Lucena City, Quezon - The Filipina nurse, recently cited in the State of the Union Address of US President Barack Obama for saving the lives of 20 newborn babies in a New York City hospital which lost all power at the height of superstorm "Sandy," has become an instant celebrity among her kababayans here.
Menchu de Luna Sanchez, a native of Catanauan, Quezon, was one of the recipients of the Quezon Medalya ng Karangalan (QMK) on August 16, 2013, at the Quezon Convention Center in this city. The QMK is the highest award given by the provincial government to a Quezonian for outstanding performance that brought honor and pride to the province,
Many people at the event asked that she join them in souvenir photos, saying "it is a rare moment that a person mentioned by powerful President Obama" is with them even in a photo opportunity.
Sanchez received a warm welcome from her province and townmates when she came home for a visit after being cited by President Obama for her heroism.
She was working in the New York University Langone Medical Center when the hurricane knocked off all power in the city, endangering the lives of those in the hospital. Despite the storm, Sanchez managed to bring the newborn babies to safety.
Superstorm "Sandy" ravaged the northeastern United States, severely battering parts of both New York and New Jersey on October 29 and 30 last year.
Quezon Gov. David C. Suarez, in his speech, said he does not know personally Sanchez but when he saw on a television newscast that President Obama paid tribute to her, he immediately said that she should be one of the QMK awardees this year.
Sanchez said she was born and raised in Catanauan, and graduated with a nursing degree at the Mary Chiles Hospital in Sampaloc, Manila. After earning her bachelor's degree in nursing at the Makati Medical Center School of Nursing, she went to Saudi Arabia where she worked for 10 years before going to the US.
"I'm overjoyed. It was an experience of a lifetime and this is one of the highlights of my life," Sanchez told the Asian Journal in an interview upon her return from Washington, DC, last February. "I hope I am able to inspire my fellow nurses somehow."
Sanchez and her husband have a 20-year-old son, Jude, now studying at Seton Hall University while their 19-year-old daughter Michelle is at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. "Wala kaming maipapamana sa kanila na kayamanan kaya pinag-aaral na lang namin sila. That's the only thing we can leave them, education," Sanchez said.