Life is short as they say but there are a few privileged people who live longer than most of us do these days.
In the province of Negros Occidental, in the central Philippines lives Francisca Montes-Susano who is probably the oldest person in the world today. Lola (Grandma) Francisca who celebrated her 124th birthday last September 11 is a faithful Seventh-day Adventist who practices a healthy lifestyle. She was born on September 11, 1897, and is recognized by the Philippine government as the oldest centenarian in the country. She loves playing her harmonica and singing hymns. Her favorite song is “In The Sweet By and By.” In her younger days, Grandma Francisca enjoyed hiking when she would often narrate her experiences during World War II.
Lola Francisca has weakened considerably these last few days. She still sleeps early at 7 in the evening but would wake up at 1 a.m. to eat her porridge or oats. What used to be 10 spoonfuls has dwindled to 2. She can barely move her body and cries in pain whenever she tries to change position. Her second-generation great-granddaughter, Rosalie Himaya Muleta bathes her every morning and feeds her with fruit juices every day to sustain her. Even at this age, Lola Francisca still loves to tell stories of bygone days and calls her children by name.
Lola Francisca’s eldest daughter is a centenarian too. Magdalena celebrated her 101st birthday this past month of May. The Lord blessed her with four children from her first husband, and seven children from her second husband. When the second husband also passed away, she married a third – a farmer. Magdalena could hardly hear and speak now but her influence of being a faithful mother who leads her children to church every Sabbath has been passed from one generation to the next.
Magdalena and her family went through a lot of hardships that she believes have strengthened their faith. They overcame through humble prayers. They went through a period of famine when revolutionaries burned all the farms in their place. They hid in the bushes from five in the afternoon to five in the morning so the rebels couldn’t find them.
Magdalena believes that it was prayer and faith in God that preserved her and her children. She is thankful to her mother, Lola Francisca for leading them on the right path through all those years. Both Lola Francisca and Lola Magdalena believe that their healthy lifestyles, their faith in God, and God’s faithfulness made it possible for them to live this long.
Lola Francisca and Lola Magdalena are living testimonies of what life can become if it is fully dedicated to God. Not all of us can live this long, but while alive we can spend our time rightly and productively for God.
Stephanie V. Loriezo with additional reporting by Nadeth B. Quinto, Central Philippine Union Conference