Alma DeGuzman became the 18th president from 2005 to 2006. Education Chairpersons, Carmina Bautista and Perry Francisco presented seminars on leadership. Rey Rivera, PNAA Education Chairperson was the keynote speaker in March 2005 presenting “Leaders: Managing Oneself.” Venus Tomaneng, 13th president, was honored as one of the “Twenty Outstanding Filipinos Abroad” in United States and Canada at a gala in Washington DC. Luz Jusayan was awarded the National Neonatal Nurse of the Year for 2006 in Las Vegas. PNAVA took active participation in the PNAA 26th and 27th National Conventions and in the Eastern Regional Conferences. Carmina Bautista remained as PNAA Membership Committee Chairperson and received the PNAA Excellence Award as “Clinical Nurse of the Year” in July 2006 in Boston. Perry Francisco was co-chairperson of the PNAA Education Committee. Guia Caliwagan participated in the Mentee/Mentor program of the National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurses Association. Jeanne Tolentino was awarded the 5th PNAVA Most Outstanding Member Award.

The theme “Stronger Foundation Through Vision and Action” described the presidency of Guia Caliwagan, the 19th president from 2007 to 2008. Seminars were organized by Margie Agbisit. The speakers, Perry Francisco, Carmina Bautista and Maggie Constante elicited participation and enthusiasm. In October 2007, Carmina filed a petition for rule making with the Virginia Board of Nursing on behalf of PNAVA to amend regulation 18VAC90-20-210 Section 120 to waive the requirement for a credential review by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing School (CGFNS) and examination of English Proficiency. The PNAVA Constitution and Bylaws was realigned with the PNAA. Perry Francisco was appointed to the Virginia Board of Nursing, the second PNAVA member appointed to the Board. In December 2007, Perry was awarded the first PNAVA Presidential Award; Leadership Award was awarded to Merla Marcelo, and Margie Agbisit received the Outstanding PNAVA Member Award. Nancy Dimaano and Jeanne Tolentino received the Old Dominion University Achievement Awards for Professional Achievements and Exemplary Service, respectively. PNAVA expanded membership by inviting subchapter membership in Richmond. May Mayor was PNAA president. Carmina Bautista wore several hats: PNAA Assistant Treasurer, Chairman of the Membership Committee, and Chairman of the Infrastructure Committee, 2007-2010, and was elected to the PNAA Executive Board for 2008 to 2010. Perry Francisco was appointed Chairperson of the PNAA Education Committee. Hats off to Perry, the recipient of the PNAA Excellence Award as Nurse Educator presented at South Padre Island, Texas on July 19, 2008. On September 13th of the same year, Levy Paler was honored by the Filipino Image Magazine as one of the “Twenty Outstanding Filipinos Abroad” in the United States and Canada at a gala in Marriott Hotel, Washington DC. The “Dina Estaris Scholarship Fund” was established with the support of Roy Estaris (Dina’s son).

The years 2009 to 2010 were led by our 20th president, Merla Marcelo, with the theme “Committed to make the difference through involvement and passion.” Merla’s term saw financial stability and increased membership. The PNAVA Richmond chapter under the presidency of Marge Mohta sponsored successful seminars and fundraising activities. On September 15, 2010, the Virginia Board of Nursing approved the waiver of the CGFNS exam. Acknowledgements went to Carmina Bautista for leading the petition in 2007 and to Perry Fransisco for working with members of the Board. The PNAVA Presidential Award was presented to Gloria Castillo and the Nursing Excellence Award to Carmina Bautista. Members received awards at the PNAA National Convention in Baltimore Maryland in 2009: The PNAA Excellence Award as entrepreneur of the year was awarded to Nancy Dimaano; Cely Marcial received an award from PNAA as PNAT cofounder and its first president. Perry Francisco, was elected Secretary of the Virginia Nurses Association (VNA) in 2010. PNAVA support to PNAA continued: Perry as co-chairman of the education committee and member of the PNAA Board of Trustees and Carmina, chair of the PNAA website and infrastructure. The PNAA president was Leo Jurado of New Jersey. The PNAVA’s benevolence was extended to Operation smile, Gawad Kalinga, and the “Habal-habal Project” in the Philippines under the oversight of Precy Custodio. Cecille M. Quinn received the PNAVA scholarship award.

The 21st president, Beatrice Sazon, started the years 2011 to 2012 with the theme “Diversity making a difference in global health.” The quarterly in-services were managed by Zenaida Limon, Chairman of the education committee. We remained active with the PNAA as Perry Francisco remained as education committee co-chairperson. The PNAA president was Rey Rivera. PNAVA hosted the PNAA 15th Eastern Regional Conference “Developing Competency for Healthcare Disparity” held in Colonial Williamsburg, VA on November 9-10, 2012.

