TORONTO, Canada — One of the first three Filipino nurses who arrived in Toronto in 1959, Estela Kuhonta Bischof, was honored with a plaque and a bouquet at the Ms. Paraluman 2014 pageant.
The event sponsored by the Filipino Centre Toronto (FCT) was held Saturday, November 22, at Rembrandt Banquet Hall in Scarborough, Toronto.
What makes the award especially significant is that Estela Bischof, like a lot of intrepid Filipinos today, took charge of her future right from the start — her parents did not want her to be a nurse.
“Kalaro ng doktor ang nars,” (Doctors have nurses for their playmates) her mom told her.
Estela had to prove that she could focus on her goal, so much so that she was a “straight scholar” for the three years it took to get her nursing degree — the first year she was her elder sister’s scholar; the next two she did on her own while studying at St. Luke’s School of Nursing where she was class valedictorian in 1954.
Estela Kuhonta worked in the Philippine medical system right after graduation at the Aurora Hospital in Quezon, then at the Philippine General Hospital’s metabolic unit under the renowned Dr. Augusto Camara.
In 1956, Estela (then 29) left as an exchange visitor to serve as a nurse in the medical/surgical ward at the Deaconess General Hospital in Great Falls, Montana. After a year, she transferred to Chicago’s Michael Reese Hospital where she worked for 18 months.
In August of 1959, she was all set to go home but decided to visit Toronto instead. She ended up falling in love with the city, worked for the Toronto General Hospital OR/Obstetrics for a year, then transferred to Toronto Western Hospital on Bathurst and literally found her life mate, Otto Bischof, across the street.
Otto, an immigrant from Switzerland, lived in his own home across the hospital, right beside the boarding house where lived six Filipina nurses, among them Estela.
After a whirlwind courtship of six months, the two got married and produced a son and a daughter. Estela decided to quit work and raised the two children as a full time wife and mom, until she and Otto set up a business in 1966–the Party Centre–which has two thriving locations, one in Mississauga and the main store in Toronto. Otto also ran his taxi operator business until 2004, when he suffered a heart attack.
Filipino OFWs of every age and working in different job settings all over the world owe pioneers like Estela Bischof “utang na loob” for opening the doors of opportunity by dint of their work ethic, high professionalism and unstinting service.
Estela Bischof, now 87, remains sharp as a tack and continues to share her blessings through volunteerism in her community. She is a member of Kababaihang Rizalista and the New Vision Cultural Organization, and other local groups.
Now retired, the very active Estela loves parties, the opera, traveling and reading.
And as we can see, she can still strut her stuff on the dance floor.