Catalina Perez

of Mandaue, Cebu, Philippines

Catalina Perez
Catalina Perez, probably 1940s

Catalina's Home
Catalina's Home

Catalina Perez was born April 30, 1900, the daughter of Catalino Seno and Bonifacia Perez.  She died on May 21, 1998, age 98 years.  'Na Taling, as she was known, lived in Alang Alang, in the house which belonged to her mother.  The property, located on P. Burgos Street, was adjacent to that of several family members, including Isabel and Teodorico Perez and Gregorio Cortes.

Well educated, 'Na Taling, pursued a career in nursing, primarily in the public schools.  A pair of calendar-notebooks, largely used in the the 1970s and 1980s, give a glimpse of 'Na Taling's career and her personality.  Key events are summarized in the following list:

* 1908-? Elementary/Secondary Education.
* 1920-1924 St. Luke's Nursing School; Manila.
* 1924-1928 Red Cross Nurse; Cebu.
* 1928-1941 Supervisor of Nursing, Cebu Public Schools.
* 1941 Supervisor of Nursing, Camarines Sur Public Schools.
* 1941-1944 War Years; Cebu.
* 1945-1947 Supervisor of Nursing, Camarines Sur Public Schools.
* 1947-1963 Supervisor of Nursing, Leyte Public Schools.
* 1963-1998 Retirement.
Catalina's Report Card
Catalina's Report Card

'Na Taling's education began in the Mandaue Public Schools, where she attended Elementary and Secondary grades.  Copies of her report card for the 1913-14, 1914-15 and 1915-16 school years indicate she was a good student, with an average grade of approximately 80%.

'Na Taling continued her education by attending St. Luke's Nursing School in Manila. According to Mamerto Basilgo13 Catalina was recommended by the American employer of her uncle, Sancho Basilgo.  She successfully completed nursing school and took the Nursing Exam on April 14-16, 1924.  Her overall passing grade of 79.3% was second highest for St. Luke's Nursing School.  She continued to take educational course work throughout her professional career, including two years of secondary course work at Naga Teachers College.

Catalina Perez
Catalina Perez about 1958
Catalina's initial appointment was as a Red Cross Public Health Nurse in Cebu City, which she began in 1924.  Then in October 1927, she received a letter from B. Frilden Nutter, the Division Superintendent of Schools in Cebu with an offer to become the Supervising Teacher of Hygiene and Sanitation for the Division.  Her initial salary was 1,080 Pesos per year, with travel allowance of 30 Pesos per month.  With clearance from the Red Cross, Catalina accepted this new position and began work in January 1928.

Catalina served as Supervising Teacher of Hygiene and Sanitation until the middle of 1941.  At this point, she was transferred to Camarines Sur, again as Supervisor of Nursing in the Public Schools.  As indicated below, this transfer was for cause.

Her first tour in Camarines Sur was cut short by the Japanese attack in December, and Catalina returned to Cebu for the duration of the war.  She resumed her duties in 1946.  It was during this period that she completed classes at Naga Teachers College.  Then, in 1949, Catalina was transferred to Leyte, where she again served as Supervisor of Nursing in the Public Schools.  In October 1963, she took terminal leave from her supervisor position and finally retired in April 1964, returning to Mandaue.

'Na Taling's career was not all smooth sailing.  She was a strict disciplinarian and expected much of the nurses and teachers under her charge.  The following excerpt from a letter written by a co-supervisor explains the important contributions Catalina effected in Cebu, but also highlights some of the problems she created.

At that division staff conference, Miss Perez was appraised of the serious problem of health in the schools, no clinics, no toilets, and no first-aid teachers.  General cleanliness was poor.  Miss Perez saw the immensity of the health problem.  With unselfishness and enthusiasm, health work was organized, clinics began to be constructed, medicines and medical supplies were available.  The five phases of school health programs were implemented.  Water facilities were provided in all schools.  Sanitary toilets were constructed.  They were screened from public view for privacy.  First-aid teachers were appointed and trained.  Health instruction was emphasized.  The nurses religiously stuck to their itineraries.  But the prize for these improvements of the health activities was the vituperative insults heaped upon her.  Those who were inclined to go home everyday and report late to duty, leave their station ahead of time found in Perez a strict disciplinarian.  Those who zealously performed their duties were her friends.  Many a time she has been accused of favoritisms by many.  I agree with them.  She has her favorites among those who, like her, are doing their duty well regardless of the cost in time, money, and health.  There was once upon a time a nurse who lost her life in the service of those soldiers who suffered during the Crimean War.  She was called the white angel.

The letter nicely reflects the strict discipline and high standards she maintained.  These characteristics were undoubtedly important to her success in improving conditions in the public schools.  However, her strictness clearly caused problems as indicated by this excerpt from a letter written to the Division Superintendent in Leyte by the Director in Manila.

...and Miss Perez transfer from Cebu to another division before the war was for cause.  She was found guilty of maltreating and humiliating her subordinates...

Catalina's high expectations and strictness carried over into her personal life.  In particular, she was proud of her Perez heritage, calling her grandfather Don Ignacio in respect of his standing in society.  Catalina would often regale guests with tales of her suitors, including many prominent residents of Mandaue.  Twice in her notes, she listed 25 suitors, beginning with a seventh grade classmate and extending through her professional career.  Sadly, none lived up to her expectations, and she remained single throughout her life.  Catalina's pride also led her to disapprove of the marriage of close relatives, whom she felt were marrying beneath themselves.  This included her brother Carlos, whose marriage to a school teacher she initially opposed.

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