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Living to be a hundred: A look at two centenarians
by Liza Agoot

Lola Nena of Baguio
In three months, Magdalena “Nena” Datoc Visperas will turn 100, as evidenced by the passport which she has been holding since the ’70s when she started traveling to the United States.

Born in Abra on July 30, 1909, she is now the matriarch of five generations.

Angel Visperas, Lola Nena’s second offspring who is now in his mid-70s, said that his mother is now half-blind but continues to read the papers with her remaining good eye.

She never lets a week pass by without reading the Baguio Midland Courier, which is now celebrating its 62nd year as a community newspaper circulating in the Cordilleras.

Mang Angel said Lola Nena’s form of exercise has been reduced to walking around the house because her knees have grown weak. Though already forgetful and repetitive, she can still chat with relatives and close friends who visit her house. Mang Angel said that during their visits, Lola Nena would often say, “Nalimutan na niya akong kunin,” referring to the Lord.

While growing up, Lola Nena helped her family in selling vegetables, Ilocano woven blankets, and woodcarvings made by the migrant Ifugaos from Banaue. Their store was located at the historical old stone market built in 1917, which is now where the Maharlika building stands.

Lola Nena’s life in Baguio started when she was orphaned at the age of four. She and her brothers Juaning, Francisco, and Ernesto were adopted by an aunt, Inez Bayquen, who was an early settler of the city.

Bayquen brought them to Baguio in a caravan of cow-driven caritons, which lowlanders used to come up to Baguio to sell their wares. From then on, Lola Nena stayed in Baguio, making it her and her family’s home.

Lola Nena acquired her early education from the Holy Family Academy in Campo Filipino, a Catholic mission institution managed by the ICM Belgian sisters. She pursued a nursing course and was among the pioneering students of the Baguio General Hospital Nursing School where she also served as a nurse.
She married civil engineer Feliciano Visperas who went on ahead of her in 1990. The couple had seven children who all became professionals.

Lola Nena lived a simple, quiet, and dedicated life attending to her children. Santiago became a mechanical engineer, Angel and Rodolfo finished commerce, Fe became a teacher, Cecilia became a nutritionist, Nora followed in her mother’s steps as a nurse, and Cesar is a US Navy retiree. All seven children are still alive. 

“The family is a survivor of the carpet bombing during World War II,” said Mang Angel.

During Lola Nena’s younger years, she attended mass at the Cathedral daily as it was very near their house. She sang soprano with the Cathedral choir and also became a soloist.

While age is taking over, Lola Nena’s life continues to prosper with good health.

This writer interviewed Lola Nena in September 2008 along with three other members of the media. During that interview, the centenarian proved that she was still strong and capable when she carried a small pail and watered a few plants at her doorstep.

Morenciano “Puring” Madayag, who has been taking care of Lola Nena for 16 years, said that the woman eats everything served to her. “Walang bawal sa kanya at wala siyang pinipili na pagkain.” She added that her ward loves fruits and vege-tables.

Paborito niya ang dinengdeng, saluyot, at rabong,” Manang Puring said, adding that Lola Nena also eats all kinds of fish but does not eat much meat.
During the interview, Lola Nena was having her merienda of spaghetti and moist chocolate cake with soda. When asked about the sweet and carbohydrate-filled merienda, Manang Puring said that though they allow Lola Nena to eat anything, they see to it that she still has a balanced diet.

Lola Nena is not taking any medicine as maintenance for any kind of illness. She drinks milk twice a day, once upon waking up and once before going to bed.
She now has 20 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren, and five great great grandchildren, the youngest of whom is almost one-year-old.

Great granddaughter Catherine, who lived with Lola Nena before migrating to the US this year, said, “She sings with my daughter Charina whenever she plays the piano.” Catherine shared that she has heard stories about her Lola’s days as a soprano in the Cathedral choir.

