It has been more than a year since Estrella Gumiran stopped longing for the Balikbayan boxes filled with last season’s American fashion, toiletries, Hershey’s Chocolate, or candy bars sent her way to the Philippines by a well-off American far-related cousin or aunt. Now, she eagerly packs up those boxes herself with valuable items she purchased at American outlet sales to send to her family back in the Philippines!
Estrella is a Registered Nurse sponsored to America in 2022 by White Glove Placement, a top nursing agency based in New York. She works in a prestigious nursing home, earning a high income, while loving the life the United States offers.
“It was my childhood dream to make a better life in America. But being in the country is even better than I envisioned just one year ago,” she exclaimed.
A Dream While Growing Up
As it happened, the year Estrella entered college, a worldwide nursing shortage became more pronounced, and students were encouraged to study nursing with the hope that they would later fill the gaps.
“Little did I know this would pave my way for future sponsorship to America.” Estrella enthusiastically underlined.
In 2008 Estrella met her soul mate, Carlo, who shared her ambitions for a better tomorrow. To everyone’s sheer joy, they married on a beautiful day in June later in the year. Less than twelve months later, they gave birth to a baby girl. Gentina, as they called her, hugged them fiercely, and Estrella promised herself to protect her and give her the best life possible.
Yet, sponsorship to America seemed more elusive than ever. It was after the American banking crisis of 2008 that forced many American firms to lay off their employees. By 2009, 15 million Americans were unemployed. Immigration was abruptly halted by a retrogression lasting for more than ten years.
Nursing in the Philippines
In 2009, Estrella completed her nursing degree with the local state board. Although entirely new to motherhood, with her family’s backing and support, she decided to return to work. Due to a lack of better options, she accepted a job at a local congregation school infirmary for nuns before applying for a position at a local hospital.
“I worked in a local infirmary every other day for 12 hours earning $300 a month in wages; that’s what I earn in America for just one day of work!”
Nursing in the Philippines was also painful to observe. Unlike nurses in modern countries, Filipino nurses are not only responsible for administering medication but also for collecting payment from patients. “That is—if the patient has the means to pay for it.” “Numerous times, I had to witness patients rushing into the ER unable to afford vital meds. Poverty should not be discriminated against. Health should be accessible to all,” emphasized Estrella.
Carlo’s and Estrella’s salaries combined were not enough for the growing needs of a three-member family. As a devoted mother supporting her husband and child, nursing offered no promising future. Despite the grueling hours spent earning a nursing degree, she discovered that in the Philippines, a customer service representative earns a higher hourly compensation than a nurse. Working at a call center was far from lucrative, yet it still offered more than nursing.
“A good friend heard of her financial struggles and informed her of a new opportunity. The nursing shortage deepened in Saudi Arabia, and foreign nurses were needed to fill the gaps. However, Saudi Arabia was not a friendly state for parents of children. Sponsoring nurses meant nurses only, with no family strings attached.”It was a tough decision to make, but when it came to my family’s welfare and future, every sacrifice was worth it for me,” Estrella said.
Working for three years in Saudi Arabia left Estrella yearning for her husband and daughter. It was clear that she could no longer afford to be apart from her family, regardless of how meaningful her goal was. Fortunately, Carlo was offered a better opportunity in the Philippines to support them through the next few years, while Estrella would work in a private-sector hospital.
New Hopes for Sponsorship
“In 2019, I received a promising call that changed the shades of the future. “White Glove Placement, the Largest Nurse Staffing
agency in the United States, contacted me. As they explained, a distant relative of mine, a nurse sponsored by White Glove, knew how I longed for the American life and referred me as a suitable candidate for sponsorship. They would potentially guide me through the grueling immigration process, pay for the bulk of fees, and match me up with a prestigious Registered Nurse job; I was too stunned to talk.”
It was in November 2019 that White Glove first connected with Estrella. China had yet to record the first cases of (SARS-CoV-2), named COVID-19. Gloves and masks were an adornment for nurses only.
