Thursday, September 18, 2008

Growing Old

What do Joker Arroyo and Juan Ponce Enrile have in common, aside from being both pro-GMA senators? What about Dolphy and Eddie Garcia, both veteran actors and our local valentinos? I almost forgot Ramon Revilla, who has combined showbiz and politics and is notches ahead of Pidol and Manoy, having sired 60 or more kids. We also have educators Dra. Helena Benitez and Fr. James Reuter, actresses Anita Linda and Mona Lisa, highly revered Senator Jovito Salonga, entrepreneur Socorro Ramos (of the National Bookstore), multi-awarded director Eddie Romero, and until their very recent deaths – Tiya Dely Magpayo, the Queen of Radio, and artist Lucresia ‘King’ Kasilag of the Cultural Center. These achievers continue or continued to be productive beyond 80 years of age.

When I was assigned in Bicol in 1996, an uncle visited me in the Regional Office. He was 99 years old then and still traveled alone. He told me that in the Chinese calendar, he was already 100 years. My uncle smoked, loved to eat pork, and was rumored to be a womanizer. I recalled that when he was assigned as provincial auditor of Cam Norte during my elementary days, and was staying in our house (he was from Albay), his wife was a frequent unexpected visitor. Nang-dadakop baga, sabi sa Albay – ma-“imon’ daa. I could hear them argue/quarrel, I didn’t know what happened after that. But I did hear my uncle’s music. He loved to play violin. He did not reach the age of 100 though based on our Gregorian calendar as his pancreas gave up before his centennial birthday.

Glen’s mother just celebrated her 80th birthday last month, the reason why Glen and Robert came home. She’s still going strong.

What could be the formula for long life? Before I forget, this post is really about my reflections on our visit to Sor Victorina. Ed said that he couldn’t relate to the music I used in the video clip of the visit. He said that it is too dreary and pessimistic. Sounds melancholic but I don’t think it is pessimistic. “Panunumpa” is an acclamation to God. It is actually sang in masses. Perhaps, it captured what I felt that evening while looking at the pictures.

On my way home that evening, walking from Ortigas to Shaw Boulevard (yes, I can still walk long distances), I was thinking of Sor Victorina. In high school, I remember that she was a very strict principal/mother superior. She imposed punishment on the spot, such as asking a pupil/student to kneel on the sand in front of the flag pole or along the corridor. She also imposed a fine for speaking the dialect. (Probably, this was the reason I got an award for conduct. Dai na ako nagtaram mula kaidtu. Pero nagba-ta si hangaw ko ta napa-nos si laway. Yaks, gross!) Sor Victorina was with us only until our third year. On our fourth year, she was transferred to La Consolacion, Iriga. (She brought along Sis. Terry with her).

It was a different Sor Victorina that we saw last September 7. I was the last to arrive in the convent (but I wasn’t late, the others came early, including Lina and daughter princess. Alot and Marynat came much earlier with a bag of fruits, pansit and kakanin. Ric, Alot’s hubby, who came along with their son, drove for them.)

The group was already engaged in animated conversation at the Infirmary’s lanai when I arrived. But I noticed that Sor Victorina was just sitting there and watching us like a well-behaved child. Physically, she looks good. She can move around. According to Sister Terry, she can sit the whole day, reading or playing sungka. At night, when the weather is fine, they just walk and sit around the compound of the convent.

It is difficult to strike a conversation with Sor Victorina though. You have to speak close to her ears because she can’t hear from ordinary distance. Furthermore, she can’t remember the past. I played the VCD of the pictures from elementary to high school. There was a picture of Msgr. Reganit and Sister Estrella pointed at Mamo and asked Sor Victorina if she could recognize him. She indicated that she didn’t. But when she saw her picture in the VCD, she laughed (that was captured in the video clip). She must have recognized herself. Before we left, Sister Estrella asked her to say a few words. Sor Victorina thanked us (in English).

God has given Sor Victorina the gift of life. In less than six months, she’ll be 99 yrs. Another year and she’ll be a centenarian. Is she fortunate? Her Augustinian community obviously takes good care of her as we can see from her physical appearance. She has good food, shelter, and company. But obviously, her mental faculties are no longer the same. Like a child, she does not have to worry about rising prices, food shortage, rapid population growth, environmental degradation, climate change, and worsening corruption in government. But probably, she also no longer feels any sense of fulfillment in what she has done and what she does now. She probably does not even have a sense of time too. Siguro, dai na siya nalalangkag. One day, one month, one year, would probably not make any difference to her. I say probably, because the mind is mysterious. We don’t really know. If our conscious mind is not properly functioning, is there an inner mind (the soul perhaps) that is aware and understands everything that is happening.

Now, I seem to understand the reason why Sister Terry was too persistent to the point of being irritating in her wish that I should get married even at this age. My initial reaction was that she has a very limited view of life – either you raise a family or you stay single but if you do, you should be a priest or a nun. But I realize that it could be out of a sense of fear of what will happen when you grow old. Who will take care of you, if you don’t have your own family or a religious community? Oo nga naman. What will happen if Sor Victorina were not a nun? But it’s the choice one person makes but that’s another topic.

Going back to old age, we know that life is God’s gift, so it’s only Him who can take it back. But if he listens to our request, how long do we want to live? Ako, as long as I’m still productive and is able to contribute something to others. I do not wish to become a burden to others. Probably, I’m also afraid and I dismiss any thought that I would grow old requiring physical care. But then, it’s not really for us to decide.

1 comment:

Men Venida-Abot said...


Thanks for the update on Sor Victorina. Wish I can get a chance to see her one more time. She was a very good Principal/Teacher.


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