Victoria “Vicki” Pichay Biscarra at age 78, took her last breath on the night of September 28th 2019. Her battle with Stage III Cancer of the Pancreas began in July of this year. While the fight against this disease was brief, it was fierce nonetheless. “Victoria” is the Latin word for “victory” and so fitting is the name she bears. In her last week of life, she said aloud “The test is over…” Through her trials and often painful suffering, our dear sister in Christ remained faithfully steadfast until the very end.
Vicki leaves behind her older brother, Jose “Joe” Biscarra and sister, Estrella “Nenet” Manio. She was preceded in death by their youngest brother Glicerio “Gleeze” Biscarra and her beloved fur babies. It goes without saying that Batchie & Black Jack, both of whom were Black French poodles, held the keys to her heart.
She was born in the province of Narvacan, Philippines on January 25th, 1941 to parents Lt. Jose Bragas Biscarra and Regina Doctolero Pichay Biscarra. In her late teens, her mother asked if she would get married at a young age or go on to college and become a nurse. She chose the latter and attended the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital, graduating with the Class of 1962.
On July 10th, 1963 she and 10 other young Filipino Nurses left Manila on a Northwest Orient Airlines flight headed to Philadelphia, Pennysylvania. She wrote: “…an old, old dream of mine came true last year and the reality is more wonderful than the dream. What more could I expect, except to continuously explore a new world. Beyond the red lines is the strangeness of the unknown bathed with my curiosity to go out and see the world…”
St. Augustine once said: “The world is a book and he who doesn’t travel only reads one page.” Vicki literally and figuratively read novels during her lifetime of travels around the world! Her early adventures in 1963 allowed her to catch glimpses of the Alaska sky and walk the city streets of Seattle in the Summer of 63’ when civil rights demonstrations were making headlines. She made her way to the foot of the Tokyo Tower in Japan, survived the windy city of Chicago, and discovered the natural wonders of the Lurray Caverns in Virginia. Then known as “the Honeymoon Capital of the world” Vicky, who was very single at age 22 was a nature lover at heart. She was smitten by the spectacular views of the Pocono Mountains, inspired by the giant Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue in Rio De Janeiro, and awestruck at the beauty of the Egyptian desert while standing at the base of the great pyramids in Giza.
Her professional nursing career spanned over the next 46 years. Vicki’s humble beginnings outside the Philippines began as an exchange nurse with the Department of Obstetrics and Nurseries and continued as she trained with the Medical Surgical units at the Jefferson Medical College & Medical Center in “Philly”. She wrote: “This city with a thousand names offers no anchor for the soul, swollen with sensational passion and earthly tensions, for it is a city lost in its own orbit. Yet, I considered it my own…” written by Vicki from her book of memoirs. She went on to Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago and also lived and worked in Montreal, Canada for a time before hanging her hat at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York, New York.
Not bad for a little, or rather “BIG girl” from the province of Narvacan, eh? When she wasn’t wearing her world traveller hat, she nursed others in faith and loving fellowship, with a tenacity that was uniquely hers. From the Hyperbaric Oxygen chambers, to the Vascular Lab, to the front lines of the Dialysis Unit, to the Quality Assurance Department, Vicki mastered the art and skills of nursing in all areas and roles she undertook at Mt. Sinai. She added a feather in her cap after completing a Master’s Degree in Public Health from NYU in 1993.
Adventurous, strong-willed, independent and fun-loving, this professional Pinay made the Big Apple on the East Side of Manhattan her home for most of her adult life. Her long standing room mate and “muh-thuh” (aka Ma) were uptown girls in the city that never sleeps loving every minute of it! About a stone’s throw away and a subway ride uptown, her cousin, bestie and travel buddy, Rica Pichay, better known as “Rocky” lived in Jackson Heights, Queens. The dynamic duo did almost everything together, to include retiring and moving to the city by the Bay.
No better way to lay down new roots than to plant herself across the street from her sister, in what was an exact replica of Nenet’s ranch style home in good ol’ South City. Manong (Ilocano for older brother) came by often to help out his younger sister “Vick”, especially when she became homebound. It’s been said that “Brothers are what best friends can never be.” Indeed, their bond was and is strong still, even now. Vicki enjoyed the pleasures of baking sweet treats for any occasion, cooking up savory dishes and comfort foods, gardening and conversing with her grand nephews and nieces. She treasured countless hours spent with family and friends over meals, checking children’s homework, testing them on books they read, and helping with special projects. Vicki relished each milestone of her family’s lives, from Kindergarten thru High School graduations, births, baptisms, weddings and the like.
One of the most beautiful moments of Vicki’s last days was witnessing the joy in her countenance while feebly holding her grand nephew, Elliot Asher Biscarra. Those of us privileged to be at her bedside during this blessed and holy week, gleaned from her example, what it is to live and die in the peace of knowing and growing closer to God. Even at the hour of death there is the Light of Hope that can only be experienced when moving from this life to the next. So goes the lyrics of the famous song: “I Left My Heart In San Francisco…” Indeed she left hers with us and we are better for the time we spent together, living, loving and finding truth, finding God.