THE Provincial Government of Negros Occidental honored 45 centenarians and six outstanding Negrenses in separate rites during the commemoration of the 119th Cinco de Noviembre at the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City Monday.

Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., who led the program for centenarians at the Capitol Lobby in the morning, said that in age, there is wisdom and experience.

He quipped that he is 18 years away from being a centenarian, drawing laughter from the crowd.

The governor also said there was a suggestion that the province gives P1 million to those who will reach 120 years old.

He said he is hoping the Negrenses will live longer like the centenarians.

This year, the two oldest centenarians were 105 years old. They were from the cities of San Carlos and Sipalay.

One of them is Francisca Diala, whose granddaughter Glaysa Lacanglacang said her grandma’s secret to longer life is eating vegetables.

San Carlos’s Diala, who used to be a farm worker, has nine children – three from her first marriage and six with her second husband.

Each of the centenarian, or those who are 100 years old and above, received P100,000 cash incentive from the Provincial Government.

Honored were five centenarians from Kabankalan City; four from Hinoba-an; three each from Cadiz City, Hinigaran, La Castellana, and Cauayan; two each from Escalante City, Sagay City, Talisay City, Bago City, Valladolid, La Carlota City, Binalbagan, Candoni, and Sipalay City; and one each from San Carlos City, Calatrava, Victorias City, Moises Padilla, Himamaylan City, and Ilog.

Another centenarian, 102-year-old Eluiterio Panaligan of La Castellana, said his happy disposition is his secret to longer life.

The centenarian was even smiling when he was interviewed by reporters.

He also rendered a song after the interview.

Herminia Abaygar, 101, of Cadiz City, eats anything, including meat and vegetables, but her secret to longer life is that she doesn’t get angry very often, said her daughter Rosalinda Fernandez.

Of the 45 centenarians, seven were awarded posthumously.

Outstanding Negrenses

The Provincial Government also honored six outstanding Negrenses.

This year’s recipients of the Pasidungog Award, the highest accolade given by the provincial government to Negrenses, are couple Joey and Christina Gaston of Manapla for entrepreneurship and livelihood promotion; Interior Undersecretary Austere Panadero of Sagay City for government service; Margarita Fores of Bago City, a descendant of Negrense revolutionary leader General Juan Araneta, for culinary tourism; Ramon Hofileña for culture and arts; and Antonio Meloto of Bacolod City, founder of Gawad Kalinga, for civic and humanitarian works.

Marañon thanked the outstanding Negrenses for their help to the province.

He urged the public to continue to cooperate with each other and do away with crab mentality.

In response, Panadero said he is truly honored to be recognized by the provincial government.

He said he’s been in the public service for more than 30 years.

“Staying in the government is the easy part, but making (one’s) presence felt and matter is the most challenging part – making sure that the oath of office, making sure that the commitment to serve the country doesn’t waver at all is really a challenge,” Panadero added.

The Gaston couple, who are behind the successful enviro-social Hacienda Craft Industries, said the honor belongs to the many Negrenses before them.

“We started admiring the older generation for what they did and we see them in an action as a young Negrense, you get inspired. And so it belongs to them, and we’re just continuing that legacy they left and I hope that our generation and the next generation will continue to have inspired us, continue to inspire us,” Joey said.

He added: “I hope we shared in our own small way building a better Negros.”

Jay Antonio Meloto, who received the award on behalf his father, said his father “remembers with fondness growing up in Negros and considers his frequent visits to the province to serve, after bringing Couples for Christ and Gawad Kalinga, as some of the happiest moments in his life.”

He thanked the provincial government and “the great people of Negros for honoring my father whose greatness is simply loving the least of his brethren.”

Marissa Montelibano received the award for Fores.