Moonlight Acierto Brizuela


My parents were both Ilocanos who grew up in Manila. As newlyweds, they went to Cotabato with my mom’s older brother and his wife for good job offers. I was born there, and I was told, shortly after midnight with the full moon shining brightly so my Dad and Uncles made the decision my name will be Moonlight! My grandparents did not like us living so far away from them, so we moved to Zambales and also Ilocos Sur until we settled in Manila. From the1950’s, my family lived in San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City. My husband Rudy and I grew up in the same neighborhood.

I remember being torn between continuing college in FEU where I graduated both elementary and high school or transferring to UP. My mother’s brother, a father figure to me, who was a UP grad and a prominent physician, knew about my desire to be a nurse and told me that if I wanted the best education, UP was the only way to go. The best I wanted, so to UP I went.

My mother got very sick when I was a child and I had a memory of a nurse in white uniform taking very good care of her and I longed to be just like her. I also wanted to take care of patients in the hospital so I opted to take the School of Nursing program. I had been lucky to have good grades before with not much effort but during the first few weeks at Diliman, I experienced some difficulty so I was discouraged.

However, my Spanish instructor told us that the first semester was a time of adjustment, that we needed to focus, to study every night, be diligent but have fun doing it. Well, I had so much fun in her class, she asked me to be her student assistant for two semesters. My job was to correct all the bluebooks from her classes after she corrected mine. I was so proud each time I walked out to the bus ride home and back with all those bluebooks. With that experience, I gained confidence and learned responsibility as my teacher trusted me and I learned to trust myself. I realize now, I helped her out, yes, but what I learned from her, strengthened by my family’s support, has sustained me throughout my life and career.

After a year at the Diliman campus, I moved to the PGH Nurses Home in Manila. As student nurses, we were part of the hospital staff, expected to learn and do all nursing procedures, and rotating on all shifts. None of us liked the night shifts due to all the ghost stories, but we survived. We attended classes in the afternoon. If we happened to be on duty by class time, we had to get our job done then go to class, no excuses. We studied whenever and wherever we can. We had a very hectic, rigorous schedule. However, we managed to live an exciting life of comedy and sometimes got into trouble in a dorm with at least 300 young adults, all trying to make a difference.

I was a member of the UPSCA Glee Club, I remember the many escapades and adventures we had, all because we wanted to “shine”. To this day, I treasure the memories of shared experiences from that challenging interlude in our lives.

After graduation and while studying for the board, I was offered a job to take care of a little boy recovering from surgery. Anxious to earn my own money, I took it. It gave me my first experience of doing home care independently of school supervision. Everything went well, gave me a sense of accomplishment. After taking the board, passing it and getting my license, I worked at the Manila Doctors Hospital until I left for Chicago in February 1962 as an exchange student. Since then, I have stayed on and worked as a professional nurse in the US. I obtained my Bachelors Degree in Management at Pacific Christian College, Fullerton, CA in 1979.

With my husband, who was in the Navy, and son Paul, we were transferred to San Diego in 1965. Our second son, Michael, was born here in 1968. We lived in apartments at the Hillcrest area, and watch the Mission Valley and Fashion Valley area going north which used to be barely populated, grow so fast with residential and business developments. We moved to our new home built on leveled “mountains” in 1970. We used to see huge rats, and other animals running all over, we had to make sure all doors were always closed. They finally moved away, we stayed on, living in the same home and loving it.

When I started working at Mercy Hospital in 1965, they were moving to a newly built 12 story building with all new advanced technology. Per my preference, I was assigned to the major surgical floor. It was an exciting time as advances in surgical procedures and medical technology were proving to cure, prevent, improve quality of life in a lot of diseases we used to consider hopeless. We learned to use so many lifesaving machines that kept changing for the better. In the 1980’s, I transferred to the Intensive Care Unit, about the time that open heart surgeries on both adults and children were starting to be done at the hospital. This was the high point of my career. Every procedure, every decision was critical. We saw first hand the wonders of modern technology. We were constantly learning, at the same time teaching and training other nurses and medical staff. We worked with the best doctors. We called ourselves “high tech, high touch” nurses because with all the monitors, tubes and machines, we were taking care of a human being to be healthy again. I was ACLS, PALS certified. I was a member of the Advisory council, Quality Assurance, Ethic and Peer review committees.

In 1990, desiring more family time, I transferred to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit and worked some days with Mercy Home Health. I also found time to volunteer at San Diego Hospice, who then hired me as a weekend on call nurse, whenever I can. I found these experiences very rewarding. I went up the ranks as charge nurse and supervisor, however, I always preferred bedside nursing. I did receive recognition as Nurse of the year, Role Model, Employee of the year, the first on the Professional Profile at Mercy Hospital and several other citations. But most important of all, I have the personal satisfaction knowing that I gave my profession all that I’ve got.

Being both the eldest, we helped our two families in the Philippines raise our younger siblings, so we had to work full time, which meant our own boys were practically raised by “God-sent” wonderful babysitters. I can never recapture those lost moments while they were growing up, however, I feel I was given another chance in 1996 when I was able to go part time, to help care for our granddaughter Jasmine, the first born of Paul with wife Rowena.

In 2003, I went on early retirement, to spend more time to take care of my mother who had a stroke. Since Michael and then Paul and his family moved to Arizona, we are able to commute often, enjoying quality time with them. These are opportunities in our lives that with God’s grace I was privileged and grateful to have.

We are very much involved as parishioners of Holy Family Catholic Church. I am a member of the Third Order Carmelite, a Catechist, and a volunteer with the St. Vincent de Paul Conference. I had been a neighborhood block captain, member of Nayong Pilipino, UPAASD, UPNAAI, PGHSNAA. I was a board member and continue to be a loyal supporter of the Samahan Philippine Dance Company, where our sons, as dancers and musicians, learned about Philippine arts and culture. We also met the most dedicated, generous and hardworking Filipinos, exemplified by the company’s founder and director who is a UP grad. We are blessed to have so many very special friends in our lives.

My husband and I love to travel, have gone as far as the Berlin Wall and, closer to home, around the neighboring states of California. What we enjoyed the best were our tours and pilgrimages to Fatima, Lourdes, Paris, Rome, Assisi, Lanciano, Medjugorje, Oberammaugau Passion Play, Israel/Egypt (following the footsteps of Jesus), Greece/Turkey (following the footsteps of St. Paul). In February 2007, we did a long-anticipated Philippine tour and visited several historical churches and convents. We also traced our parents’ footsteps in their migratory movements around Northern Luzon and Manila.