‘She left behind this legacy’: Nurse of nearly 3 decades dies of COVID-19 in West Covina 

Amelia Agbigay Baclig | Photo courtesy of Aubrey Joy Baclig

SINCE she was a child, Amelia Agbigay Baclig dreamt of becoming a nurse.

Baclig, 63, fulfilled that dream and worked for almost three decades at West Covina’s Queen of the Valley Hospital, where she was fondly known as “Mama Amy.”

“It was pretty much the profession that was made for her,” her daughter Aubrey Joy Baclig told the Asian Journal. “If we were to think about some other profession that my mom would be really good at, honestly, the answer is nursing.”

On Jan. 22, Baclig died nearly six weeks after being infected with COVID-19. She became the first nurse at Queen of the Valley taken by the virus.

Baclig, who was born in Batac, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines, earned her nursing degree in her home country and migrated to Hawaii in 1984 to join and marry her high school sweetheart, Nestor.

The couple moved to Hacienda Heights, California and raised their family of one son, James, and two daughters, Aubrey and Joanne Mae. She took her NCLEX exam to be recognized as a registered nurse in the U.S.

Baclig worked at Queen of the Valley Hospital for the next 28 years until December 9, 2020, when she had her last shift in the definitive observation unit.

Baclig worked for nearly 30 years at Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina | Photo courtesy of Aubrey Baclig

She had avoided infection in the nine months working on the frontlines and tending to COVID-19 patients. In one photo from the past year, she was wearing full-length scrubs and personal protective equipment while holding up the sign, “I stayed @ work for you. Please stay home for us.”

But on December 12, she tested positive and started experiencing symptoms like a sore throat.

Her family, except her youngest daughter, also tested positive. Baclig, who was diabetic, started feeling severe symptoms, such as an inability to breathe, and was taken by paramedics to St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton on December 19.

For the first time, the tight-knit family did not spend Christmas together. Whenever Baclig had a day off pre-pandemic, it was always a celebration with extended relatives coming over and large meals prepared, Aubrey said.

“With it being the holiday season, and all this happening, it felt so horrible. Our whole world just kind of flipped upside down,” she said.

Baclig spent the next five weeks in the hospital, including the last three in the intensive care unit hooked up to a ventilator, until her death on Jan. 22.

It’s been nearly two months since her passing, but the tributes continue to pour in. Messages center on how she was compassionate and a mentor, and how she touched others’ lives.

Her family joined the hospital and California Nurses Association for a three-hour caravan memorial last month. The city of Batac and the province of Ilocos Norte have paid tribute to Baclig’s work and recognized her contributions as a health care worker.

“If my mom saw all this attention, she would be so shocked,” Aubrey said. “She left behind this legacy that’s so enormous that I don’t think she thought about.”

Together with her husband Nestor, whom she had been with for 50 years, Baclig found joy in watching comedy and action movies. The family’s favorite movie was “Coming to America.”

In addition to her immediate family, Baclig is survived by her daughter-in-law Rizel, two grandchildren Trixia and Stryke James, four sisters and two brothers.

“All I ask is for people to just be safe and really think about what they’re doing because these frontliners are putting their lives at risk, including my mom who got exposed, got COVID, and then passed away,” Aubrey said.

Editor’s note: The Asian Journal is working to document those of Filipino descent who have lost their lives because of the coronavirus in the United States. If you know of someone or would like to offer a remembrance of someone who has died of COVID-19, please tell us about them by emailing [email protected] with the subject line “Remembering Lives Lost.”

Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is an award-winning editor and communications strategist based in Los Angeles with experience in content, strategy and branding for media ecosystems, inclusive fintech startups, small businesses and direct-to-consumer products.

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