The sister-doctor of Ruby Rodriguez passed away early Thursday morning due to COVID-19.

Top pediatrician Dr. Salvacion “Sally” Gatchalian — Manang Sally to Ruby — became one of the frontliners who succumbed to the disease, the Eat Bulaga host confirmed in a statement.

“As of 6 a.m. my sister, Dr. Sally Gatchalian, who fought really hard, has joined our Lord God and creator. We her family thank you all sincerely for praying with us. Stay Safe and keep on praying,” she said.

In an Instagram post, the TV host also paid tribute to her “big sister”.

“My sister, Manang sally, this is our Christmas 2019 family picture. Finally (we) were complete. We will only remember you with happy memories, laughing and sleeping, your johnson outfits and all, how you love bling bling, your Kuaff hair everyday, your Kdrama addiction (you got me hooked up too).

“I will make you kwento what i have seen last, our Sunday lunches, our ‘bonding trips’ that you and I only do (other siblings kasi nasa US) lots of happy and fond memories! I love you so much my big sister❤️❤️❤️ smile say hi to Mom, Dad and Manong Robert. Be at peace do not worry about us anymore. Have fun in heaven! Love you so much!!!”

Gatchalian served as the president of Philippine Pediatric Society. She was also the assistant director at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

Messages of sympathies poured out on social media from esteemed members of the medical community.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana mourned her death, calling her “the first of our Infectious Diseases brethren to fall to COVID-19 in the Philippines. This hurts so much. Ma’am Sally was a mentor, friend and cheerleader to us Infectious Disease specialists.”

On Twitter, Dr. Kristy Murray, a director at the Center for Human Immunobiology of Texas Children’s Hospital, hailed Gatchalian as “a champion for children’s health” who also helped establish the Philippine Coalition Against Tuberculosis and “fought infectious diseases, saving so many lives.”

“She is a hero. I am so heartbroken,” Dr. Murray wrote.

As of Thursday, the country has lost nine doctors to the disease, a DZBB report said.

Reported among the fallen medical frontliners were Dr. Israel Bactol, cardiologist (Philippine Heart Center); Dr. Raul Jara, cardiologist (Philippine Heart Center); Dr. Rose Pulido, oncologist (San Juan De Dios Hospital) and Dr. Marcelo Jauchico, Pampanga Provincial Health Officer.