Obituary of Gloria Rullamas

October 22, 2022

Please join us in commemorating the life of Gloria Rullamas

Friday October 28, 2022


9:45am church opens to friends/family

10:30am mass service

Church of St. Francis of Assisi

135 West 31st Street

between 6th/7th Avenues

New York, NY 10001

*NOTE: there is no church parking; we’re advised to drive past the church to look for any available spots or you may have to park in a garage (none specifically recommended)




Holy Cross Cemetery

3620 Tilden Avenue

Brooklyn NY 11202

NOTE: parking in and around the cemetery.  2 / 5 trains to Beverly Road stop in Brooklyn, 10-15 minute walk depending on your footwear of choice

1pm: Family will be gathering for lunch either at the Dawson home or place TK

*everyone welcome to come to all three, or just one or two. The journey from midtown Manhattan where the church is to Flatbush Brooklyn is approximately 1 hour via train & car, dependent on the traffic whims of our city.



Gloria Mallabo Rullamas was born on April 28, 1942, in Paco, Philippines, to Francisco & Hilaria Rullamas.  Hilaria, a housekeeper, was 23; Francisco was 25. Gloria was three years old when Hilaria died, one of thousands killed when WWII came to the Philippines. Eventually, Francisco formally put Mercedes Zandueta in charge of Gloria’s care. He remarried and had eight children to support.

On January 6, 1979, Gloria, aged 36, arrived on Pan Am Flight # 106 at LAX.

These are the facts of her life according to records.

These are the details of that life from what she told us: she witnessed her pregnant mother shot in the stomach.  She remembers her mother at some point told her to “run.” A bullet hit her little foot, the left one.  She was brought into the Zandueta family. She became a playmate of sorts to Mercedes’ daughter, Margarita, who was five years younger than her.  She was unaware that the last time she saw her father would be the last.  She did not know it was goodbye. She just had come home, the Zandueta home, and there were suitcases with all of her belongings in them. I, Margaret, remember as a young girl hearing that story and crying.  She would cry, too. “I am an orphan,” she said on more than one occasion. Her father’s new family and moving on was painful to her, but she always ended those conversations with cheer and something about it being in God’s hands.

On February 26, 1974, Margaret Aro was born to Margarita and her husband Achilles, and Gloria became one of the primary domestic workers in the Zandueta household charged with raising her.  On April 16, 1975, a second daughter, Agatha, was born, and Gloria became her primary “yaya.”

An affidavit written by Mercedes in August of 1978 is one written by thousands of Filipino immigrants making arrangements for domestic workers to formally immigrate to the United States to help raise generations of children.  In it she stated: “...I am financially capable in supporting MISS RULLAMAS as my two married children have income of their own…” She indicated that a round-trip ticket would be paid for.  Five months later, Gloria landed on US soil, never to return.

Gloria taught us how to cook, how to clean, do laundry, how to save money (under the mattress), how to pray, how to forgive. There was pain in our household, and having lived through the losses she told us about, she had developed a coping mechanism for it, largely – perhaps wholly – built around her deep Catholic faith.

When she was 53 years old, she bid goodbye to California for good and moved to White Plains, New York, where she and Mercedes lived in a one-bedroom apartment with 21-year-old Margaret, fresh out of college and brimming with all that youthful optimism to care for two older women. It was 1995.

In 2000, this trio of Filipinas moved to Brooklyn, New York.  Mercedes passed away in 2002, back home in the Philippines.  Gloria would continue to live in Kings County with Margaret, and then with Margaret and her husband Karl, and then with Margaret, Karl, and their son Jack, save for the last three months, for the rest of her life.

Margaret and Agatha’s extended family of Sylvia (Zandueta) and Mike Harrington and Cynthia (Zandueta) and Bob Hogan and *their* families widened their arms to include Gloria in theirs.  High-pitched laughter late into the evening and in the morning, and the hum of these titas hunched over stoves brimming with longanisa, fried rice, eggs and bottles of “suka” would drift around the house on holiday and family gatherings, and there was Gloria, the orphaned girl, among them.

On some of these occasions, Agatha and Agatha’s daughter, Hannah, would be there and that was when Gloria’s heart was the fullest.  In 2017, John Barnes joined this family, defined beyond biological bonds, bringing with him more names to include in her daily prayers.  Marveling at the family she helped raise, each bearing a child who would call her Lola Gloria (Hannah) and Lala (Jack), with relatives of Mercedes’ who treated her as one of her own, she would always thank God, the Blessed Mother, the Baby Jesus, St. Therese, Padre Pio, not in that order, and definitely others I could not keep track of, for her blessings later in life.

“Are you her family?” every doctor and nurse would ask us -- Karl, Agatha, John, myself – over the course of six months at Kings County Hospital and at Gouverneur Skilled Nursing Facility. No, would be the reply, we are not her biological family, but she *IS* our family.  She WAS our family.

Gloria Rullamas

April 28, 1942 - October 22, 2022

By Margaret Dawson


PS She also LOOVED Audrey Hepburn, who was not a saint and, I don’t believe, a Catholic, but was definitely an angel in Gloria’s eyes.

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