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History of the Philippine Nurses Association of Gulfcoast Florida
Written by Cecile Santos-Medenilla BSN RN, TNCC, ENPC President 2012-2014, 3022-2024
The Philippine Nurses Association of Gulfcoast Florida was established to unite strong Filipino-American nurses who epitomize strong commitment, service and dedication for the nursing profession.
The Philippine Nurses Association of Gulfcoast Florida, Incorporated, also known as PNAGF, is a non-profit professional organization comprised of members of Filipino nurses from Pasco, Hernando, and Pinellas counties which are all strategically located along the Gulf of Mexico. It was founded in 1999 by Filipino nurses in Pasco County, Florida. Its prime mission is to have a professional organization that will unite Filipino-American nurses in the area. Its initial goals are to promote professional and personal enrichment, strengthen camaraderie among the members, extend community service and promote the Filipino unique culture and traditions through participation in socio-cultural events and activities of the Filipino American communities. And these humble goals have expanded into what they are today. Also, it extends its support to fellow Filipino nurses who are new in the area or just arrive in the country.
PNAGF was an idea that came about during a New Year’s Day celebration in 1999 hosted by Dr. Felipe Casabar and his wife Aura, a registered nurse. Among the attendees were fellow nurses Merly Santos-Llanto, Agnes Santos, Cecile Santos-Medenilla, Rosemarie Dy and Dr. Rica Cua who agreed that a professional organization was needed to unify and strengthen camaraderie among Filipino American nurses. It was decided that Filipino American nurses from the area be invited to a special meeting on a Saturday, February 6, 1999 at Anderson Park, Tarpon Springs in Pinellas county, where Aura Casabar and Merly Santos-Llanto presented and discussed the feasibility of forming an organization. The sixteen nurses who came agreed to finalize the idea. Discussions regarding a creation of a nurses’ organization were not new but the timeliness and readiness of all the nurses on that day facilitated the fruition of PNAGF.
On March 27, 1999, twentyfive enthusiastic nurses gathered and chose the interim officers who were willing to share and commit their time and effort in order to get PNAGF off the ground. On that historic day, the Philippine Nurses Association of Gulfcoast Florida or PNAGF was born. The Filipino American nurses named the association officially and stated their prime mission and goals. Ms. Liw Villagomeza, the founding President of PNA of Tampa Bay was invited and gave an inspirational talk about the specifics of organizing an association. She was a prime mentor and supporter of PNAGF. PNAGF made another meeting on May 29, 1999, and that was the time the first PNAGF Constitution and By-Laws was presented and drafted by the members and interim officers. PNAGF official logo was chosen and it was artistically drawn by an architect and cousin of Ma. Bella Ballesteros- Cabrera, a founding officer. PNAGF was registered as a non-profit professional organization in the State of Florida on March 13, 2000. It was recognized as the 23rd local chapter of the Philippine Nurses Association of America on June 24, 2000 in Indianapolis, Indiana during the 21st PNAA National Convention. Merly Santos- Llanto attended the PNAA National Convention as a lone representative and received the plaque of recognition on behalf of the association. On August 19, 2000, the PNAGF founding officers were inducted on its inaugural day held at Heritage Springs Country Club in New Port Richey, Pasco County, Florida. Forty-two Filipino American nurses became the bonafide founding members of PNAGF and members of PNAA.
Over the years of hard work, dedication, generous time and effort given by the founding officers and members, they remain active and visible. The PNAGF members continued to educate, motivate, and, encourage members to explore possibilities and opportunities to grow professionally. PNAGF did increase its membership and extends its generosity to its neighboring communities and own country, the Philippines. With the strong support from their families and community, PNAGF weathered all struggles and a solid foundation was formed from the leaderships of its founding officers.
Under the leaderships of its past presidents, Merly Santos-Llanto, Tita Ravi, Alma Asuncion, Medina Madrinan, Orpha Ale Mineque, Abel Madrinan (Rip), Esmeralda Santos, Cecile Santos-Medenilla, Norma Quintong-Milnes and present President Janella Puyot ( 2019-2020), PNAGf continues to be a vibrant and active organization that stayed true to its mission and goals.
Merly Santos-Llanto, the founding president when asked how the organization started once quoted, “It was a small dream that became big. It is a good representation of being a nurse, a Filipino nurse who cares and shares, neither for the fame nor popularity but for the humanitarian deeds and humility of being a nurse. It is great to know that people of other nationalities will have a high regard and respect for Filipino nurses. And that is why we, Filipino American nurses unite, educate and work together to make a difference.”
Founding Executive Officers 2000-2002
President: Merly Santos- Llanto BSC RN
Vice-Pres: Ma. Janua Coeli Florentin-Navarro BSN CCRN RN
Corresponding Sec: Aura Casabar BSN RN
Recording Sec: Ma. Bella Ballesteros- Cabrera BSN RN
Auditor: Stanley Orozco BSN RN
PRO: Lolita Plandes- Pollack BSN RN / Evangeline Pagulayan BSN RN
Advisor: Dr. Riqueza Cua
Board of Directors:
Agnes M. Santos BSN CCRN MBA RN
Cecile Santos-Medenilla BSN RN
Heidi Stein BSN RN
Tita Ravi BSN RN
Carmen Molino BSN RN
Rosemarie Dy BSN RN
Adelwisa Baker BSN RN
PNAGF First Meeting Attendees: February 06, 1999
Adelwisa Baker Lolita Pollack
Agnes Santos Maria Elena Pannozzo
Aura Casabar Merly Santos-Llanto
Cecile Santos-Medenilla Riqueza Cua
Coraluz Timoteo Rosemarie Dy
Evangeline Pagulayan Stanley Orozco
Heidi Stein Maria Theresa Salamilao
Janua Coeli Navarro Tita Ravi
Liw Villagomeza and Aba Villagomeza
Bill and Claire Ick
Dr. William and Rica Cua
Dr. Rodolfo Dy
Dr. Felipe Casabar
Mr. John Curry
Mrs. Elsie Canary
All the family members of the founding officers and members
American Cancer Society
American Red Cross
American Heart Association
Good Samaritan Clinic
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