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108-year-old grandma relishes long life with ‘malunggay’, camote tops

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By Bill Visaya

ECHAGUE, Isabela – Reaching the age of 108–and still counting, centenarian Juanita Cariaga of San Miguel, Echague, Isabela considers her longevity as a feat for herself.

What is her secret? She told the Philippine News Agency that she has been fond of eating malunggay (horseradish) and camote tops, as well as other backyard-raised vegetables in her village.

The vegetables are pesticide-free and naturally preserved food, she said. These gave her long life and sharp memory since she was born on March 10, 1910 in Nueva Ecija.

Her 50-year-old granddaughter Edna Cariaga-Daguro revealed that Lola Juanita did not suffer severe illnesses except for minor headaches, stomach and body pains, arthritis, flu, and fever.

“Before, we have no big expenses. We would have long walks and no rides,” Juanita confided, adding that she would choose the way of living before than now. When the Japanese soldiers had occupied the country, she and her family members were forced to take refuge at a cave-like formation at the forests.

Losing her husband 40 years ago, Juanita had singlehandedly worked at the rice farm to feed their eight children, three of them now deceased.

“When I was still strong, I would plow and till the farms as the father of my children died early,” she added.

Her daughter, 63-year-old Feliciana Miguel, is happy over mom Juanita’s good health and long life. She confided that “God is good for providing her the best of health.”

Sign of old age

Juanita now uses two wooden crutches or “baston” to support her when she walks around, her other daughter Carmelita noted.

Her vision has been affected by a cataract and her left eye has been losing sight, apparently, due to her old age, her children said.

PHP120,000 richer

As a centenarian, Juanita received PHP100,000 from the social welfare department and PHP20,000 from the local government, aside from a plaque of recognition, felicitation letter from President Rodrigo R. Duterte and other benefits. The money – which was mostly deposited – was given in October last year. A portion was set aside for her expenses for food, milk, and medicine.

Juanita admitted that she has been living a good life. She said she would be happy meeting her Creator later.

Her children have prepared for Juanita’s fate in the future, even setting aside money for funeral and wake expenses.

The cash assistance from the government is an “immeasurable debt of gratitude” for Lola Juanita, her children and grandchildren said. (PNA)

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