On Her Own Initiative: A Study of the Life and Times
of Anastacia Giron-Tupas

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Annabelle R. Borromeo, RN, PhD, CNS


Anastacia Giron-Tupas (AGT) is among the most revered nursing leaders of the Philippines. Although she lived in the distant past, her life story is instructive of how nurse leaders take a role in leading the nursing profession and society into the future. Her story tells the evolution of Philippine nursing and is inextricably linked to the history of the Philippine Nurses Association. She lived through three wars and was confronted by the most challenging of circumstances, and yet, not only did she manage to persevere, she actually succeeded beyond all reasonable expectations. The most compelling reason for why her life must be chronicled is so readers might gain insight and wisdom that may permit us to better achieve our collective goal of advancing nursing, health, health care, and ultimately, society. She, and our early nursing leaders, were confronted with complex leadership challenges as they positioned nursing in uncharted territory. How she dealt with these challenges is a key that must be unlocked. In her book, “The History of Nursing in the Philippines,” there is a passage that describes how Anastacia Giron-Tupas approached life in general,. When it became clear that she needed additional knowledge to be able to contribute significantly, she embarked on a trip to the United States “on her own initiative,” (1952, p. 164). This habit of taking matters into her own hands is a hallmark of her character. She is, from all accounts, an exemplary leader. Exemplary nurse leaders are activists of change who strive for a better future for nursing, health, health care, and society (Forrester, 2016). It is hoped that we can learn from the exemplary leadership practices and behaviors that helped her succeed to bring Philippine nursing out of the dark. Additionally, her life story can serve to jog our collective memory so that we can rally around a worthy cause and finally achieve the unity that has so far eluded our profession. This historiography’s aim is to understand the unique perspective and context that spurred Anastacia Giron-Tupas to become an agent of change. To truly appreciate her story, a few caveats are offered. Nursing history is slowly being transformed from an inward-looking and triumphalist form of professional apologetics, to a robust and reflective area of scholarship (Rafferty, Robinson & Elkan, 1997). To come up with a balanced view of Anastacia Giron-Tupas’ life and times, we necessarily consulted with references that offered different perspectives. These perspectives emerged from the cross-fertilization of ideas. The range of perspectives included in this biography provides an important prism through which insights and analyses can be drawn. As one delves deeper into history, one cannot help but come to terms with the influence of political interests in how circumstances unfold. Additionally, we intentionally set Anastacia Giron-Tupas’ story within a historical context, with sensitivities for prevailing social, religious, economic, and political conditions at the time, in order to enable us to interpret or analyze her actions, rather than merely judge her and her peers by contemporary standards. Context can help us to understand what motivated her actions. This approach is thought to provide us with a fuller appreciation of her narrative.


About the Author

Annabelle R. Borromeo RN, PhD, CNS, currently Head of Hospital Operations in SLMC QC and Chief Nursing Officer in SLMC QC and GC, obtained her basic nursing education at the UP-PGH School of nursing, her bachelor of science in nursing at the St. Louis University, her Master of Science in Nursing major in critical care education from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, and her PhD major in nursing, minor in statistics from the Texas Woman’s University in Houston, Texas. She is currently enrolled in Master of Health Administration at George Washington University, USA. She is a neuro and cardiovascular critical care nurse at heart having practiced as neurology and cardiovascular critical care nurse. She is a history buff and likes to recast history in light of contemporary contexts. She is particularly interested in how nursing leaders of the past intervened creatively in their political world to bring nursing to its present level. Pearl Buck said, “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” She fully appreciates that our past has shaped our present, and our current times are influencing our future. Her mission in life is to value, add value to, and find value in nurses everywhere. In short, to empower nurses to contribute to the achievement of great patient outcomes. In this article, she finds value, meaning, and inspiration in the life and times of the PNA Founder, Anastacia Giron-Tupas.