Bloom Where You Are Planted


By Rezarta Mataj

Her front yard is full of colorful flowers but there’s one kind that stands out. It’s a big sunflower that welcomes everyone coming into the house. Out of modesty she says, “People say sunflowers synchronize with my personality.”

Joanah Montojo at the age of 42, has done it all from attending beauty contests and making it in the top three, to conducting fundraisers to help the families affected by the typhoon in the Philippines back in 2013. Joanah has also worked with the Philippines government in helping the native tribes get educational and social help, while at the same time she was teaching nursing. Joanah is still a big help to her own community when it comes to organizing social events for the big Filipino community in Albany, New York. Her help comes in many forms and ways.

“I help the kids of my community when they organize dances or attend different school or regional contests. They practice here in my home basement.”

Joanah says that one of her primary goals of being active and so involved with her native culture is to teach her American born son about his parents’ culture and embrace where he is from. She thinks that one can’t be successful if not aware of their origin and culture. Joanah also keeps up with technology especially with social networking. She is very active on her Facebook page constantly posting pictures about activities happening in the Filipino community.

But after all of these activities and hard work it’s yet to be determined whether success has followed Joanah Montojo or if she has chased success as a hungry tiger after his prey. Joanah was only 19 when she finished nursing school, and was in her early twenties when she finished her master’s in business administration. Being a very busy woman back home by helping and serving her community, her “kingdom” as she calls it, God had another plan for her. Joanah was ready for the next step. According to her nothing happens by accident. Success is “faith, hope, and a positive attitude,” she said.

Human beings are human beings. If you see the best in each person and believe in them they will be successful.

“I tell myself it’s not an accident that I am a Filipino. I had to serve my country first and when my mission was finished there I then had to look for the next step,” she said. Joanah arrived in America in 2009 to work as a nurse at Albany Medical Center (AMC) through a nurse recruiting program that AMC had at the time. The qualification for the program was easier for her because she was already academically ready but Joanah wanted to do more, offer more and get more from life. Being part of AMC Joanah was about to face a challenge. The American life was different from what she had lived and experienced back home. Her current tittle is Assistant Manager of the Elective Orthopedics unit. She works with people from 13 nationalities, cultures and languages. Ironically what might seem hard for some people seems like a blessing to Joanah Montojo.

“Human beings are human beings. If you see the best in each person and believe in them they will be successful. I listen to their frustrations and I try to be objective about their problems. By recognizing where the person comes from and respecting it, that is key.” She added “Without the contribution of each person in the unit we wouldn’t be able to meet the needs of the patients and I believe in each individual. Even when I have problems with certain people I don’t hate the person – I separate the action from the person.”

One of Joanah’s employees, Juan Bitanga describes her as accepting. “The way she proudly showcases our unit’s diversity, makes you feel comfortable when you’re unsure of yourself, and teaches you when you just don’t know the answer, which can only be explained as acceptance.”

The fact of being alive and to be able to live another day is a big motivation for her.

Her hard work and dedication have paid off in so many ways. Joanah has won awards given at the AMC but what she shares proudly is the story of an anonymous patient who donated money in her honor to AMC. People who work with her acknowledge that Joanah is a very energetic person and is constantly sharing positive vibes and giving support to her co-workers when they have a bad day. The fact of being alive and to be able to live another day is a big motivation for her. Maria Baun, one of the nurses who works with Joanah said “She is everywhere with her positive energy, laughing and talking to people and when she’s not here we miss her.”

Back to Joanah: “I start my day by singing in the car and saying, Oh god help me today it’s another day. I walk into work and say hello, good morning, to everyone. I am positive and like positive vibes even when I acknowledge the negative, I have to realize there’s a positive side to it or choosing the positive thing to do.”

But at the end of the day Joanah is human too and she needs to be supported, loved and cared about. Surprisingly what ‘recharges’ her energies is her journal and her garden. Despite the busy schedule and days full of activities Joanah never neglects herself. “There is time for everything. I come out here into my garden and I write in my journal. It’s more of a meditation and self-reflection of what I could have done better or found the right thing to do” Joanah explained. Her husband, whom she met many years ago while working out at a gym, is of course another big supporter. They have two sons from their happy marriage.