Pinoys in London juggle work with passion

By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 30 2014 09:46 AM | Updated as of Jan 30 2014 05:46 PM

LONDON - He checks on patients, assists nurses and doctors, and does some paperwork 12 hours a day, three days a week at a hospital in the city’s southeast. Every so often, he also finds himself walking the runway and posing for the camera wearing trendy clothes.

For the past two years, this has been life for Erwin Trinidad, a nursing assistant at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich Common.

Like many of the more than 25,000 Filipino nurses and other medical professionals in the United Kingdom, Trinidad is able to pursue his passion while working for England’s National Health Service (NHS) and earning a living for his family in the Philippines.

“London opened the doors to a modeling career for me,” says the 28-year-old registered nurse from San Rafael, Bulacan.

Before being in the NHS, Trinidad worked at a nursing home and at a retail store of a famous fashion brand. Since then, he had been joining contests such as the annual bikini open for Filipinos in the UK.

Soon, after applying online for modeling stints, agencies began getting him for fashion shows. The biggest he has joined so far was the London Fashion Week in September 2013.

Trinidad said his relatively light schedule at the NHS, where employees are required to work for only three days a week, gives medical professionals like him the chance to pursue their interests apart from their day jobs.

“When referring to OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), most would think we are all work,” he said. “But here in London we are also able to pursue our passion.”

Ela Hidalgo, a nursing assistant at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, is a regular face at Filipino events and concerts in London.

A physical therapist in the Philippines, she came to the UK more than 10 years ago to earn more and “help my mom.” Back then, she thought she would have to set her love for singing aside and focus on earning money for her family in San Fernando, La Union.

Several opportunities came, however. Hidalgo first performed at the yearly Barrio Fiesta in London and had been getting invitations to sing at various events since.

Today, she is busy preparing for a mini-concert with a fellow Filipino nurse.

“I feel great. I can do my passion,” she says.

Trinidad and Hidalgo believe they would not have been able to fulfill their passion had they worked in other countries and even in the Philippines, where medical professionals earn much less than their counterparts in the UK.

“It’s not easy compared here,” said Hidalgo.

The UK, they say, has provided them with great opportunities to earn enough and raise their standard of living in the Philippines while following their hearts at the same time.

And the best part of it all: “I never get bored,” Trinidad said.