Good memories live forever 

Dr. Rexie Ramos and her Ilocano family.

Life evolves and we all undergo change. 

“But good memories live forever,” says Dr. Resurreccion O. Ramos, a physician at the Dammam Private Medical Complex in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. 

Ramos —  Dr. Ramos to patients and Rexie to friends— is referring to the wonderful remembrances of her meaningful stay in Saudi Arabia, which she has to leave for good. The signs are clear, like clouds looming large on the horizon or leaves wafting in the wind. 

Ramos is leaving what has become her home away from home. 

In a text message that might appropriately be called a swan song, Rexie talked about what Saudi Arabia had  given her and the hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who work or used to work in the Kingdom. 

At one time or another, the total number of OFWs across the length and breadth of Saudi Arabia totalled 1.2 million, like during the time of the late former Ambassador Antonio P. Villamor. 

There are 800,000 OFWs in the Kingdom at present, according to a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) by the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah under Consul General Edgar Tomas “Gary” Q. Auxilian. 

Rexie’s carefully crafted message hints at sadness to be ending a 29-year medical career, serving Saudis and foreigners alike in accordance with her Hippocratic oath. 

But what more could she ask for? She was able to travel to distant places: Singapore, Hong Kong, United States (California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah), Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. 

She was born seven decades back and grew up in the then remote and laid-back town of Batac (now a progressive  city), Ilocos Norte. 

She attended the Bil-Loca Elementary School (1964), Ilocos Norte National High School (1968), University of Santo Tomas College of Science (1972) and the MCU-Filemon D. Tanchoco Medical Foundation (1976) to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor who ministers to the sick and helps the needy. 

After a one-year internship at the Pangasinan Provincial Hospital in Dagupan City, she joined the Rural Health Practice Program in her home province.  

She underwent specialty training in Internal Medicine at the Dr. Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center in Manila then practiced her profession in the country as a token of gratitude for her blessings. 

She worked from 1984 to 1986 as a clinician/internist at the Perpetual Help Hospital in Manila and a medical examiner at the Pacific Asia Shipping Corporation. 

On weekends, she travelled for eight hours and 34 minutes on a Fariñas Trans bus to conduct a clinic in Ilocos Norte. 

She had a brush with death one stormy night in San Manuel, Tarlac. Her bus collided with another vehicle as it tried to avoid fallen trees on the road. The bus nearly fell into a river. 

Natakot talaga ako. Mabuti na lang at ligtas kami (I was really terrified. It’s good we were all safe),” she said. 

Young and idealistic and in need of extra money, she decided to try her luck overseas for the proverbial green buck. She also wanted a change of routine and environment. 

She got a job in the Kingdom and landed in Dammam on Nov. 24, 1986, after a ten-hour and 36 minutes’ Saudi Airlines (Saudia)  flight. There she joined the medical staff of the Dammam Private Medical Complex, called the Dammam Maternity & Children’s Hospital at the time, under the management of the National Medical  Services Co. Ltd. 

She liked her job and the management under Abdulla Nasir and Ali Abdul Khaliq Safar, general manager and assistant general manager, respectively, who have both passed. 

It made her proud when she heard nice comments about OFWs. A Saudi employer said, for instance, that “one Filipino is equivalent to seven other nationalities.”  

In 1990,  “I was supposed to go home for my annual vacation but (my flight) was changed to PAL (Philippine Airlines) which at the time was known for delayed flights.” 

When she learned about it, she immediately wrote the manager telling him that she would not be returning. 

The owner asked what the problem was. “We went from rags to riches. Now that we’re booming you’re leaving us. You go and rest and anytime you want to come back just let me know,” he said. 

He added, “Write to me, tell me ‘Ali, I want to come back and within one month I could get a visa for you’.” 

“I was teary-eyed, as I nodded my agreement,” she says. “Before I left for the Philippines he gave me a Special Power of Attorney to process my return after receiving my new visa.” 

While Rexie liked working in the Kingdom, she was also happy to come home. She missed her family in Batac and school friends from elementary to college.  

Her father, Sabino Tabucbuc Ramos, was a farmer, blacksmith and proprietor of the Ramos Iron Works & Welding Shop. Her mother, the former Petra Gapas Opelac, was a homemaker. 

Her siblings were Emmanuel, a machinist now deceased; Crispin, general radio communications operator and radio/TV technician who is also deceased; Macaria, pharmacist; Sabino, Jr., architect; Nelia, accounting graduate and librarian; Nelson, X-Ray technician and pastor at Mt. Zion International Church; Alexander, dentist; and Elpidio, general radio communication operator (Radio Officer). 

She is now at the tail end of her career at the Dammam Private Medical Complex, where she has worked the whole time she was in the Kingdom. 

On reaching retirement age, Rexie says,” I received an e-mail from the company’s GM (general manager) thanking me for my services and (saying I will be retired as of) the end of May 2022.” 

She adds with a touch of humor, “… but I have yet to receive my final exit visa, ticket, remaining end of service benefits (ESB) and salary,” before bursting into laughter. 

Rexie has established a career in the Kingdom and also got  involved in humanitarian work. 

Along with fellow OFWs, like Dhon C. Fideles, charge nurse at the King Fahd University Hospital and president of Infinity 8 Sunergos (I-8) or Working Together, she has been involved in community projects. 

When I-8 was organized nearly four years ago, she helped provide free mineral water, free medical checkup and advice to OFWs at the Embassy on Wheels (EOW) in Al Khobar. 

During EOW missions, consular and other services (Social Security Services membership or housing project) are rendered. 

For its initiatives, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under Attaché Teresita Valentino gave the group awards, which were handed out by Ambassador Alonto. 

Rexie was also involved in clean-up drives of Bantay at Kasangga ng OFW International, Inc. (Guard and Partner).   

In March 2017, Eastern Province Gov. Prince Naïf bin Saud bin Abdulaziz presented each member of the group with a box containing five gold coins.  

Dr. Ramos also helped compatriots upgrade and harness their computer literacy and skills to get promoted and raise their incomes. She joined the volunteer teachers of COMSOFIL-ER. 

Her help was sought in 2011 for a college student at the Far Eastern University who was suffering from lymphoma. Rexie helped financially.  Although the patient did not survive, she keeps in touch  with his mother to lessen her anguish. 

Mabait si Dr. Ramos (Dr. Ramos is good),” said the mother, Irene H. Camua, who works at the Quezon City Public Library. 

Rexie accepts her retirement graciously. “Nothing in this world is permanent. Everything is in a constant flux. Sooner or later, we’ll all leave as transient workers in Saudi Arabia.”  

While others leaving the Kingdom might be planning to go somewhere else, Rexie is looking forward to returning to the Philippines. “For me, there’s no place like home.” 

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