From vice mayor to baby nurse: A former politician's US journey
The Fil-Am Connection

From vice mayor to baby nurse: A former politician’s American Dream

Florinda Isabel Rabat's story is one of profound transformation, driven by personal trials and a deep-seated calling
/ 05:23 PM June 16, 2024

Florinda Rabat

Florinda with one of the 30 sets of twins she cared for as a professional baby nurse. CONTRIBUTED

Elton Lugay column IDHONOLULU – Once a prominent politician in the Philippines, serving as vice mayor in the picturesque province of Mati in Davao Oriental, Florinda Isabel Rabat is now known not for her political acumen but for her nurturing touch and expertise as a baby nurse in the US.

Her story is one of profound transformation, driven by personal trials and a deep-seated calling.

At 73 years old, Florinda transitioned to baby nursing exactly 20 years ago at the age of 53. Her journey has been marked by significant milestones, including caring for 113 babies, among whom were 30 sets of twins and two sets of triplets.

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Florinda’s transition from the political arena to the realm of newborn care began during a trip to New York. She was attending the UN Women Empowerment Assembly as a representative of the Philippines when an urgent call from home would change everything.

Immense struggle

“I got a call from home informing me that my husband needed surgery,” she said in a phone interview while she was working in Paris and I was in Honolulu for a work-related trip. “My family was going through a rough patch. I was feeling so lost and constantly praying about where the road would lead me.”

Florinda Rabat and husband

Florinda with husband Benito Garcia Rabat, former three-term mayor of Mati, Davao Oriental. CONTRIBUTED

It was a period of immense struggle. “Our life then was filled with uncertainties,” said Florinda. “Constant struggles with my husband’s health issues were depleting us financially, combined with very stressful family dynamics on my husband’s side intertwined with crazy politics.”

Her late husband Benito served for three years as mayor of Mati, while their daughter Glenda Gayta also served as a three-term vice mayor.

Seeking solace and purpose, she found herself drawn back to her initial passion – nursing. “I have always been drawn to kids, especially babies. I took up nursing in college as preparatory to medicine. It always felt like my calling.”


A chance encounter with a friend who offered a Newborn Care Specialist course ignited a spark within her. “It awakened my desire and passion to explore the opportunity to become a newborn care specialist. I knew in my heart I would be good at it,” she said with conviction.

Florinda Rabat

On assignment in Monaco. CONTRIBUTED

Florinda’s extensive experience in public service heavily influenced her approach to caring for infants. “I dedicated 13 years of my life to public service, first as barangay captain for 10 years and then as vice mayor for three years,” she recalled. “Being there for others has been the driving force of my career.”

She found that her political skills translated seamlessly into her new role. “It isn’t so different from taking care of little angels and being part of their character development as individuals,” she said. “If we want to build a better community, the earlier we start infusing positivity into the energy surrounding infants, the better. Giving my best to securing the future with what I do as a baby nurse somehow gives me a sense of fulfillment.”

Personal connections

Throughout her 20-year career as a baby nurse, Florinda has amassed a treasure trove of memories. One particular memorable experience was traveling around Europe in style with the family of her employers.

“Experiencing the generosity of my employers through big bonuses received for a good day’s work pays off for those interrupted and sometimes sleepless nights being part of the job as a baby nurse,” she said.

But it’s the personal connections that mean the most to her. “Getting greeting cards and messages from previous families who kept in touch with updates on the babies I took care of – the first baby I took care of is already 20 years old,” she shared with pride.

Florinda Rabat

Florinda in Switzerland. CONTRIBUTED

Florinda’s background in politics has given her a unique perspective on her work as a baby nurse. “I see my job as not only taking care of what the baby needs physically but also as an opportunity to partner with parents to start early child development as a baby trainer by instilling the right mindset,” she explained. “At that stage, the baby’s brain is like a sponge that absorbs the energy from people around them and from the environment.”

Breaking barriers

However, the transition wasn’t without its challenges. “Breaking the barriers to the common belief that being a baby nurse is beneath the status and position you hold in our country was tough,” Florinda admitted.

“Most of our kababayans look down on this job with the common belief that it’s a job only for the less fortunate. Some even believe this job is undignified for professionals, not realizing the big impact your job as a baby nurse can have on the community if you do your job right and allow your heart to dictate your level of involvement combined with professionalism.”

And for those contemplating a significant career change, the Fil-Am Davaoeńan offers a heartfelt advice. “Whatever your plans in life, always pray to God for guidance and entrust everything to Him,” she said. “Don’t wait for things to happen; make them happen through hard work and perseverance. When you infuse love and genuine care into your work, you can never go wrong. Never be afraid to explore opportunities when they come. Dare to dream.”

Her story is also one of adaptability and continuous learning. “Working with families was easy for me as my understanding of mediation and resolving people’s problems has helped a great deal in my dedication as a baby nurse,” she said. Her political background equipped her with the skills to navigate diverse cultural contexts and varying family dynamics. “Being able to provide the help that families need, no matter the cultural differences, has enriched my work.”

Professional challenges

Professional challenges were abundant, especially in transitioning from politics to a field that required a different set of skills and knowledge. “Professional challenges, especially working with other baby nurses, as we have different approaches as caregivers and there are always conflicts of ideas,” she noted. “When I was president of the Vice-Mayors’ League, I had to deal with different political interests and agendas of the whole assembly. Yes, daunting, but a collective approach has always been my direction. In being a childcare specialist, I have to be on top of my field. I had to have the most advanced and current techniques in baby nursing.”

Florinda’s work has left a lasting impact on the families she has served. “The trust that the parents give me, the weight of responsibilities given to me, the parents that keep in touch with me years after I’ve left them – these have enriched my work,” she said.

Her dedication and expertise have not gone unnoticed. Florinda has built a reputation among affluent families, thanks to her confidence and proficiency in baby nursing. “My confidence in this field of work has given me good references with affluent families, of which I am thankful for,” she said.

Reflecting on her journey so far, Florinda acknowledges the profound impact her career as a baby nurse has had on her life. “I could say this opportunity to become a baby nurse is an answered prayer for me which gave me a sense of fulfillment. Once I started on this path, I couldn’t stop. I felt I needed to answer my calling. It brought so much joy, fulfillment and financial stability to my life,” she said.

Never too late

Her story is a powerful reminder that it’s never too late to change directions and pursue what truly brings joy and purpose. “I started late in life with my transition to baby nursing, so if I can do it, there is no reason why others can’t,” she said.

“Moving to a new place away from family is a very big challenge. Mental and emotional preparedness is a necessity.” For her, the journey was filled with sacrifices and adjustments, but the rewards far outweighed the hardships.

“After years of sacrifice and adjustments, I could proudly say that my journey has paid off financially and emotionally,” she added.

“When serving or helping others becomes ingrained into your character, it automatically becomes second nature to you and it manifests in your work and in everything you say or do.” This motivation has driven her to excel as a baby nurse, providing the highest level of care and support to the families she serves. 

Florinda’s journey from vice mayor of Mati to a compassionate baby nurse in New York is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, the power of adaptability and the profound impact of following one’s true calling. Her story inspires us all to seek fulfillment and purpose, no matter where the road may lead.

To her, this is not just a personal journey but a legacy she hopes to leave behind. A powerful testament to the idea that it’s never too late to start anew, and that sometimes, the most unexpected paths can lead to the greatest fulfillment.

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