By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
(Note: for a background of this essay, read “An Expensive Joke”)
This is about the episode of anguish I went through on account of my younger daughter’s taking the nursing licensure exams last July.
The ordeal was triggered by several texts messages from Aglaia Marie on the first day of so far the toughest test in her life. In the first text minutes before they entered the examination room, she informed us that she was so nervous she was near tears. My wife said that that the feeling of Aglaia Marie was but natural when one comes face to face with a difficult test. But me I just couldn’t dismiss it like ordinary jitters. I asked myself why should she be scared when she graduated not exactly at the bottom of the class from the second best nursing school in the region? On top of that, she also reviewed in one of the most expensive review centers in Baguio City. Now here she is losing her composure in the face of the board exams. Did I read the text right?
The second which arrived around past 11 announced that she just finished the first set but that the bad news was that she had to erase and replace some answers. That sent shivers down my spine because as though I had heard that erasure ruins the whole answer sheet when it’s a computer doing the checking. If that happens to my daughter, then the whole expense for the review goes down the drain as she gets a zero for one-fourth of the total items. I was tempted to call her to ask if they did not tell them in review school that erasing is a nono but told myself it was the wrong time to chide her.
Aglaia Marie was not about to run out of scary news. Late in the afternoon, she texted that she just finished the second set and this time no more erasures. However, she said that she was sure of only 10 answers. I was flabbergasted. How could she now pass the exams when she gets only 10 correct answers out of a set of 100 or so items? Even if she got perfect scores in the last two sets the second day of the exams, she will never make it, I tell myself.
What remained of my hopes that she would still be saved by a miracle were all but dashed when the following evening when she got home from the testing center she told Florence on the phone that all her answers were “basta” wrong. When Florence asked her where all the things she learned in school went, she replied that she did not know. As though that was not enough, she informed that when her classmates invited her to eat someplace to celebrate the completion of the exams, she declined because she felt so stressed. That brought back to my mind what kept me from being in the full spirit of the occasion during the graduation rites on April 28. As I looked at the nursing graduates, I told myself that very soon, they will go separate ways: some will pass the board and proceed to pursue their dreams while the dumb or unlucky members of the class will have to nurse their wounds and try again. I was praying then that my child will not be among the latter but with all what she has been telling us on the cellphone before, during and after the exams, it appears that God did not hear my petitions on graduation day. She herself seems to know that she did not pass the exams, I was telling myself.
Some days later, I cheered up a little bit when she said that she is thinking of reviewing for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). That seemed to indicate that she presumed to have passed the board. Without meaning to hurt her, I said that she would have no practical use of the qualification unless she first passes the board. What I did not tell her was that I was afraid she would not pass two exams in a row because it would be more difficult to bounce back from a double whammy. I was relieved she did not insist.
I was happy that at the end of July, Aglaia Marie came home. I wanted her to be home when the results are released so that if she does not make it – by that time I had already almost succeeded in inuring myself to the idea that she failed – we will be around to comfort and assist her. I was already ready with my gesture and dialogue. Once the devastating information reaches us, I will touch her hand or hug her then gently say that she will review for the next exams. Then silence. No word about her act of erasing the answers or where what she learned in school and review center went. That could wait when she fails in her third try. In the meantime, I was determined to be a good father and be a soothing presence in the nadir of the young life of my daughter.
I never mentioned the examinations in the first three weeks of August except to ask when the results will likely be released to which she replied that it could be in the end of August or in early September. As the time drew nearer, my anxiety and anguish were mixed with some excitement and a little hope that contrary to all my fears and Aglaia Marie’s own, she will make it.
With trepidation, I watched Aglaia Marie display her framed graduation picture in the living room beside that of her sister Pia Ursula. Then she had her other graduation photos printed and fixed in an album which she left underneath the living room table. I interpreted her act to mean that she was hopeful she passed the board but at the same time, I was also asking myself how she would react to the graduation photos when the calamity takes place. Would she still be able to bear looking at them? As for myself, in courses with board exams like nursing, graduations photos sans proof of acceptance by the profession only serve to remind one of one’s failure to make the grade. You do not display them. You keep them out of sight.
Thus I will always cherish the scene around 4 PM of August 27 when I went home to send my stories for the week as there was no Internet signal at the office. As I was removing my shoes outside the door, Aglaia Marie opened the door and told me “Pa, pimmasaak.” I understood it right away but still asked how she found out. She then led me to the computer and scrolled the list to her name. I thought I never would hear her say those two words and never would see her name in that list – this year anyway.
To end this tale, I want to express my thanks to the Benguet State University specifically the College of Nursing for having adequately prepared my daughter for the toughest test of her life so far. All but two of Batch 2010 made it in their first try.