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They may be centenarians, but they still play bingo

TIAONG, Quezon—Alfredo Robles is 101 years old and his wife Magdalena is 100, but they are spending their remaining years not in a reclusive home for the aged or a hospice.

Instead, the centenarian couple spend their leisure hour playing bingo inside the cool comfort of a shopping mall and never miss to mark a called number themselves on their cards.

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“Whenever we want to energize them from their stupor, we will only invite them to play bingo and they will immediately be brought back to life. That’s how they really enjoy the game,” says Dr. Romy Robles, 68, one of their sons.

“And they can still shout ‘Bingo!’ when they win,” the son, a geriatrician practicing in Australia, says with a hearty laugh.

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On Aug. 8, Magdalena celebrated her 100th birthday in Tiaong, Quezon, 101 kilometers south of Manila.

The couple have 12 children (eight boys and four girls), 11 of them still living and continue to relish the warmth of their company. They have 42 grandchildren, 62 great grandchildren, and three great great grandchildren.

According to Tiaong Mayor Dick Umali, the Robleses are the oldest living couple in their town.

What is the secret of their longevity?

“Genetics, I think. Both sides of the family don’t have any history of lingering illness, such as diabetes. Healthy food, happy life, clean environment and laid-back living during their younger years,” Romy explains.

He boasts that most members of the family look younger than their age. Eldest brother Joselito, 79, still sired a son three years ago. Their youngest brother Rick is 55.

Except for the spread of warts in his body, a hearing problem and a pacemaker, Alfredo is considered relatively healthy with a sharp memory.

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“My life was simple then. I often went fishing in the river and hunted wild birds when I was still young. I also smoked and drank in moderation but I totally stopped when I reached the age of 50,” he recalls.

To prove that he is still mentally alert, Alfredo recites the complete names of his four best friends  “They are all dead now. I beat them all because I’m the only one living,” he says with a laugh.

Easily, he enumerates the names of their children chronologically and notes that one of them, Alfredo Jr., died of lung cancer.

Alfredo can recall in details how the whole family escaped the horror of World War II by staying in their farm far from the poblacion (town center) where all household members managed to survive.

“My mother, who was an intern in an exclusive Manila high school, was forced to learn how to harvest rice,” Romy says.

Alfredo and Magdalena confess that they ate a lot during their younger days.

“We don’t have any secret for our old age. We eat meat, fish, vegetables, we eat them all,” Magdalena recalls with a smile.

They live in a three-story house in Villa Rosario subdivision on the outskirts of the town proper. They moved there from their old ancestral house in the poblacion in 1998.

Romy says both of their parents belong to landed clans in Tiaong and had spent most of their time overseeing their vast rice and coconut plantations.

“They don’t have to work hard to support the growing family,” Romy says.

Two decades ago, four of the Robles children, who are all professionals, migrated to Australia. “My three sisters are all teachers in Australia,” Romy reveals.

In 1980, the doctor brought his parents to Australia where they became naturalized citizens. The old couple lives in a government housing project in Sydney.

“But often, they alternately stay with their four children. My father is fond of cooking dinuguan every time he wants us all to be together,” Romy says.

In 1998, they decided to bring back their parents to Tiaong to allow them to spend the remaining years of their lives in their hometown.

“I don’t want them to continue to stay in Australia for the rest of their lives. Their movement there is very limited. I talked to my siblings and convinced them that we should bring our parents home if we want them to live longer,” Romy says.

“Life there is good. But we could no longer bear the cold of winter. It’s much better here in Tiaong,” Alfredo says.

“They are having a good time here. If they want to play bingo, they just travel to Lipa City with their children and grandchildren and enjoy the game inside a mall,” Romy says.

Alfredo narrates how he relishes eating broiled fish from Laguna, feasts on crispy pata in a popular Manila restaurant, and savors exotic dishes in other parts of Quezon.

“We now allow them to eat whatever food they want. They are now old and we all want them to enjoy the remaining years of their lives,” Romy says.

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