WHAT does it take to live longer?

Fire razed more than 50 houses to the ground along Marang Street in Barnagay Wilfredo Aquino, Agdao District, right after the city welcomed the New Year at midnight, rendering more than a hundred homeless, among them, a 100-year-old woman.

Gasa Villarta-Ortega will turn 101 years old in October 2018.

Ortega, in an interview with SunStar on January 4, said that she was spirited off from their house by two of her grandchildren.

"Nahadlok ako nga mahulog ako, gidayungan nako sa tao. Duha kabuok among apo; ana siya ayaw kanaog lola kay mudagan ta didto. Nagsuot-suot aron dali mi maabot (I was so afraid that I will fall. I was carried by two of my grandsons. One even told me, 'Do not attempt to step down because we will run.' They ran through narrow alleys to escape)," she said.

She added that her wheelchair was also saved and she was placed in her wheelchair shortly after the rescue.

In her 100 years, Ortega said she was also a fire victim before when her children were still small. Like this time, they have not saved anything except themselves.

Ortega is now living at the Alexian Brothers Formation House across the fire scene, where many fire victims are taking shelter in.

Happiness for her is just seeing her grandchildren gather.

"Unsay gikalipay? Ang ako lamang mga apo, akong mga anak. Malipay ko ug naa sila ingon anang adlawa. Human mubiya sila mamingaw naman ko ana kay nanglakaw naman, niuli na. Dili naman nako hawiran kay minyo na (My happiness is my grandchildren and my children. I am happy whenever they are with me. But since they are already married, then they will leave again and I will miss them)," she said.

She said she is happy because she can still see all of them, as others do not even reach 70 years old.

But she does wish to finally get her birth certificate before her 101st birthday on October 15, 2018.

At her age of 100 years, Nanay Gasa has seen all of her 13 grandchildren from her five surviving children growing up.

She attributes her long life to not eating pork.

She said that she started this practice at the age of 22.

"Dili ko nagakaon ug baboy, hugaw man gud ang baboy, maayo pa ang isda (I do not eat pork because it is dirty, fish is better)," she said.

She said that when they gather together to eat, she will request her children to bring her fish because she will not eat anything else.

"I used to eat pork but when I have undergone seminars, which said that pork is dirty, I was convinced not to eat pork anymore," she said, adding that she also eats vegetables if someone will cook for her.

Her son Marciano Ortega said that aside from not eating pork, her mother also does not eat food with monosodium glutamate or vetsin.

Born on October 15, 1917, being a farm laborer in Samal has been the source of income during her younger years. Her husband, who passed away last 1992, was also a farm laborer. They have lived in Davao since 1990, and the house that was razed in Marang Street had been their home since that year.

Ortega said they are originally from Taglaya, Peñaplata in the Island Garden City of Samal. It was there when she first experienced fire incidents.

All of her five children have their own families.

Her son Marciano Ortega said they decided to live here in Davao City in 1990 because it is near the "regional hospital" (what is now the Southern Philippines Medical Center).

They earned a living selling goods and merienda outside the hospital.

Having lived her life long enough, the elder Ortega said she does not wish or dream for anything anymore, adding in jest that she will be glad to accept Christmas presents.

They will temporarily stay in the area until their house will be rebuilt. (KVC)