90 and counting | Inquirer Opinion
High Blood

90 and counting

/ 05:09 AM December 28, 2023

Last September, I turned 90, and now counting … a) the groceries and the P1,000 the barangay gives me; b) the P100,000 I hope to receive 10 years from now, and c) the P1 million that media said I’d be entitled to when I reach 101 years old, though a Marikina City hall executive debunked it as just a rumor.

My youngest daughter said that when she retires, she’d leave her house to her two sons, and live peacefully in a tiny house. With my little savings, the expected P100,000, and the rumored P1 million, can I build four tiny houses for me and three friends? Then, I’d have a little garden, with a mahjong table at the center. That would make the neighbors wonder if centenarians can still play mahjong!

I am fondly remembering, from the mouth of babes our “apo-isms.” Little Cocoy, a friend’s grandson, was with the family cruising in a car by the bay, when he saw a big letter “R” on top of a building. He jolted everybody when he shouted, “Look! Letter ‘R’ as in SM Megamall!” Wouldn’t Henry Sy’s heart have leapt for joy! The same grandson, with other children, were brought by his mom to tour some places in the United States as she lectured on the statues of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. On the way to another tourist spot, the mom asked the kids if anybody remembered anything about Lincoln and Jefferson. Deafening silence, until son Cocoy triumphantly announced to one and all, “Si Jefferson nakatayo. Si Lincoln nakaupo (Jefferson is standing, Lincoln is sitting)!”


Four-year-old Pie, when asked by her yaya to change her outfit to a dressier one on their way to the mall, refused and said, “Huwag na. Hindi naman pang-alis ang damit na ‘yon. Pang-uwi lang (Nevermind, that dress is not for going out. It’s for going home).” Little Pie, appearing on TV in a “Little Miss Philippines” contest, was asked by the emcee how she can minimize traffic problems. Confidently, she answered, “Huwag na lang mag-drive si Mama (Just don’t let Mama drive).”


In the nearby chapel for Sunday Mass, his mom pointed out the priest to three-year-old Iggy, “Iggy, he is Lola’s friend, Father Sanz.” Reverently, Iggy said, “Father Sanz. Amen.” Little Bianca climbed the banister, then asked if I can do the same.

A girl put a peso in the collection basket. Before Aling Chabeng can move to the next pew, the girl asked for change—“Pwede pong kumuha ng sukli?”

Little Dada saw our parish priest drop by one afternoon for merienda and one game of mahjong with the Lolas. He then left to prepare for the evening Mass. With her mom, Dada left the house for the 6 p.m. Mass. When she saw the same priest at the altar, she asked her mom, quite loudly, if the priest was the one playing mahjong at the house earlier. “Ma, ‘di ba si Father yung nag-mahjong sa atin kanina?” Ouch! Young Dada, seeing her Lola at the porch chatting with a priest-friend, rushed upstairs wanting to know who the visitor was. Her mom asked her to describe the priest, and Dada answered, “‘Yung hindi nagma-mahjong (The one who does not play mahjong).” Bullseye!

When I was 16, a boy gifted me with a bookmark with a prayer printed on it. I used it in the hundreds of books I have read. But through the years, with house repairs, renovations, and changes, I lost the bookmark. Much, much later, going home after Mass at Sta. Clara, my friend and I tried to remember poems and phrases from our school days. Out of the blue, I recited the bookmark prayer from memory:

“It gleams with the light of remembrance. And glows with a faith that is pure. Its beads and cross are symbols of a love that will endure. I say my rosary for you, ‘Neath a candle’s golden flame, And the prayers that are upward rising are bearing your whispered name.” The boy has since been long gone, but the bookmark and the prayer will never be forgotten. His name was Fred.

Ten years from now, I told my daughters my fondest wish is to celebrate my centennial year: in an events place, in my beige fully beaded gown, and “Be Careful With My Heart” sung by debonair Richard Yap.


Bedimpled Alden Richards would be singing “God Gave Me You” and Martin Nievera would be singing a soulful rendition of “Kahit Isang Saglit” and “Pangarap.”

I am 90, and counting … and I can dream, can’t I?


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Lita A. Villanueva, 90, has seven children, three children-in-law, 15 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. She lovingly calls them “Barangay Villanueva.”

TAGS: High Blood, Old Age, personal essay

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