Jose Planillo, RN: The vaccinator as Piano Man

‘COVID is a very deadly, threatening illness and must be taken seriously.’

By Cristina DC Pastor

During his 15-minute break, a masked gentleman in scrubs walks to an upright piano to play Chopin or a Broadway song by Sondheim.

Surprised patients in the Javits Center Observation Area recognize him as the man who just gave them their jabs. Smiles and applause follow Jose Planillo, RN, as he finishes his “mini concert” and walks back to the clinic to resume his job as a vaccinator.

“There is a piano at the Javits Center and I just play during my 15-minute break in the morning. I just love to play music for my patients,” Planillo – whose family comes from  Liliw, Laguna – told The FilAm. “They’re just happy to hear music in these uncertain times of the pandemic.” 

Planillo, 64, came to the U.S. in 1979, a year after earning his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Far Eastern University in Manila. He was recruited by a small community hospital in Lincoln Park, Michigan. He moved to New York in 1983 to work in Intensive Care Unit – Metropolitan Hospital till 1989 and has since moved to Columbia University Medical Center, now the New York Presbyterian Hospital until 2020. He is currently a registered nurse for the New York State Department of Health.

He is a Nursing graduate from FEU.
Play me a song, Mr. Piano Man.

He learned to play the piano from a maternal relative, Adelina FranciscoMartinez, who is a graduate of the UP Conservatory of Music and an accomplished harpist.

“She married my uncle and become a homemaker but teaches piano at home. Most of her classmates became famous, one is Mike Velarde,” he shared. Velarde is the founder of the El Shaddai Catholic charismatic movement.

On a regular 12-hour shift at the Javits Center, he has two 15-minute breaks, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. The morning break gives him the opportunity to rekindle his romance with the keyboard and “share my music.”

He wished he could play piano more, but being a very busy health care professional gives him little time to pursue music, not even as a side gig. “No opportunities,” he said.

He can play some pieces from memory but with some classical songs, he needs to have the notes in front of him.

Does he get requests?

“Not at the moment if there is someone that approaches me for a song, I will try to oblige,” he said.

Planillo’s wife is also a nurse. They have four children who are “living productive and purposeful lives,” he said.

Eldest daughter Jonie Planillo-Pachay broke the news about her dad  “sharing both his talent of music and nursing.”  She proudly declares on Facebook, “Great job, dad.”

Planillo has a message for the COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers who think the pandemic is a manmade health crisis: “COVID is a very deadly threatening illness and must be taken seriously. It’s either you save your own life or not; these are the choices each has to decide…I choose life as my calling-to-healing ministry.”

Forever Business Owner: Nieva Quezon Burdick

© The FilAm 2021

Leave a Reply