English professor Rufel Ramos overcomes rough childhood through writing

English faculty Rufel Ramos has published an autobiography, two textbooks and three novels. Photo by Chantilette Franklin/The Et Cetera

English faculty Rufel Ramos has published an autobiography, two textbooks and three novels. Photo by Chantilette Franklin/The Et Cetera

JORDAN LACKEY, Opinion Editor

Rufel Ramos was 10-years-old when she boarded a plane bound for Hawaii from Guam with a first-class ticket. She was surrounded by complimentary champagne she couldn’t drink and the hope of a bright future in a new place.

English professor Rufel Ramos and son take a selfie together. Photo courtesy of Rufel Ramos

However, her world stood still and the cacophony of noises around her seemed completely mute. Even though she was accompanied by a temporary guardian, she couldn’t help but feel alone. Her parents weren’t with her.

Flying 36,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, the life she’d known for the past 10 years crumbled beneath her feet.

“I felt like I was an abandoned, unwanted, nobody that was passed on to a complete stranger,” Ramos said. “I just didn’t want to exist. If the plane were to drop from the sky at that point, I’d have been OK with it.”

She was supposed to fly with her parents a few days earlier as they were immigrating from the Philippines to the United States. But, due to issues with her paperwork, Ramos had to stay behind for 3 days.

Ramos couldn’t understand at her young age. She hardly knew the meaning of the word adopted.

“They would have kept it secret to the grave if it weren’t for the fact that they had to explain why my paperwork was messed up,” Ramos said.

Until then, Ramos thought she was the oldest daughter of Filipino-American couple Ruben and Fely Ramos. She knew that she’d been born in Taipei, Taiwan, but she was led to believe she’d been born on a U.S. military base.

“I always thought that I was a U.S. citizen,” she said. “As it turned out, no, I was an abandoned baby at a poor Catholic-run orphanage in Taipei.” 

Ramos is currently a professor of English with Dallas College. She’s been with Eastfield for 15 years, has a doctorate in philosophy and is the lead adviser for the English honor society, Sigma Kappa Delta. 

She’s also a self-published author with an autobiography, two textbooks and three novels under her belt. 

She didn’t realize it until years later, but that 10-year-old girl sitting on a plane with her life in ruins, would find her life’s calling tucked within the confines of a magazine wedged in the pocket of the seat in front of her.

It was an excerpt from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis. She read a small portion of the book describing a young girl named Lucy who had gone into a magical world only to come back and be called a liar by her siblings.

“I connected with Lucy,” Ramos said. “Her story made me forget about me. … That was such a relief. That felt so great. … That’s when I felt for the first time the power that a writer can do.”

Ramos couldn’t put her thoughts into words back then, but sometime later she knew exactly what she wanted.

“I wanted to have that power,” she said. “Because I felt totally powerless.”

[READ MORE: TRIO equips students with tools for success]

Looking back, Ramos has been able to cope with the experiences of her early life. When it comes to the subject of her biological parents, she says she understands.

“I don’t blame them,” she said. “It was a different time. … I’m the product of an affair. The whole ‘illegitimate bastard-child’ thing, those were terms that were thrown around like normal.”

Ramos would eventually find out that she was the result of an entanglement her biological father had with a Chinese maid. In 2012 she exchanged letters with her father and learned more about her own story, but she’s never had any contact with her mother.

In 2007, Ramos became a mother to her son, Daniel. She takes great pride in him and gladly describes him as a “boy version,” of herself. Once becoming a parent, Ramos vowed to give her son the honesty she never received.

“The one thing I do that my parents didn’t do, is that I don’t keep secrets [from my son],” she said. “I don’t keep things hidden.”

Ramos and her son share as many experiences together as they can. Whereas Ramos identified as a “latchkey kid,” she said she would never be able to do that with her son.

“I’m a single parent and he’s my only kid,” she said. “He sees me as his best friend.”

The dedication Ramos shows as a parent is also mirrored in her working relationships and reflects what some people describe as an incredible work ethic. 

“She works insanely hard and she makes it look easy,” said Nina Lambert, an English professor and co-advisor for Sigma Kappa Delta.

Ramos was Lambert’s mentor when she joined Eastfield in 2013. Since then, they’ve developed a working friendship.

“She’s my definition of a good human,” Lambert said. “She was fun and sweet and absolutely approachable. We hit it off immediately.”

[READ MORE: A graduate’s journey]

Lambert said that during her mentorship with Ramos, she learned not to be afraid of asking questions. She also admired how Ramos would teach while using herself as an example. This admiration was echoed by Maryjose Garcia, a freshman business major.

“She talks a lot about being an oldest daughter in an immigrant family, which I can relate to,” Garcia said. “The pressure that she feels on her is something I can pull from my own personal experience [and put] into the essays I write.”

Garcia said Ramos has been welcoming since the first day of class and learning directly from the self-published author of her textbook has made a tremendous impact on her experience as a first-year college student.

But Ramos hasn’t limited herself to just academic publications. In 2012, she decided to build an entire world all her own and enter the realm of fiction.

“I knew that if I wanted to do justice to the story I had in my head, it had to be a novel,” Ramos said. “I was scared of it.”

While writing her first novel, “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones,” Ramos was dealing with a lot of those feeling from her childhood.

Her own story  was only given to her in small pieces, spaced out over the course of years.  The subject of her adoption, as an unspoken rule, was not to be discussed. She said she learned to “lie and keep secrets” from the age of 10. 

Her desire to know her own story compelled her to build a world she could call her own. A world built by angels and “celestial engineers.”

She said her first book was a means of catharsis, while her continuing novels were an exercise in her newfound power and control. She is already working on her fourth novel.

“It feels good to be the god of your own world,” Ramos said.

English professor: From USSR to USA