Linda Bennett

Mum came from the Philippines in 1975 to train as a nurse with children with learning disabilities at Botley’s Park in Surrey. She applied directly to the hospital to study nursing for two years and was successful on her second application. As she had initially trained as a primary school teacher in the Philippines, she applied for nursing with children and young people with learning disabilities. Shortly after submitting the application they checked her references, asked when she could start and scheduled an interview with the British Consulate in Manila.

Mum was worried as she didn’t know anything about England or the UK, as everything she knew was based on American movies and culture! But she was also excited to start and came alone. She was going with the flow and had no particular plans to come back or any time-scales as, though there was family there, there was little opportunity for interesting, secure work. It was bittersweet for Mum’s family: they were unhappy she was leaving, but also happy that her application had been a success and that she had found stable work that interested her.

Mum’s first impression was that it was cold! She arrived in February, so the coldest time of year to get to the UK. She was lucky enough to meet another Filipino woman on the flight that worked as a housekeeper and who offered her house to warm up in before she took a cab to her final destination. She also quickly noticed how 70’s British food was tasteless and watery compared to Filipino food which she missed a lot. Thankfully, she met other Malaysian, Indonesian and Mauritian women that studied with her and they learnt how to cook different types of curry together.

She was homesick, but after the first semester studying, another Filipino woman called Cherry joined her cohort. We always knew her as Auntie Cherry and they are still friends today. Being able to speak Filipino together helped sooth her homesickness a great deal. My Grandad from the Philippines knew some people in London who visited her in Surrey, but they were busy with work so only came once in a while.

Mum married my Dad who is English in the late 70’s so she stayed here to have a family. The first time she went back to Philippines was seven years after she first came here to study, and by that time they had myself and my brothers in tow! When we, her kids, were a bit older and she had gone back to work she visited the Philippines more frequently.

She worked as an Enrolled Nurse with children with learning disabilities in the NHS, though eventually upped her grade to the equivalent of a staff nurse today. She took a break from nursing for six years to bring up her young family, and when my sister was born went back to nursing with elderly psychiatric patients. As she worked in a psychiatric hospital, she occasionally covered the secure wards, elderly patients with challenging behaviour and other areas. Since she retired from working for the NHS, she has been working with a local Sue Ryder facility, a private care home that looks after people with neurological conditions.

Mum feels her legacy is her kids and we are what has made it all worth it. She said that with a huge proud smile!

Mum’s favourite moments included making friends while working that were also Filipino. As well as knowing ‘home’ (mum always refers to the Philippines as ‘home’), they uniquely understood what it was/is like to be Filipino in England. However, some of the worst times included when she was asked to cover in the secure wards in the Psychiatric Hospital: she found it scary. But she has no regrets about any part of her journey!

Told by Lynda Lorraine

This story is part of Ingat-Ingat (, an exhibition curated by Becky Hoh-Hale about Southeast Asians who came to work for the NHS between 1959-1979.