SHE'S 133 years old and she can still share with you her memories of long-ago.
Meet Julia dela Rina of sitio Banayaw, barangay Kidadan in Sta. Maria, Davao Occidental. She turned 133 last January 9, 2018 and celebrated this with a very siple merienda prepared by the barangay council with her children, grandchildren, and local officials who gifted her with the Centenarian Cash Award of P100,000 and a monthly social pension of P1,500.
She's blind now, but her hearing is still good and loves to talk to people around her. It's her youngest of 14 children, who takes care of her now.
What's her secret to longevity? "Gulay," she says. Her favorites are sitaw and ampalaya.
Through the help of Sta. Maria municipal administrator Josephine B. Mariscal and Kidanan barangay captain Hermie Fe Villa, we managed to learn snippets from the past from this loquacious and jolly centenarian.
She has lived in Kidadan all her life, she said, but in her younger years, she worked as a helper in the household of one Daniel Merka in the neighboring barangay of San Isidro, which she described as "tapad lang sa Kidadan (just beside Kidadan)".
Kidadan was still forested with tracts of cogonal areas with very few houses.
Still very vivid in her memory is World War II and the sufferings they had to endure during those years. But she admits that these memories are but snippets of the worst.
"Kanang sa kaadlawon pa makadungog naka ug buto buto. Managan mi padulong sa kalasangan. Mitago kami sa kalasangan arong dili mi manga igo (Explosions and gunfire would break out at dawn and we'd all run toward the forests. We'd hide there so we would not be hit in the crossfire)," she said.
In the forest, she said, they only cook under the cover of darkness using fire and embers that they bury underground, "aron dili makita ang siga (so the fire will not be seen)."
They could not cook during daytime, she said, because the smoke would then be visible and it is at daytime when fighter planes and soldiers would be all over the place.
"Ang among balay gi angkon na ug gipuy-an sa mga sundalo. Kami, nagpuyo na sa kalasangan. Ang mga hayop namo, ginasulod namu sa bangag sa yuta, unya among panabunan ug lukay sa lubi para dili madungog ang tinggog sa mga hayop (Our house was occupied by soldiers. We lived in the forest. We kept our animals in holes on the ground and covered them with coconut fronds to muffle their sounds)," she said in an interview by barangay captain Villa, which SunStar requested.
"Galubok mi paka gabi-e kay pag adlaw dili mi makalubok ug humay kay daghan sundalo. Kung makita nila na naa kay humay na ginalubok, ilang kuhaon. Mahadlok pod ka na dili ihatag kay basin patyon ka nila. Dugay kaayo mi nagpuyo sa kalasangan (We could only pound rice at night because soldiers would get your rice when they find you pounding it at day. We had no choice but to hand this over because they will kill you if you don't. We lived a long time in the forests)," she said.
Lola Julia was brought to the barangay hall on her birthday as barangay and town officials prepared a simple salo-salo to celebrate the momentous event with her and to hand over her cash gifts.
Among those who ensured that Lola Julia gets her benefits as a centenarian aside from barangay Villa and Administrator Mariscal were Sta. Maria Office of Senior Citizens Affairs head Norgma G. Paglinawan, Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Romelyn B. Magallanes, the DSWD Field Office Region 11, Lywellyn T. Bibera, the DSWD focal for Social Pension, and the local government of Sta. Maria headed by its Mayor Rudy P. Mariscal.
"Our heartfelt gratitude to the DSWD ROXI, for giving out this honor befitting Manang Julia, and kudos to the MSWDO, OSCA, for the good job in the evaluation," wrote Administrator Mariscal in her Facebook post about Manang Julia, which was how SunStar learned about and was able to reach out to her.