The longest marriage in PH
I thank God that he blessed me to live with senior citizens who were married for 77 years—my grandfather and grandmother, Jose Salamat Bautista and Justina Suntay Bautista. They were born way back during the time of Dr. Jose Rizal.
They adopted me when I became an orphan, after my mother Maria Paz Bautista died in 1974. I was a freshman student at Ateneo de Manila. I had four brothers and one sister, and we were all studying, with the exception of my youngest brother
Benjie, who was then still a baby. My mother died of childbirth at Makati Medical hospital on Nov. 15, 1974. My father died of a heart attack.
My sister became a doctor. I have one brother who is a lawyer. It was my grandfather who paid for all our tuition fees, food, clothing, and other expenses when my parents died.
I observed from my grandparents that there are certain traits that contribute to a long and stable marriage. The first is financial stability. My grandparents worked hard to be financially stable. They lived in New Manila where there was a swimming pool, a basketball court, a gazebo, even a fishpond. It was a one-hectare area, and we felt like we were living in a country club.
Second, my grandparents were generous. Aside from taking care of us by paying for our tuition fees and our other needs, my grandparents paid also for the tuition fee of my other 22 cousins. They also gave a house to each of their children, with the exception of one son who became a Jesuit priest.
Third, they celebrated life. Every time it was the birthday of my grandfather or grandmother, or their wedding anniversary, or Christmas, there was always a big party with all my relatives present—uncles, aunts, and cousins.
Fourth, they were prayerful. Every celebration started with a Mass officiated by my uncle, Fr. Antonio Bautista SJ, who was a Jesuit priest. Then we would have breakfast. After breakfast, the adults continued their conversation while we kids played basketball.
Fifth, my grandparents were grateful. My grandfather, whom I fondly called Lolo Papa told me that everything I have is a gift from God. He and my grandmother went to Mass every day to thank God for their blessings.
Aside from thanking God for their blessings, every Thursday they shared their blessings with the poor. On that day, hundreds of poor people would go to their home in New Manila and my grandfather and grandmother would feed them bread and coffee, and lead them in prayer. They did that for about 20 years. What amazing grandparents I had.
Sixth, they avoided stress, and they had consistency and regularity in their lives. They ate the same healthy foods every day. They took vitamins and minerals. They prayed the Angelus daily at 12 noon and at six o’clock. We also prayed the rosary.
I read the Bible to my grandfather when he was 99 years old, because by then he was getting blind and could not walk anymore.
My grandfather reached 101, and my grandmother 99. They were married for 77 years—perhaps the longest marriage in the Philippines.
Emmanuel de Leon, 65, is a health advocate and author of the book “Secrets to A Long Life and Lasting Marriage,” found in the Ateneo de Manila Rizal Library.
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