Pasig centenarian says loving family key to long life
MANILA, Philippines — For a centenarian who has lived through World War II, the American occupation and martial law, the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a “different animal.”
“It’s scary. Everybody is too careful and cautious. We had chickenpox before. There was a vaccine but nothing like COVID-19. My grandchildren are very strict with me. They won’t allow me to go out,” Constancia Santiago told the Inquirer in an online interview.
Lola Consya is one of Pasig’s nine centenarians and among its 80,000 registered senior citizens. When she turned a century old in September 2019, she received P100,000 from the national government, P50,000 from the city government and P20,000 from Barangay Ugong where she lives. She said she intended to portion out the money among her eight children and 50 grandkids by giving them cash gifts on special occasions like birthdays or Christmas.
Santiago called her large brood as her “vitamins,” saying, “I am grateful for the love they give me.”
“I was raised in love. I don’t have enemies. I feel so much love from my family. I receive much love, especially from my grandchildren. I am happy, very happy,” she said.Fashionable ‘lola’
For the interview, Santiago was in a pink dress and fuchsia hat, complete with a fancy choker and earrings; her lipstick matching her dress.
“I always love to fix myself … I want to present my best to the Lord,” she said. She does her own makeup, including her eyebrows. She owns many hats of different colors, most of them gifts from loved ones.
Despite her age, Santiago’s hearing and memory remain sharp.
During the Japanese occupation, her family enjoyed a sort of immunity as they gave food to the foreign forces. But unknown to the Japanese, they were also feeding the Filipino guerrillas.
“We pitied them. They would wait for the food and even ask for leftovers. Life was very hard then,” she said.
During bombings, the family would head down to the basement of their house for shelter. “It was very dark. We only had one candle for light. You would hear airplanes fighting. There’s also what they called shelling. When you get hit, you die.”
In 1944, she married a law student from the University of the Philippines. It was also then that Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines to help Filipino troops liberate the country from the Japanese. “I saw him raise his hand and heard him say, ‘I have returned.’ People were rejoicing back then,” Santiago said.
Everyday routineHer daily routine consists of waking up at 5 a.m., then watching at least three consecutive masses on television followed by noontime shows. She can walk around freely although she sometimes requires a cane. Her eyesight is good and she has all her teeth, minus one which she has replaced with a gold tooth.
Asked about her diet, Santiago replied, “I don’t like fruits and vegetables. I eat meat, pork chicken. I love shrimp,” she said. “It’s not about what you eat but the love that you receive.”
Her family is the best thing in her life and they keep her going, she added.
“What you give your children will return to you. Maybe [my grandchildren] see it from their parents. I just feel loved now,” she said.
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