“Together We Can Make A Difference” was the theme as Justine R. Ford took the helm as the 22nd president for 2013 to 2014. Justine, the energetic “Queen of Zumba”, led us to several fund-raising events to keep PNAVA financially stable. Zumba classes and walkathons made it possible to continue quarterly education and scholarship programs. The organization joined the community to support the Yolanda typhoon victims in the Philippines. Support to Operation Smile and the Habal-habal project continued. Zenaida Laxa, remained as chairperson of the PNAVA Education Committee. Guia Caliwagan was appointed to the Virginia Board of Nursing in 2013. She was a participant in a program on “Cultural Diversity in Academia and the Workplace” at the University of Richmond. Justine was recognized as the Top Cardiac Nurse by the International Nurses’ Association. Justine was one of the candidates in the Level 1 Leadership Foundation Scholars of the 2014 PNAA Leadership Scholar Program. Nancy Dimaano was appointed auditor of the PNAA. Victoria Navarro was the president of PNAA.

Virlita Delima became the 23rd president for 2015 to 2016. The theme “Empowerment Through Education, Community Service & Leadership” guided PNAVA for the next two years. Virlita maintained all PNAVA activities such as the quarterly continuing education chaired by Danea Garcia, community involvement, health screening, and fundraising activities. Zenaida Laxa, president-elect, sponsored the first reunion of the Circle of Presidents held at Perry Francisco’s residence on August 21, 2016. Justine Ford was appointed secretary in the Eastern Regional Chapter of PNAA. The PNAA president was Dr. Letty Hermosa.

Hilo Laxa took the helm in 2017 through 2018 as the 24th president. In keeping with the theme “Dynasty: Preserving Tradition, Empowerment, Inspiration,” Hilo harnessed the energy and talents of its members. She reactivated the circle of presidents to keep the past presidents engaged and appointed talented members to various committees. Catherine Paler, editor of the Filipino Nurse served as the webmaster and chairman of the education committee. The quarterly publication of the newsletter kept the members informed and connected. Continuing education units were offered to working members while retirees took advantage of programs to maintain a healthy lifestyle and healthy aging. Hilo’s leadership earned the organization several accolades at the national level. The 300% increase in membership was recognized at the PNAA National Convention in 2017 held at Baltimore Maryland with a Rookie of the Year Award and an incentive bonus of $750.00 from PNAA. In addition, Hilo was recognized for her outstanding leadership in PNAA Membership Recruitment. Our Superhero Line-dancing group was hailed as the most energetic group with their dancing prowess and costumes that added to the mood of the evening. Hilo was the recipient of an exemplary leadership award at the Filipino Nurses Global Summit and PNAA Convention in Manila in 2018. Catherine Paler, editor of “The Filipino Nurse” launched the first quarterly publication in May, 2017 which eventually became digital. The Constitution and Bylaws and the Policy & Procedure were revised to provide the organization with clear guidance for organizational governance. The PNAVA scholarship award was given to Yedda Descalzo in 2017 and Ren Capucao in 2018. The outreach programs were worth noting: The Operation Smile was given a $1000.00 donation; Habal-habal project received $400.00 and Gawad Kalinga a $ 200.00 donation.

As we celebrated the 40th anniversary of PNAVA, Inc. we welcomed the first male president, Angel DeGuzman, during his induction on November 9, 2018. Angel serenaded the group with a classic song, “What a wonderful world.” His mantra “Let’s make a difference in advocacy: engagement of membership and promotion of leadership towards practice and organization excellence,” guided his presidency. Catherine Paler, president-elect was presented the PNAVA Presidential Awarded for her work during the Laxa presidency at the inaugural ball. Cat continued to serve as webmaster and Editor of the Filipino Nurse.
She also chaired the education committee when an unexpected vacancy occurred. The newsletter was robust with a variety of news and articles focusing on health issues, past and incoming events. PNAVA celebrated Nurses Week which highlighted “The year of the Nurse” proclaimed by Mayor Bob Dyer, City of Virginia Beach. PNAA encourages ongoing leadership of its members. Several members of PNAVA Executive Board attended the 40th PNAA Annual Convention in Atlanta Georgia on July 24-28th, 2019. Cat Paler president-elect was one of the 25 graduates of the PNAA iLeadership Development Program (iLDP) for
emerging leaders, the first one from our chapter. Cat received the iLDP pin and a certificate of completion of an eight week online program at the ILDP Pinning Ceremony on July 27, 2019.

