By Seneca Moraleda-Puguan
Adam lived 930 years. Noah lived 950. Methuselah lived the longest, 969 years. Characters from the Bible’s Old Testament lived centuries. My father’s mother lived until she was 54. My mother’s mother was 72 when she passed. My dad’s father was blessed to live 82 years before losing to cancer. In the modern age, life has become shorter and shorter. Sicknesses caused by different strains of viruses and bacteria have proliferated. Calamities, crimes and wars have risen in number. Unhealthy instant food, packed with preservatives, has become our go-to meal. Even if advancement in science and heath care is helping people today to live longer, not so many individuals still reach or surpass the century mark.
Having to live almost a century is an exception rather than the norm. But there are still a number of people who have lived or are enjoying their lives to the fullest. One of them is Elising Roxas Tunglen who was born on the 14th of June, 1924 in the Philippines. She was a teacher until the Japanese occupation and became a nurse in surgery for a couple of years at the Philippine General Hospital, one of the most prestigious hospitals of the country. After getting married, she became a travel agent who didn’t stop practicing being a nurse. She even helped a neighbor, who could not make it to the hospital, deliver her baby. Her nursing background helped her in her business as a travel agent, where she recruited nurses in the Philippines to work in American hospitals called the Exchange Visitor’s Program.
She had her first grandson in her early 40’s, too young to be a grandmother so her grandson called her “Mamang,” and she has been fondly called as such by everyone since then, including her doctors. At the age of 94, she now lives with one of her four daughters, Beth Hoban, in Hawaii. All her daughters are happily married, and two of them followed her footstep of becoming a nurse. ‘Mamang’ enjoys her 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. She considers her family her pride and joy.
We asked ‘Mamang’ several questions about living an exceptional life, one that has outlived generations and seasons, and the changing of the tides.
1. What is your typical day?
I am not as active as I used to be. I love to cook and garden, watch my plants grow. I learned to sew by watching a show on television and made dresses for my daughter and First Grandson Jamie. They were my guinea pigs. I love to crochet and I made 150 coasters and several scarves to give away on my 90th birthday. But now, I live with my daughter and have someone cook for me. Since I broke my right arm last March, I cannot feed myself. My typical day is eat, watch America’s Got Talent and the Filipino Channel, nap, and read the morning paper from front to back. My grandkids visit me and I have a party on Sundays when everyone comes for dinner. I enjoy watching musicals and action films, when I go to the movies.
2. What is your secret to longevity and good health? What is your lifestyle?
Do not worry about the small stuff. Be happy. I keep my mind active.
But now, I am not as active. Before, I used to be up early and sleep late. I stay at home and sometimes go out to the movies. I like action movies. Sometimes, I get a pedicure and manicure. I have regular check ups with my doctors- for my foot, heart and body.
3. What are the challenges you have faced/facing in living a long life?
My arthritis and stiff joints are worst now that I am older, especially in the morning. I loved to Tango, Cha-cha and sing. Now, I just watch people dancing and listen to music. My memory is not as good as before. I have to depend on people to do things for me. I used to be the one who did things for people. It is tough getting old!
4. What is your greatest memory in your lifetime? What is your greatest regret? (if there is any)
My greatest memory was when I had my business and gave nurses in the Philippines a chance to work in the States. They were able to help their families when they sent some of their salary home.
I have no regrets in life. I have a family who loves me, and friends who care. I call my daughters my “four jewels.”
5. What are some important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?
I learned that it is important to keep your mind and body active. If you stop, you will die. Your family is your best gift in life. Take care of each other. You see, blood is thicker than water.
6. What is your advice to the younger generation about life and living their lives to the full? What would be your advice to your younger self?
The best advice I can give is to study hard and get a good education. Help your parents when they get older.
My younger self? I am still young so I do not think I am old. It is only my aches and pains that remind me that I am old.
7. What is one major principle/value that you hold on to or live by?
My living motto- Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
8. What keeps you going?
My children, grandchildren and great grandchildren give me a reason to live. I went to my granddaughter’s wedding when I was 92 and her daughter’s one-year birthday last month. Of course, I have beautiful people who take good care of me too.
9. Is there anything you wanted to do that you never got to do?
I am lucky to have travelled the world, enjoyed a good life, and did everything I wanted to do. There is no such word as “impossible.” If you want something, you can make it happen.
10. Are you still hoping to reach 100 years old? Why or why not?
No, I do not want to reach 100 because I do not want to be a burden to anybody.
Mamang has truly been blessed to live more than nine decades. She is an inspiration to many, especially to her family and the families she has helped when she was younger. She is truly an epitome of grace and strength, a wonderful story of longevity. Here’s to more beautiful years ahead, Mamang!
According to the book of Proverbs, “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old”. Truly, with age comes wisdom and gray hair, a crown of splendor. Not everyone will have the chance to live almost a century like ‘Mamang,’ but everyone is given the chance to lead their lives to the full that is not dependent on the number of years lived. Whether we live only until three, 30 or 30 times 3, as long as we enjoy what we do, we serve and love others as we love ourselves and be loved by friends and family, living each day as if it’s the last; our life is a story worth telling.
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