Unknowingly, they began the application process, but all too soon, the few isolated reported cases turned into a worldwide pandemic. Along with the new mandates to maintain a 6-foot distance, being under complete lockdown, and holding conversations from behind double-layer masks, immigration was temporarily halted.
“But all along, White Glove was at our side. Ms. Roisy and Ms. Hannah tended to every detail in the process efficiently. They were determined to speed up the process by doing any preliminary work we could. They would know exactly when bureaucracies are paused and when the play button is on again. After the pandemic, they resumed the process.”
From the Philippine end, where systems work incredibly slow, submitting the requirements was challenging. There is no option for expediting papers. On the American side, the procedure was much faster. “I would never be able to get through this on my own. Were it not for the encouragement and practical support from White Glove, I may have given up somewhere along the way.” Estrella stressed.
Estrella’s beloved Aunt Corizon, known for regularly sending special Balikbayan boxes to the family, emigrated to America in the ’80s. She encouraged Estrella to come to America and supported her, helping her remain hopeful during the years of retrogression.
The sun could not shine brighter on Friday, January 27, 2023, when the wishful fantasy came true. “No one was happier than Ms. Roizy and Ms. Hannah when I was approved,” Estrella recalled.
Estrella felt a mix of excitement and anxiety at this point in the journey. A new life awaited her at the other end of the Pacific coast. Despite the excitement, she knew there would be hurdles to overcome in the new culture. Her husband shared her joy when his application for the United National Bank position offering sponsorship was approved. He dismissed any fears of the unknown, raving about the Sierra Nevada Beer he would taste in America. Their parents were enthusiastic about the possibility of their children having a better life. Gentina, now thirteen, thought about the new American friends she would make, and even baby Kaily (born in 2019) giggled as though she were grasping what was happening to their little family.
Life in the American Culture
You could sense the immeasurable joy of the family upon landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York. Estrella’s Aunt Corizon offered her hospitality for the initial few months until they settled into an apartment of their own.
“Subconsciously, I was expecting a rougher time acclimating, but everyone here is so excepting of people of diverse cultures.”
White Glove matched Estrella with a prestigious, well-paying nursing job at a prominent nursing home, where she makes a difference daily. Tending to patients with available resources is rewarding and stimulating. Patients do not cry for meds they cannot afford.
Estrella was asked to share something she found shocking about American culture. She shared that, coming from a conservative country, the relationships between the young and old were surprising. Teenagers in America are a lot more aggressive than adults. Even though they prepared Gentina to expect these differences, she was quite shocked to see how other kids talked to the teachers in school.
“But overall, the challenges of the transition were small prices to pay compared to the overall happiness we are experiencing.” She concludes.
A better life, a promising future
Her Filipino nature, which despises idleness, helps Estrella and Carlo maximize their life as Americans. They are saving up to purchase their own home in New Jersey.
“My favorite part is bringing smiles to my family back home.” When Estrella shops at Macy’s, BJ, Costco, or other outlets, she takes advantage of sales to help fill the following Balikbayan boxes going home. Vitamins make it #2 on the most wanted list. That’s after the boxes of favorite American chocolate treats she makes sure to include.
Back in the Philippines, Estrella earned $300 every month to support her family. Now, sharing one day’s income with her loved ones monthly helps ease their financial burden.
“Our parents are so happy that we can enjoy a better life. Our goal is to sponsor them to join us here in America, and God willing, we hope that within a few years from now, they, too, can step foot in the land of endless opportunity to enjoy their golden years.” Estrella said.
“It’s the country I love, the job I love, the life I love!”
“I will always stay indebted to White Glove for both the Financial support and incredible guidance they offered along my journey. I encourage Nurses in my country to expand their comfort zone. Overcoming obstacles like the infamous NCLEX exam is worth the effort for the life that follows. If you are family-oriented and want their best, go after your dream. Apply to White Glove, and they will help your transition be smooth sailing!”