Vickie Galang: An Ibanag nurse, an Air Force captain, a dreamer

She is president-elect of the Philippine Nurses Association of New Jersey Bergen Passaic chapter.

By Vicky Vitug

There was a time in Visitacion ‘Vickie’ Arirao Galang’s professional life that she was saving people’s lives on two fronts: As a civilian nurse and as a member of the armed forces. This was in late 1980s when she, a certified nurse anesthetist, joined the U.S. Air Force.

“Joining the Air Force was one tough job,” she said of that time she was juggling two formidable careers.  Training was arduous, the environment was unique, and expectations were heavy. Yet, she will always remember those years as “the most rewarding aspect of my career.”

Visitation Tubbali Arirao from Cagayan province has always dreamed of coming to the U.S. and working here as a nurse. She was an almost fanatic believer in the romanticized portrayal of America as the “land of milk and honey.” So, when she was sponsored for employment by Jamaica Hospital Center of Queens in 1971, she considered herself a “lucky one.” She migrated to the U.S. and worked at Jamaica Hospital as a registered nurse. Her rise was quick and spectacular. The following year, she transferred to Bellevue Hospital Medical Center to work as an Operating Room Head Nurse.  

At Bellevue, her world only got bigger. She followed a pack of her peers who took the entrance exam at Harlem Hospital School of Anesthesia for Nurses.  She completed three years of rigorous study and became a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.  Becoming a CRNA ignited her desire to keep moving up the ladder and – like a true Ibanag — she accepted every opportunity to grow.   

Vickie before leaving for the U.S. With (from left) brother King Arirao, mother Florencia Sinnung Tubbali, and father Hermogenes Ferrer Arirao.

The Ibanags of Northern Luzon are known to be a persevering and strong-willed people, a hardy community of farmers and fishermen. She said her most treasured title is being the devoted daughter of her parents Hermogenes Ferrer Arirao and Florencia Sinnung Tubbali. She has deep appreciation for her Ibanag roots.

She joined the Harlem Hospital Center in 1981 as staff anesthetist and clinical instructor, and was promoted to associate director/ clinical professor till 2000. 

“I did not stop until I reached what I am now, an APCRNA, or an Advance Practice Certified Registered Nurse in Anesthesiology,” she said in an interview with The FilAm.

As Air Force Captain Visitation Tubbali Arirao, she served with dedication and commitment. She was on active duty as a nurse anesthetist at Clark Airbase, Philippines (1989-1991), she was subsequently transferred to the David Grant Medical Center, Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, California (1991-1992), and McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey (1993-1997). She was a member of the service corps for almost eight years.

A U.S. Air Force captain in late 1980s.

Now semi-retired, she is currently working as a per diem certified nurse anesthetist for a private medical group in New York.  Currently, she is president-elect of the Philippine Nurses Association of New Jersey Bergen Passaic chapter, giving back through community service.  

“We are actively involved in community affairs such as health fairs, veterans’ fundraising, COVID-19 antibody testing, food donation campaigns,” she said. “We are active in sharing the Filipino history, cultural heritage and spreading the bayanihan spirit.”

She has joined medical-surgical missions to the Philippines at least twice a year and has made donations to the “less privileged.” She has written checks for parishes, barangay elementary schools, chapels, social halls, computer schools, and rural hospitals in her hometown in Pamplona.

Captain Visitation Tubbali Arirao-Galang, MSN, RN, CRNA, APN, DM – will always remember the day she came to the U.S. in the 1970s. She had nothing in her but stubborn perseverance and a dream that one day life would be better. Today, life is beyond anything she had ever imagined.


  1. Vickie Arirao Galang wrote:

    Thank you very much Vicky Potenciano
    VITUG for your article. I am so humbled with your kind words. Thank you FILAM for this page on your paper.

    Mabuhay po!!

  2. Rowena wrote:

    Wow! We are so proud of you mam!!!

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