A Culture to Care: An Exhibition of the History of the Filipino Nurses in Virginia was presented by Ren Capucao, a doctoral student at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. It was supported by a grant from the Virginia Humanities and hosted by PNAVA on August 10, 2019 at the Philippine Cultural Center. Cely Marcial, Levy Paler, Perry Francisco, Estelita Davis and Teresa Gonzalvo shared their experiences in America and the challenges they faced as foreign nurse graduates during their interview with Ren. Teresa served as the mistress of ceremony and facilitated the panel discussion that followed. Hilo, Cat and Cely worked behind the scene to promote this program. This presentation was the first of its kind and displayed a great sense of pride for our collective efforts in support of a promising Filipino nurse historian. Advocate for self, patients and community was the highlight of the 20th Eastern Regional Conference in South Carolina from October 31st through November 3rd , 2019. Leadership awards were presented to four pillars of leadership. Hilo Laxa, our past president received the 2019 ER Outstanding Leader Advocate for Community Service.

Led by Carmina Bautista, Hilo Laxa and Catherine Paler, PNAVA petitioned the Virginia Board of Nursing to amend 18-Vac-90-19 requiring foreign nurse graduates to display Foreign educated nurse (FEN) on their name tags and after their signatures in nursing documents. On January 28, 2020, a group of PNAVA past presidents, Hilo, Verlita, Levy, Perry and Guia attended the Board meeting in Richmond. The Board unanimously approved the petition on a fast track mode. The amendment became effective on October 15, 2020. From that date forward foreign educated nurses who are waiting for results of licensure examination display “RNA” (registered nurse applicant) on their name tags and after their signatures on nursing documents.

Our organization experienced many adversities. The Taal Volcano in Batangas Philippines,erupted on January 12, 2020. It affected many, including families of our members. The president was at the center of the disaster while on vacation in the Philippines. He led the effort to provide food, clothings and shelter to the victims. PNAVA joined the community led by the Batangas Association of Hampton Roads to send financial support to the Batangas province. PNAVA was saddened by the death of Norma Bariso on April 24, 2020, after 3 three years of battling with Cancer. She was our president in 1988, our historian for forty-two years and chairman of the policy and procedure committee. A week prior to her passing, Norma asked Levy to continue to tell the story of PNAVA. The Filipino Nurse, June 2020 edition was dedicated to Norma a friend and colleague who left her footprints of love, kindness and dedication to PNAVA.

COVID 19 came to America. Our members remained connected to one another and with other chapters for mutual support and information on CDC guidelines. PNAA and PNAVA distributed masks to all members. This tragedy made us closer. We keep in contact with our sick members, pray together and stayed committed to our mission. Our bond is strong. Virtual meetings and small group gatherings kept the organization operational. It is still a wonderful world, as the outgoing president passed on the gavel and the traditional plaque to the new president. The “Virginia Nurses Today” featured several PNAVA members in its fall edition namely: Catherine Paler, Perry Fransisco, Teresa Gonzalvo, Justine Ford and Angel DeGuzman. Carmina Bautista was commissioned as a citizen member at the Virginia Board of Health Professions, 2020-2024. The following members were appointed to the PNAA leadership positions and committees for 2020-2022: Carmina Bautista Executive Director, Hilo Laxa Chairperson of the Ways and Means committee, Catherine Paler, member of PNAA Policy and Procedure committee and member of PNAA Ethics committee, Teresa Gonzalvo, Chairman of PNAA Ethics committee and Justine Ford, member of PNAA Ethics committee. Justine was appointed to the Health Services Advisory Committee of the City of Virginia Beach, 2020-2023.

Catherine Paler was inducted as the 26th president at a virtual ceremony on November 21, 2020. The theme “Connect, Create, Collaborate” captures the essence of what PNAVA will focus on the next two years. Her inaugural speech was forward looking and ambitious. Kudos goes to all program participants and the induction committee for a successful virtual induction. A new team has arrived with president elect, Teresa Gonzalvo. They are visionaries with impeccable credentials, energy and determination to actualize the theme. Joanne Colasito was awarded the PNAVA Scholarship Award.

History is always moving replete with memories. It will be written through the eyes of a new historian, a promise to a friend she vowed to keep. We thank the Lord every day for keeping us mission-focused, healthy, and optimistic. What the Philippine Nurses Association of Virginia, Inc. has become, and will be, remains our thrust. From whence we came, through time after time, year after year, we will continue to shape its destiny.

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