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Filipino woman gets 'badge of honor' training in US
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Eleonor Mendoza-Gonzales is a Quad Cities resident who grew up in the Philippines in Iligan City. She left the Philippines in 1974 after Marshall Law was in effect, as did many other Filipinos. The retired pediatrician has written one book and her second book is in the editing stages.
When Eleonor Mendoza-Gonzales talks history, her eyes light up and her hands fly through the air, crafting a story that spans many years and thousands of miles.

The Davenport woman talks of growing up one of seven siblings in the Philippines.

She remembers stories about World War II, when her parents moved her older three siblings (before the others were born) to the mountains, where they lived among guerrilla fighters and their families.

She remembers the excitement of coming to the United States after college, in pursuit of a doctorate degree, unaware that she eventually would call it home.

"I grew up looking at books about history, about the war and things … back home in the Philippines, it wasn't sports you got into. Our pastime was playing table games at home, playing piano and then reading," Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzales said.

Before she was born, her father, a doctor, was called to care for members of the guerrilla army fighting in World War II. He, his wife and their three children were forced to retreat to the mountains, where his wife served as a pharmacist and the children played with children of the the guerrillas.

By the time Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzales was born, the war had ended and the family was back home in Iligan City. Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzales attended a Catholic high school run by Colombian priests, taught Catechism and sang in the local choir.

She went to college at the local University of Santo Tomas, where she studied medicine. At a time when many Filipino women were expected to stay at home with their children, Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzales said some family members were concerned about her plans for a profession – especially when she chose to complete her residency in the United States.

"You never know what your destiny is, and I wanted a job where I could be self-sufficient," she said, "so I went."

Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzales said that at one time, the Philippines was one of the most industrialized countries in Asia, on a par with Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia.

But that changed when Ferdinand Marcos became president in 1965, enforcing martial law and instigating rampant economic and political instability, she said, adding that one effect was a massive"brain drain" of new graduates who went abroad.

"It was like a badge of honor to be trained in the United States," said Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzales, who was 26 when she left her country in 1974 to do a three-year pediatric residency and a two-year pediatric cardiology fellowship training in New York.

She completed her training in 1979 and moved to the Quad-Cities, where she found a job in Moline and met her husband, whom she married in 1980.

She continued working after their first son, Philip, was born, but after the birth of their second child, Charles, in 1982, Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzales left the practice to raise the boys.

"You know, if you're a mother, you brought those kids to the world, you better be responsible for them," she said."I felt very strongly that I had to be there to make them grow to be upright citizens, good people."

After her sons graduated from high school and left to pursue their own medical careers, Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzales thought about writing a book.

While flying back to the Philippines to visit family, she read an article about the Filipino government requesting the return of bells seized by American troops from the town of Balangiga during the Philippine-American War.

She began jotting down ideas."My inspiration was hitting me," she said. "So all lights were out, but I was the only one (one the plane) with a light on, and I just kept writing through the early morning hours -- that was the beginning."

She based the local color in her historical romance novel -- "The Bells of Balangiga" --on her mother's conservative, religious background and spent nearly four years pouring over history books, writing, editing and illustrating several drawings.

The book was published in December 2011, and Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzales now is working on a political thriller called"The Cassandra Syndrome."

In the meantime, she rarely is without something to do. She plays tennis most mornings and is heavily involved with community programs, including serving on the board of the local chapter of the Filipino-American Association.

Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzalessaid they want to preserve some native dishes here in the States, including lumpia and pancit ( a Filipino version of the Chinese noodle); rellenong manok, chicken with a stuffing made with ground pork, olives, raisins, chickpeas, eggs, garlic, onion and paprika; and even cooking an entire pig for special occasions.

During the Christmas holidays, the members go caroling at area nursing homes, hang holiday lanterns and attend a traditional evening mass known as "Simbang Gabi."

Mrs. Mendoza-Gonzales said it's a history and culture that shapes her life, and one she will share with future generations of Filipino-Americans.

"It gives us a sense, not only of identity -- but the thing is, really, we miss home, and it unites us into a sense of home when we do these things together."

-- Location:Southeastern Asia, archipelago between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam.

-- Population:103,775,002 (July 2012 estimate). No. 12 in the world.

-- Languages:Filipino (official, based on Tagalog) and English (official). Eight major dialects -- Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinan.

Source: CIA World Factbook.

Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Sept. 15, the 258th day of 2014. There are 107 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: The Rock River Illinois conference of the Methodist Church will hold its annual sessions this week in this city. About 200 ministers are expected to attend.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Brush electric company had prepared a new schedule of rates to become effective Oct. 1, with slightly increased rates to consumers.
1914 — 100 years ago: The Rock Island Aerie of Eagles made plans for the laying of the cornerstone of a new $50,000 Eagles Home. W.C. Maucker is to be master of ceremonies.
1939 — 75 years ago: Col. Charles A. Lindbergh spoke on "America and Foreign War" in a neutrality debate over nation wide radio hook-up.
1964 — 50 years ago: Two awards of the National Safety council were presented to the city of Rock Island today at noon at a meeting held in the YWCA.
1989 — 25 years ago: The final tallies are not yet in for the summer 1989 Quad-Cities tourism season, but officials are expecting the number of visitors to the area to be at least as good as, if not better than, 1988.

(More History)