Five of Lola Nena’s children: Santiago, Fe, Cecilia, Nora, and Cesar including their families are now in the US. They will be coming home for Lola Nena’s centennial birthday celebration on July 30 which will also serve as the Visperas family reunion.

Lolo Conrado of Tuba

In Tuba, many know Conrado Palaoag to be more than a hundred years old, 106 to be exact.

Accounts of Lolo Conrado’s age can be traced to his first cousin Nellie Alilis Pauz’ declaration that she was two years older than Conrado.
Councilor Adora Pauz, who is a direct descendant of Nellie, said that her lola died in 1983 at the age of 82. That was 26 years ago. If Lola Nellie was still alive she would be 108 years old this year.

During a visit to Lolo Conrado’s house, he talked about his life as a policeman before World War II. He got married to Feliza Miguel and in 1937 their first child Camilo was born. They had 11 other children: Simeon, Rufo, Sally, Marcella, Guillermo, Inez, Marciano, Jeanette, and three others who died as babies.
Manang Jeanette, who is now working with the treasurer’s office of Tuba, said that it was only in the 1980s when Lolo Conrado was officially listed in the registry of births. This was when one of their brothers wanted Lolo Conrado and Lola Feliza to visit California and they needed documents to be able to
process the requirements for the trip.

In-register da ket di met amu ni tatang birthday na isu nga in-register dan iti April 15, 1915.”

She said that the registration was simply aimed at securing the needed documents to allow Lolo Conrado to travel to the US.

Pauz and Lolo Conrado’s children related that many people have already said that the old man is indeed more than 100 years old. Lolo Conrado is still strong. He can change clothes, go to the bathroom, and eat on his own.

 “Kanen na amin,” Manang Marcella said. “Basta kayat na nga kanen ited mi. Uray monggo basta kayat na.”

He still has very good eyesight and watches TV to pass the time, his favorite thing to watch is boxing. Manang Jeanette said, “Uray naka-idda nu maminsan ket bumangon tapnu agbuya lalu nu boxing ti pabuya.”

Manang Marcella said that her father used to be so talkative. He related everything he saw on TV, but maybe because of his age, there are now times when his stories no longer seem to make sense. He even says that Jesus and Yamashita are of the same age and that they came together to the Philippines.

Although Lolo Conrado complains of his arthritis, he is not taking medicine for any other illness.

He also says things to his children such as, “Kayat kun ma-terminate madi nak met alaen ni apu ta adu basul ku,” which the family sets aside as they believe that he will live longer considering his good health condition.

So, is Manong Conrado really a centenarian? His birth certificate may indicate otherwise, but stories of old people about his age have complemented each other, and these may just be enough to believe that the old man has crossed the 100th mark.

Living longer than expected
According to the Georgia Centenarian Study on longe-vity and survival of the old, centenarians are survivors who have lived more than 20 years longer than the average lifespan.

The study found that 20 to 25 percent of the centenarians in the world are community-dwelling, cognitively intact, and generally vibrant and full of life, while at least 50 percent have some form of dementia.

Due to old age, a large percentage has disability and some are completely dependent on their younger relatives.

“Centenarians represent the ultimate range of independence and dependence, frailty and strength. The challenge is that there is much to be learned from centenarians about survival, disease, frailty, and independence to promote health and independence for all who hope to maintain a successful quality of life in
older adulthood,” the study stated

Reaching 100 years is something to treasure as only a few reach that age. The fountain of youth remains to be a myth, but with almost daily advances in medicine and health care, breaking the century mark can still be an attainable goal.

Other news
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:: SVD marks centennial year in Abra
:: Baguio’ centennial athletes
:: ‘We are all Brentonians’ An educational legacy from the Episcopalians
:: SLU centennial: Wishfully looking forward, reverently looking back
:: Mayoyao's thanksgiving festival: Beyond a hundred years
:: Strawberry farms: Juicy future in doubt
:: A collation of other centenarians in Baguio
:: From ‘warriors’ to educators and missionaries
:: English after a century or so

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