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Friday, April 2, 2010

Leading Filipino Women: Maria L. Tinawin

Maria L. Tinawin
The Brave Nurse
(1895 - 1948)

          The name of Maria L. Tinawin is one of the most honored names in the history of nursing in the Philippines. She held many positions of great responsibility in different organizations. She carried out each of these responsibilities with a willing heart and willing hands.

Her Early Training
          Maria L. Tinawin was born on September 2, 1895 in Gapan, Nueva Ecija. She finished her primary grades in her hometown after which she went to Manila and enrolled in the Philippine Normal School. While studying here Maria met many student nurses, for in those days the students of the Training School for Nurses took some subjects in the Philippine Normal School.
Maria soon decided to be a nurse. As a student nurse, she excelled in many school activities and was often included in the honor roll and Efficiency Committee. She was especially good in operation room work. When she graduated in 1915, she was one of the twelve ranking graduates.

Early Career As A Nurse
          Maria first worked under the Bureau of Health as head nurse at the San Lazaro Hospital. In 1918, she transferred to the Bontoc Hospital in the Mountain Province. Shortly after, she returned to the San Lazaro Hospital and directed the hospital diet.
In 1919, desiring to continue her studies, she left her work in the hospital and sailed for the United States. Her trip was not financed by the government. Maria studied in the United States as a working student. She worked as a private nurse in California and studied Public Health Nursing in the University of California. Then she went to New York and worked in the Manhattan Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital and in the Flower Hospital as Charge Nurse. She did some field work as an employee of the Henry Street Settlement and also finished a summer course in administration and field supervision in Teacher’s College, Columbia University.

Her Red Cross Work
         Maria’s good record and work caught the attention of the American Red Cross. She was offered the position of Red Cross supervising nurse of the Philippine Chapter of the American Red Cross. She accepted the offer and began her Red Cross work in 1922.
         Her work included supervising the Red Cross nurses in Manila and in the provinces, training new Red Cross nurses, and teaching home hygiene and care of the sick at home. She travelled all over the Philippines teaching the simple rules of health hygiene. In her Red Cross work she had to serve in times of disaster. She was on duty in the Cagayan disaster of 1924, in the Batangas flood of 1926, in the Tondo fire of 1927, in the cholera epidemic of Iloilo in 1930, and other similar calamities.
          The American Red Cross rewarded her for her excellent work by appointing her as acting Director of Nurses of the Philippine Chapter.

The Great Nurse in Peace
          Maria tirelessly worked to improve the nursing profession. She started a news sheet on nursing called “Message of the Public Health Nurse.” She represented the nursing profession and the Philippines in conferences in other countries. These were the International Council of Nurses Congress held at Montreal, Canada in 1929, and another one held in London in 1934.

The Brave Nurse in War
          Both in times of peace and in time of war, Maria showed her leadership and unselfishness in serving people. When the war broke out in 1941, she gathered civilian nurses for the U.S. Army to serve on the mercy ship “Mactan,” which evacuated wounded soldiers to Australia.
         When the American liberation forces entered Manila in February, 1945, she was on the south side of the Pasig River. Under fire of the enemy she trawled towards the river and crossed in a small banca to the north side where the American troops had gathered. Then she gathered nurses to serve in emergency hospitals and internment camps where the freed American prisoners had been brought.
         Maria Tinawin was awarded a medal of honor in September, 1946, by General Douglas MacArthur for her services to the soldiers of Bataan and Corregidor and for the prisoners of war at the San Tomas internment camp.

Maria’s Last Days
          The health of the brave nurse, however, was now deteriorating. Her hard work had resulted in her suffering from acute diabetes and high blood pressure. In 1945, she resigned from the Red Cross but continued serving the nursing profession. She died on April 22, 1948.
          Maria Tinawin should be remembered for being a great leader in the nursing profession. In many instances she endangered her life in order to be of service. Although she came from a wealthy family, she gave up a life of comfort in order to serve in remote places like Bontoc in the Mountain Province.
          Truly, Maria Tinawin dedicated all her life to her country and her people.


  1. I am very curious to find out more about my great-aunt Maria Tinawin. I currently live in the US and would like to get more information about her. Can you please share your sources?

  2. Leading Filipino Women by Herminia M. Ancheta, 1953


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