Mrs. Teodora E. Bernardez

Mrs. Teodora E. Bernardez

Mrs. Teodora Eullaran-Bernardez was born to parents who were both farmers in Barangay Magatas in the town of Sibulan. Corn and banana were the primary crops grown by her family, but they also earned extra money from selling copra.

Dora, as she is fondly called among colleagues and friends, is one of the staff members at the Marina Mission Clinic in Dauin.

The early years of her childhood were marked with the simple joys of rural life. She had a younger brother whom she loved dearly and together, they often played traditional games, like bato-lata, bulan-bulan and tubig-tubig, with other kids in their neighborhood.

All was well until one unfortunate incident on April 13, 1958. What seemed like a normal Sunday morning would forever be etched in Dora’s memory as the day she lost her younger brother. She was only eight years old at the time but the details of that painful day remain so clear in her mind until this day.

In an interview she shared the horrifying story surrounding her brother’s death.

While waiting for mass to start that morning, an old woman with long gray hair sat beside them on the pew. The old woman said a compliment about her younger brother and tapped the young boy on the shoulder. Young Dora and her mother made nothing of her remark and simply smiled in response.

Mass started a few minutes after that encounter. Mid-way into the ceremony, as the priest raised the Eucharist, Dora noticed that the old woman was no longer on her seat. When church ended, her brother fell ill and was having strange hallucinations. When they rushed him to the hospital, he was declared dead on arrival.

The experience inculcated in her the habit of saying “buyag” whenever she hears anyone expressing loud admiration for another. It is said to avert possible misfortune upon the person praised, which Dora strongly believes to have been the case with her brother’s untimely death. Her parents also grew more protective of her since that episode.

On her junior year in high school at the then East Visayan School of Arts and Trades, now Negros Oriental State University, another misfortune hit their household. Dora’s father suffered from a stroke and died.

While still grieving, her mother had to undergo an eye surgery for cataract a year after her father’s passing. These events developed in Dora a desire to become a nurse one day. But financial constraints led her to postpone college studies indefinitely.

Two years after her high school graduation, Dora decided to seek employment to help augment the family income. The then Silliman University Mission Hospital was hiring nurse aids at that time. Applicants had to go through training sessions and were given a qualifying exam at the end of the course. Dora’s scores ranked third best. However, only the top two were hired on the spot. The rest had to wait until the need was determined.

Months later, she received a call from a German missionary couple who both served as faculty members in Silliman University. The Mission Hospital had recommended Dora to Dr. Peter and Mrs. Gutta Keiling who were in need of a private nurse aid for their five-month old daughters: one a Filipino baby girl whom they had adopted and the other their biological daughter. Dora gladly accepted the post.

Six months into her employment with the Keilings, the couple asked her if she had wanted to pursue college education. To this Dora said yes, sharing that she was already saving part of her 300 pesos monthly paycheck to take up a Secretarial course at the then Flores Institute, which stood at where Jo’s Inato is located today. Little did she know that the Keilings already had plans to support her college studies at Silliman.

Not long after that, she was offered the opportunity to enroll at the University’s Bachelor of Science in Social Work program, to which Dora was deeply grateful to the Keilings.

While still on her second year in college, the Keilings decided to go on furlough and were set to return to their home country. Having grown extremely fond of Dora, they also proposed that she come along with them to Germany so she could complete her studies there. Shocked by their offer, she initially refused. But after much convincing from relatives, both Dora and her mother agreed it was best that she grab this once in a lifetime chance to travel and study abroad.

The Keilings’ home church in West Germany committed to support Dora’s education. She was enrolled at the Florence Nightingale Krakenpflegeschule in Dusseldorf under their Social Work program. However, shortly after her stay there, Dora grew extremely homesick and was longing to return to the Philippines.

Her sudden change of heart alerted her funding church. Members of the congregation gathered together to pray for Dora and counsel her through the decision process. Among those who were there was the Dean of the College of Nursing at Florence Nightingale.

She suggested that Dora shift to a different course and asked if she would consider taking up a course in nursing. Though this was a childhood dream for her, Dora refused to take the Dean on her offer as it would mean that she would have to extend her stay in Germany. The Dean then again suggested that she pursue a two-year course in midwifery and it was this that earned a resounding “Yes” from Dora.

The years that followed marked a renewed sense of purpose in Dora. Her experience in community work at the rural provinces in Germany convinced her that this was her calling.

In 1980, she completed her degree in Midwifery and returned to the Philippines where a recommendation from Mission Hospital administrators Dr. “Tatang” Garcia and Dr. James Palmore awaited her. Dora had been recommended to join the team at the SU Marina Mission Clinic in Dauin to assist doctors in community work there.

Four years later, she met Nathaniel Bernardez, an agriculturist tapped by the Marina Mission Clinic for a special project. It only took a single handshake from Dora, as they were being introduced to each other, to convince the young bachelor that she was the woman he had wanted to marry. In a month’s time, the two were officially a couple.

Two months into their relationship, Dora was diagnosed with uterine fibroids, more commonly known as myoma. Doctors told her that there she only had a 20 per cent chance for a successful pregnancy. As soon as she heard this, Dora was convinced she needed to break it off with Nathaniel so as to spare him from the heartbreak of not having any children or worse lose one in a miscarriage. But Nathaniel did not leave her side, no matter how hard she tried to convince him. Instead, he accompanied Dora to her next appointment with the doctor where they were both told that if they ever wanted children, they would have to act real soon.

Without any delay and hesitation, Nathaniel married Dora. Their marriage is blessed with two sons: Doniel Dean, who now works as a trainer in a leading BPO, and Psalm Anthony, a teacher at a public school in the town of Bindoy.

This year marks her 35th year at the Marina Mission Clinic. She remains thankful to Silliman for the countless opportunities, blessings and people sent her way. Dora now looks forward to her retirement later this year.

Describe yourself in three words.
Shy (at first), Friendly (once you get to know me) and Frank (out of love and concern).

What is your motto in life?
A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.

What makes you laugh?
A good day at work or anything that’s funny.

What makes you cry?
Failures and mistakes, financial problems.

What’s your favorite time of the day and why?
I have no particular preference as to the time of day. What matters to me is that I’m in good health the whole day.

What’s your favorite day of the week and why?
Friday, because it’s when I look forward to a weekend with my family.

What do you love doing when not working?
Read my bible or books on acupuncture.

What makes you blush?
When I was much younger, I blush when I see my crush.

If you were an actress, who would you be?
Susan Roses.

What’s your favorite game growing up?
Bato-lata, bulan-bulan and tubig-tubig

What is your idea of a relaxing day?
If I can’t go out to the beach, a relaxing day for me would be doing household chores. Doing the dirty work at home somehow takes my mind off stressful thoughts.

What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
The story behind my “shotgun” marriage.

What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
I can’t think of one.

What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
Pray. I thank God for another day in my life and I ask him to keep me in good relationship with my co-workers.

What’s your idea of a family?
A family should be centered on God, and only then can you ever be truly happy.