by Renelaine Bontol Pfister
On March 5, 2022, Felicidad Bautista Marquez celebrated her 101st birthday surrounded by family from Hawaii and all over the US.
They celebrated her birthday at a community center, where everyone danced and sang together, and even sang her favorite song when she turned 18, “Cheek to Cheek” by Fred Astaire.
Prior to the celebration, Senator Glenn Wakai presented Felicidad with a certificate from the Hawaii State Legislature to honor her milestone birthday.
Most people call her Felicing or Nanay (the Filipino word for Mother). Born in 1921, she grew up in Metro Manila and is the fourth of thirteen siblings.
When she was 12, she was chosen the “Healthiest Student” among a thousand students in her elementary school.
During the war, she worked as a hospital aide and nurse assistant and had to walk seven miles each day to go to work. She walked in the dark to lessen her chances of encountering war-related violence.
Felicing later worked as a clerk and met her husband, Serafin. He worked in Guam on and off for 10 years while she raised their five children in the Philippines.
In 1967, Felicing and her family immigrated to Hawaii from Caloocan City, Philippines. When she first arrived, she helped family members and friends by babysitting their children. It was a role Felicing was familiar with, being an older sister and taking care of her younger siblings when they were growing up.
Gardening, cooking, and traveling were among Felicing’s passions in her younger years. The garden in her Pearl City home was much admired and praised and called an oasis by visitors.
She also loved cooking. Her famous dishes were lumpiang sariwa, escabeche, adobo, kare kare and pochero.
Finally, traveling was something she enjoyed with her family. They would take trips to the mainland and the Philippines.
She always kept busy and helped others. After her husband passed away, Felicing volunteered her time to make crafts for St. Francis Hospice, Louis Pohl Gallery and Downtown Art Center.
Felicing currently lives with her youngest daughter, Felicia and Felicia’s husband.
She spends her time engaged in art such as collaging, painting, and making floral arrangements. Though there are challenges at her age such as needing extra time to eat, walk, and get in and out of cars, Felicing feels grateful when she wakes up every day.
She enjoys connecting with people and believes in simply having fun. Felicia keeps her Nanay engaged each day by playing cards, exercising, dancing and writing letters. Felicia takes videos of her Nanay to send to family members.
“I enjoy every day,” Felicing says.What is her secret to a long life? Felicing believes in staying healthy and happy.
Her happiness is attributed to her children. Having them is her proudest achievement.
Over the years, her family has expanded to include nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren. She wishes for her great-granddaughter Malia to study hard and for her great-grandson Enrique, who is about to receive his MBA, to continue pursuing more endeavors.
When asked for the wisdom she’d like to impart to everyone, Felicing said: “Stay healthy, be nice, and care for others.”
It’s seemingly simple, yet not as easy to do. These are the things Felicing has aimed to do in her 101 years. Because one may live long, but not all live meaningfully.
by Renelaine Bontol Pfister