Darlene Dilangalen Borromeo: The RN is a princess from Mindanao

Bai Darlene. ‘It’s just a title

Bai Darlene. ‘It’s just a title

By Maricar CP Hampton

For registered nurse Darlene Dilangalen-Borromeo, a 2014 Christine Todd Whitman scholar in Public Service, ‘Bai’ is just a title.

The title, she maintained, meant nothing to her growing up in the Southern Philippines. ‘Bai’ means Muslim nobility, and, in her case, one descended from the powerful rulers of Rajah Buayan, a town in Maguindanao.

It’s fascinating to know that Darlene, a ranking leader of the New Jersey State Nurses Association, came from royalty. Her story is rich with historical moments in Mindanao history

Mindanao, she began, is an island that managed to escape the clutches of the Spaniards when they colonized the Philippines in the 1500s. Back then, Mindanao was the seat of the Islamic Empire of Sulu, a governing body under the rule of a Sultan. “The different tribes have maintained their culture and traditions,” she said in an interview with The FilAm.

The Maranao and Tausug are just some of the indigenous groups in Mindanao, a region known for centuries of ethnic conflicts. They come from the Maguindanao province bordered by Lanao del Sur and Cotabato provinces. Darlene’s family originated from Cotabato.

Her father, Dimaodtang Dilangalen, is a Datu, meaning a prince. He married a Christian woman, Esther Perales, who was considered a commoner.

Within royalty, she said, preserving the lineage is important.

“I have cousins who are princes and princesses in Cotabato who are siblings of first cousins. To maintain the lineage, first cousins marry each other,” she said.

The Dilangalen Family Tree

The Dilangalen Family Tree

Despite coming from a royal family and living in the biggest house in her barrio growing up, Darlene said hers has been a normal life. She has converted to Christianity.

“Royalty was not magnified (at home),” she said. “I’m very fortunate that my parents were professionals. My mother is a pharmacist and my father is a lawyer.”

She continued, “With my other cousins it was different. They were treated like real royalties. They won’t lift a finger specially since their dads own acres and acres of lands.”

It wasn’t until the death of her uncle that she really understood the influence of her family.

“I remember when my uncle died, the brother of my father. They know we are the children of Datu Dimaodtang. I was surprised as they were bowing when we crossed the street,” Darlene shared.

She said she is learning more about her heritage and proud of it. “I didn’t really appreciate it until now.”

Darlene moved to New York in 1980, with a Nursing degree from Marian College – now known as General Emilio Aguinaldo College — in Manila. In the U.S., she became a certified Gerontological, Psychiatric and Mental Health nurse and administrator. For more than two decades, she worked at the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit at the St. Clare’s Health System in Denville, New Jersey. She has retired as Operations Manager of the facility, but continues to perform part-time work in the Psychiatric Emergency Services unit, where mental patients are evaluated.

With colleagues from the Philippine Nurses Association of New Jersey. Photo by Arlin Fidellaga

With colleagues from the Philippine Nurses Association of New Jersey. Photo by Arlin Fidellaga

Darlene and her husband of 35 years, Jesus Borromeo, have three children: Jonathan, a managing director at Stand Up New York; Jade Borromeo Flinn, a Registered Nurse at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore; and Juanito, a graduate of Criminology at William Patterson University.

The move to New York proved to be a wise decision.

“Living in the U.S. gave me the opportunity to do well in my career and the profession that I am passionate about,” she said.

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