Why Filipino-American nurse wore face mask in 'American Ninja Warrior'

Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN North American News Bureau

Posted at Oct 10 2020 04:15 AM | Updated as of Oct 10 2020 05:06 PM

At the opening of this season’s “American Ninja Warrior,” Filipino-American nurse Pauline Avila was in the team of her husband Jody, who’s been in the show’s national finals twice before.

Wearing her ICU nurse uniform, Avila was excited to represent her profession and her community and to advocate for simple things, like wearing a face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"As a nurse, I always urge other people just the follow precautions as much as you can. I'm always advocating for wearing a mask. And, you know, try to socially-distance as much as possible. And just be kind to others, you know, because you never know what someone else has and if you may spread it to someone," she told ABS-CBN News.

A recent report by the National Nurses United, the United States' largest nurse union, revealed that although Filipinos comprise only 4 percent of the US nurse workforce, a staggering 31.5 percent of the total number of nurses who died of COVID-19 are Filipinos.

The lack of enough protective equipment, especially during the onset of the pandemic, and the reluctance of some Americans in following safety protocols such as wearing masks, have resulted in catastrophic deaths in the country.

Born in Bohol, Philippines, Avila came to the US when she was 6. She graduated as a family nurse practitioner last June.

But since March when the coronavirus started to rapidly spread across the globe, Avila has worked in her Texas hospital’s COVID unit on 12-hour shifts.

"It was very, very scary. I was very apprehensive going to work. I cried so many times coming home from work, going to work and just being fearful and not only for myself but, you know, spreading it to my family even, so that was really, really tough and that was really stressful," she said.

As a nurse, Avila has experienced difficulties but none as tough working in the pandemic and having to sleep in a different room from her family so that they can be safe in case she caught something at work.

"My mom... she's a nurse also, my brother's a nurse, they work in a COVID unit also. So I draw from their strength also, because they're doing what I'm doing as well. And they're strong and, you know, we're just telling each other, we're gonna get through this."

Going into the competition, Avila knew that being only 4’10 feet in height would be a challenge to go through tall obstacles but it didn’t stop her from trying her best.

But her stint on “American Ninja Warrior” also drove home important lessons for her.

"Whatever it is that you try for, go for it, you know, don't be afraid to fall. Because you know what we all fall. But the important thing is that you try and then to keep going, don't give up," she said.