Local Heroes: The Heart of a Nurse

You need the “heart of a nurse” to become the first nurse in your community and to make nursing your life’s career. That’s exactly what Leonor “Ono” Abarquez has done. Besides working at her mother’s convenience store in her community of Cargo Pardo in the province of Cebu in the Philippines, Leonor became the first nurse there and helped anyone who asked.

She grew up working in her mother’s store when she was a child. Leonor became very close to her neighbors, especially the kids. She was very religious, modest and very grateful for everything. She wanted to be a teacher when she was little, but at the time teachers were required to sing and she thought she didn’t have a good enough voice. When Leonor saw how pretty nurses in the Philippines looked in pictures, she wanted to become one.

She went to the Southwestern University in Cebu City in 1966. While enrolled there, she lived by strict rules and became a favorite of some of the patients. She then became the first nurse in Cargo Pardo. As a nurse who loved being around children, she worked in the maternity ward, delivered newborns, and escorted neighbors to the hospital.

After getting married to Eduardo “Eddie” Abarquez, she had two children and became a school nurse. She worked in New Jersey for a few years and made many friends who describe her as a really kind and caring person. While she was there, she became a favorite of more of her patients. She then returned to Cebu. Years later, she, her husband and their two teenage children moved to the U.S. She continued being a nurse after moving to the U.S., where she got her own house. She later had grandchildren and survived cancer.

Leonor enjoyed her work very much and said she “didn’t want to retire yet.” She described herself as having the “heart of a nurse,” because of her desire to care for people over the years, which she enjoys doing. She said her “heart was tickled” when she heard people thought of her as a hero. Personally, she thinks her job was very rewarding and that she shouldn’t brag or boast about it. Besides making new friends, learning new stories, and becoming a favorite among her coworkers and patients, her career as a nurse kept her grateful for everything. It also kept her religious and caring, especially to her children. Her plans for the future involve taking care of her family and friends and encouraging and inspiring her grandchildren to work in the medical field.

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