BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines—Four nursing graduates overcame adversity and hurdled the nursing licensure examination given on the same day they and 23 other examinees walked out of their burning hotel rooms in Tuguegarao City on December 19 last year.
Ralph Wesson Alejandro, Christopher Bareng, Ryan Glenn Guzman and Romnick Vaquilar are now among the 29,711 new registered nurses in the country. But unlike other board passers, their success comes with more meaning.
The four, who were graduates of and who reviewed at the University of La Salette (ULS) in Santiago City in Isabela, were among the 32 survivors of a fire that killed 16 people, 10 of them their friends and fellow nursing graduates who were to take the examination that day.
The victims suffocated and were burned after they were trapped inside the rooms of the five-story Bed & Breakfast pension in Tuguegarao, where they were staying on the eve of their examination.
Also killed in the fire were five members of the family that owned the hotel and their maid.
The 27 examinees from ULS survived by climbing out of windows and clambering down from the building, either on their own or with the help of rescuers and firemen. While other survivors chose not to take the examination, Alejandro, Bareng, Guzman, Vaquilar and about 15 others decided to take on the challenge.
The Inquirer could not get the official list of ULS nursing licensure examination passers from among the fire survivors because it was a holiday. A top ULS official declined to be interviewed as he was administering a recollection activity on Friday.
In separate telephone interviews, Alejandro, Bareng, Guzman, Vaquilar described their feat as bittersweet, as they were reminded of their 10 friends who died in the fire.
“We decided to just go for it. I was thinking of the added expenses that I would incur if I postponed taking the examination and enrolled in a review school all over again,” said Guzman, the son of a policeman from Santiago City.
Their gamble paid off.
“This is more like the second miracle in a row that came our way. God is really good,” said Bareng in Filipino.
Bareng, a resident of San Agustin in Isabela, admitted having little hope about passing the examination.
Even his parents were not that hopeful, too, he said, cautioning him about not easily believing the text messages that he received on the day the results were posted on the Internet.
“They only got the assurance they needed when I told them I saw my name on the list of board passers,” Bareng said.
Sitting in the examination room and trying to focus on understanding the questions was a challenge in itself, said Vaquilar, also of Santiago City.
He said his thoughts were on Marlon Justin Viernes, his close friend, who was among those who died in the fire. “But I drew courage from him. Throughout the examination, I kept telling myself that I was doing it for him,” he said.