November 30, 2022

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Four female centenarians in this capital town recently received cash gifts from the national government through the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

One hundred-year-old Gertrude “Yappo” Gayumba Chilem from Barangay Maligcong and 101-year-old Dominga Panday Bangniwan of Barangay Gonogon personally received at their respective residences P100,000 each and a letter of felicitation from President Rodrigo Duterte for reaching 100 years old. 

The cash award is by virtue of Republic Act 10868 or the Centenarians Act of 2016.

“Turning a century old is the biggest milestone a person can achieve. You are very special and honored for all the great experiences and accomplishments that life has given you. May you be surrounded with happy memories from your family,” reads Duterte’s letter of felicitation.

Ikit (grandmother) Chilem, who has 40 grandchildren and 43 great-grandchildren, had not gone to till the fields since 2010, but she had her share of the load in the household, would look after the season’s harvest of drying palay from prying birds and chickens, and attends masses and prayer services.

Her daily routine gradually changed year after year as aging limited her mobility and physical strength. The centenarian has been bed-bound for three years now and has lost her eyesight, but still manages to urinate and defecate in the tub placed beside her bed. The centenarian’s daughter Brenda and her daughter are the ones taking good care of Ikit Chilem. 

 Apo Bangniwan, known in the ili as Dolinga, is blessed with 28 grandchildren and 72 great-grandchildren. Despite her age, she loved traveling to Baguio City and Manila and enjoyed riding a bus to visit her children and grandchildren. However, on Oct. 8, 2019, she fell down the stairs while napping that caused a fracture on her right arm. She cannot hear well, but can still walk and has clear eyesight and sharp memory.

Meanwhile, two centenarians were honored posthumously, namely 100-year-old Hilda Kenept Charongen of Barangay Guina-ang, who passed away on Jan. 28, 2021; and Paula Sew-ag Kalang-ad, who was 102-year-old at the time she passed on.

The cash gifts for the late centenarians were handed to their nearest surviving heirs by Mayor Franklin Odsey and representatives from the DSWD provincial and municipal offices at the Bontoc Municipal Capitol on May 14. 

Ikit Charongen was able to see her 22 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild before she passed away. In 1993, the centenarian lost her vision on the right eye after a palay’s blade cut through it. Due to difficulty in life, the family was not able to seek immediate medical attention.

The centenarian’s daughter Hilda prohibited her mother from going to the rice field so as not to hurt herself further. She then looked after her grandchildren and cooked for her family, which had been her routine for almost 30 years.

Losing her vision did not prevent Charongen from fulfilling her social obligations like attending wakes, visiting the sick, and attending weddings and community affairs, but with a companion to guide the way. Her sense of hearing was still good before her passing. 

Ikit Kalang-ad or Kuy-an has 62 grandchildren, 141 great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren. She was a respected figure in the community and her life was well appreciated.

The living centenarians and the nearest heirs of the posthumous centenarians told the MSWDO that simple living has always been their secret of their longevity. 

Odsey lauded the centenarians, saying the Filipino values of caring for one’s family members, respecting the elderly, and enriching family bonds through shared responsibility by taking care of elderly family members have always been appreciated in every life story of centenarians. 

“May our centenarians remind us how valuable life is. If we take care of it, we can enjoy and gain from it. Beyond the monetary incentives, the presence of our centenarians is more precious,” he said. –Alpine L. Killa