I HAD a dream. I had a vision. I wanted to become a legend in the field of health professions education.

This vision was shared congruently by the dean I had worked with at the Local Government Unit (LGU)-run community college in Northern Mindanao. She was Dr. Daisy Colleen Young Mercado, a registered nurse-midwife, a nursing expert in the field of obstetrics and a doctor of philosophy in educational management.

Like me, she had been accused maliciously of graft and corruption and unprofessional actuations by "ghost" students, who had been allegedly influenced by other employees of the said community college to spin webs of unfathomable lies.

But before they sit on a high chair and pass on ill judgments, it is but fair and just to know this now infamous lady dean of the midwifery department.

Dr. Mercado had been a leader in the field of health professions education as she had been a chairperson of the Associate in Health Science Education program; a respected expert in maternal and childcare for the diploma in midwifery and bachelor of science in nursing programs; and a sought-after thesis mentor for the Master of Arts in Nursing program of Liceo de Cagayan University or LDCU (the then center of excellence for nursing education for regions 10 and Caraga) from 1992 to 2012. She left LDCU in good terms when she retired.

At the same time, she had been a member representing the academe of the Regional Quality Assessors’ Team (RQAT) for Misamis Oriental and Misamis Occidental regions. The RQAT is headed by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) educational supervisor (for health programs) and is composed of a clinician (chief nurse or supervisory midwife) in practice and an academician (nursing or midwifery dean). Among the many functions of RQAT are assessing and generating recommendations to the CHED for the granting of permits or recognitions to schools of nursing and midwifery.

In short, before a college of nursing or school of midwifery opens, they need to get the nod of the RQAT. And Dr. Mercado is among the recognized RQAT.

As a matter of fact, when the midwifery program of this LGU-run community college applied for the permit to operate, it was Dr. Mercado who represented the academe among the RQAT.

Months after the RQAT visit, the LGU announced its job opening for the midwifery dean. Since there was none qualified in the region, so Dr. Mercado applied.

As the dean and RQAT, she started building thee college of midwifery from scratch and rubbles: syllabus making; evaluation tools; student handbooks, etc…

Indeed, Dr. Mercado possesses a respectable name in the fields of nursing and midwifery education.

Is this the kind of woman who would trade her name for pecuniary interest as claimed by phantom complainants?

But this is just it: a titled name as beyond the superficial stereotypes of a doctor, nurse-midwife and an educator, Dr. Mercado was one of a kind. On top of her professionalism lies a ‘motherly’ boss to her faculty and dean to her students.

I have witnessed this personally during my first year of working in this LGU-run community college.

She has this unique trait of being firm with the rules and regulations in a dignified and professional manner of implementation. As such, she was beloved by her students and admired by the faculty.

Perhaps what I appreciated most of her was that she had never called me by my first name or name of her faculty despite her position in the department. She had always addressed me “Sir Paul.” I admire this tiny gesture because other department heads or deans of this community college address their subordinates by their first names most of the time as culture as applies.

I even remember one faculty from other department commended Dr. Mercado for that.

Also, Dr. Mercado is never empty of ideas in generating legitimate means of fund-raising in order to keep with the demands of a health-related department. One of which is unforgettable to me was when she and I offered a basic life support training to other colleges or departments with 100 percent of its proceeds to cover operational expenses in the office and to purchase medical equipment like a “doopler,” a small device used to hear the heartbeat of the fetus to which the LGU cannot grant in typical requests for economic reasons. It was again another unpaid professional service. But we never minded.

Expenses directly from our pockets to fill the needs of the skills laboratory were also customary in that community college. I remember, Dr. Mercado once shared that when she “RQAT” the school, among her recommendations were to have the skills laboratory tiled and air-conditioned. It was allegedly approved by the municipal mayor. But to her surprise, she made to choose between aircondition units and tiled floor by the college president. And so, she chose the former. As such, she spent several thousand from her own pocket to have the floor of the entire office and skills laboratory covered with “floor mat” or “linoleum.”

She exerted a lot of effort in making the office appear dignified and the skills lab like a laboratory. As a matter of fact, she was the one who manually painted the first coating of the huge divider used to hold procedure trays in the office.

As a health-related discipline, we had so many needs in terms of equipment that we had to generate funds just like other departments did to their students. For instance, there was an unwritten rule that students from other departments donate books or tiles or even LCD projectors at the end of the semester per subject. Yet, no issue was made among them.

In our case, we did the same to purchase needs that are specific to our department. Yet, this was construed as peculation instead of selfless acts and initiatives.

Speaking of her motherly approach, I will never forget how she treated her faculty and students like her own children. She had cooked for us. Brewed coffee with us and shared her life experiences at the end of the day. Her ways were always professional too.

I remember there were days and nights when electricity was out, yet we managed to stay in the office preparing our lessons for the days to come not minding the blinding dim light while the entire school had gone deserted.

Which is why the coup d’ etat was a painful surprise. We have not done anything but to better the office and students to become future midwives.

I recall, two years ago, Dr. Mercado said she wanted to resign because she could not take the rotten LGU system, which I do not wish to elaborate further.

I begged her not to leave me for I was not seasoned yet to handle the department myself.

And then last year, when I was diagnosed with a bleeding disorder with symptoms manifesting whenever I was stressed, I asked her permission to resign, and that time it was her turn to beg me not to leave her. And so, I didn’t.

We did not come in this community college to fit in; we came here because we wanted to make a difference. Yet we failed, for there were only the two of us.

In our supposition, it is this failure to dance with their music or acculturate to the LGU ways of doing that ousted us without due process.

In our last few moments in the office we hugged and cried into each other’s’ shoulders. As men took our things out of the office, we watched the office that we had worked for so hard for almost three years collapsed in a few minutes. As we walked with poise and dignity out of the school corridors, we could not help but become emotional as we were supposed to be the unsung hero and heroine, not the criminals and antagonists.

This article I dedicate to an extraordinary woman who refused to compromise her ideals and principles to conformity. To you, Dr. Mercado, I thank you so much for everything. I embrace you. I will never forget you.

[Email: polo.journalist@gmail.com]

(The first part of this article was published in this paper last Tuesday, May 5, 2015.)