Retired nurse shares love of reading with hometown in Cebu
When she retired from her job as a nurse in 2004, Lucita Luciani immediately plunged into a habit that she had cherished to do every day—reading.
“It was something that I really wanted to do. I was done with hospitals after decades of working as a nurse. I wanted to spend my time in the library,” said Luciani, now 74, a volunteer of Santa Monica Public Library in Santa Monica, California.
For years, she has been sending books to her hometown, the small village of Calape in Daanbantayan, located at least 128 kilometers north of Cebu City. She was hoping that these books would be put to use, but unfortunately, these were either misplaced or just left on the shelves.
Last year, while inside the intensive care unit )ICU) to look after her sister Belen Baquillos, a retired principal of Calape Elementary School, Luciani read about the Basadours, a volunteer storytelling group in Cebu composed of students and young professionals.
“I read an article about them in the Inquirer last year while I was in the ICU. My sister had cancer of the salivary gland. In my grief, I found hope in the Basadours and the work that they do,” she said.
She asked help from her nephews and nieces to reach the group so she could bring them to Calape to inspire teachers and pupils through a storytelling session.
Luciani was born in 1940, a time of war when their entire family was “busy hiding from the Japanese.”
There were no libraries in Calape then, but her father, a school teacher, subscribed to the Philippine Free Press. While growing up, she loved the book “Pepe and Pilar.”
The seventh among nine children, Luciani graduated from University of the Visayas for her prenursing course in 1958. In 1962, she finished her nursing degree from Southern Islands Hospital School of Nursing.
She worked for a small family clinic in Ozamiz City in Misamis Oriental province for one year before returning to Cebu for a job at Cebu Maternity House. “This was the time when Filipino nurses leave for the United States in droves as exchange students,” she said.
In 1965, Luciani, then 24, flew with six other Filipino nurses to Twillingate, Newfoundland, Canada.
“It was the middle of winter and everything was white. The small town had a library and there were lots of books in our apartment,” she recalled.
From Newfoundland, she moved to Newmarket, a small town close to Toronto, when the director of nursing asked her if she would like to give intensive care nursing a try. From there, she worked at Toronto General Pulmonary Unit and Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York.
Tired of the winter, she moved to California in 1975, where she later met her husband, Giorgio, in one of the Sierra Club hikes, which she was part of.
The Lucianis live a simple life. “We don’t have designer things but we eat good food,” she said, smiling.
She was 64 when she retired in 2004. Shortly after, she signed up as a volunteer for Santa Monica Public Library.
One of her tasks was to segregate donated books. But her favorite part was being able to buy secondhand books at half the original cost. “There were books which cost 50 cents or one dollar. I would often think how many books my 100 dollars can buy and I can send them home,” she said.
In June, she went home to visit Calape after being inspired by the works of the Basadours. With the help of her nephews and nieces, she gathered 47 elementary and high school teachers for a storytelling training on June 21.
The next day, more than 100 elementary and high school students attended the session that featured Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” and Susan dela Rosa-Aragon’s “Pag-abot ni Kolor sa Lungsod” (When Color Came to Town).
Charlene Progella, teacher at Daanbantayan National High School, said the training and storytelling session served as eye openers to teachers to be more creative so they could become positive influences to their students.
“I have always loved reading, but I didn’t know how to pass that on to my students. The training by the Basadours gave us tips on how we could impart the love of reading to our students,” Progella said.
She said it was important to be inspired on what to do for the community, especially after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” left several Calape residents homeless on Nov. 8, 2013.
Dream for hometown
Teaching children to love reading goes a long way, Luciani said.
“Children who read are different; they are bright and self-confident. If we start educating the children while in the Philippines, maybe we will have less-exploited OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and less sex-trafficked women, and the other injustice inflicted to minority workers,” she said.
At her age, Luciani spends time as a library volunteer, traveling with her husband, or going on hikes and camping trips. She brings a book or two in these trips.
Her vision for Calape is simple: a park, playground and community garden that will help people to get to know each other. “I dream that there will be jobs for the young people so they will stay, that the barrio will have strong and not corrupt leaders, so hopefully we can clean up the barrio,” she said.
And where does she fit in in this scenario?
“When I’m old and gray, I dream of owning a small house full of books where everyone can visit me and read,” she said.
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