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Incredible longevity for a “Filipina at heart”

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Jessie Lichauco at 98: Feasting by the Pásig, dances with memories

When someone asked the “Birthday Girl” to dance, her fair skin almost blushed and a dreamy look came over her gray-green eyes. She said, “thank you, but I am dancing with my memories.”

Together with a hundred guests of all ages and from all corners of life, Jessie Lichauco celebrated her 98th birthday last Jan. 10.

Talented 7-year-old Hannah sang the Philippine National Anthem in the garden of an ancient home along the Pasig River. Tita Jessie then personally greeted each guest with an energetic smile and spry movements, her ageless body moving in rhythm with the live big-band music provided by The Executives, whose selection of music from days gone by provided backdrop to the ever-flowing conversation.

Each friend or relative was there because this lady had left an unforgettable imprint on their lives.

Larry Henares recounts, “When my wife Cecilia died of a sudden heart attack while we were in Paris, I was so devastated that I could not bear the thought of telling my children about their mother’s death. The first thing I did was call Tita Jessie—I knew she would know the best way to tell them and comfort them at the same time.”

Jessie Lichauco with her granddaughter Sunshine de León (standing). Jessie is the wife of the late diplomat and historian Marcial Lichauco. She can be a good source of oral history because, despite her age, her memory is still sharp!

Curiosity, adventure, love

When Jessie Lichauco, my grandmother, first came to the Philippines in 1933, she was 18 years old. The population of the country was 8 million, and many people still traveled in horse-drawn carriages.

She became the wife, and later the widow, of lawyer-diplomat Marcial P. Lichauco. Her life during the past 76 years has allowed Jessie to witness and interact with people, places and events that make up a large part of Philippine history. She has seen the country at its best and worst. And although she is part Irish-Scottish-Cuban-Spanish on the outside, her heart is unquestionably Filipino.

Why did she embark on that 28-day ship voyage from America to the Philippines? She has always answered, “Curiosity, adventure and love.”

Watching her celebrate with the people she has befriended since her life’s journey began 8 decades ago, there is no doubt she continues to live with those three ideals in mind. Age has never prevented her from engaging every adventurous moment life offers her.

Many people have asked her what the “secret recipe” is to living long and appearing so much younger than she is. The answer is less likely found in following a particular diet or health program (other than fresh buko juice daily, very little meat or chicken, and no coffee, alcohol or smoking) than on certain guidelines for living.

The secret is simply in the way she views the world and lives her life, which allows her to remain so actively involved in it.

“I am at the age of self-preservation,” my grandmother says. “I don’t worry about things over which I have no control.”

She points out that stress of any kind goes through your mind and can affect your body. “You always have a choice—to be a grouchy old person or take life as it comes. I often tell young people that having a sense of humor is very important. Sometimes you think things are insurmountable. There is nothing you can do but accept it and move forward.”

Click here for more.

Related link:
Down the River (WITH ONE’S PAST)


What if Allen Ginsberg was a Filipino?

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Or how I syncopated the essence of “Hadda be Playin’ on the Jukebox”
José Mario Alas

Hadda be flashing like the Philippine Daily Inquirer
Hadda be playing on Wowowee
Hadda be loudmouthed on The Buzz!
Hadda be announced over loud speakers
The military and the Abu Sayyaf are in cahoots
Hadda be said in socialite language
Hadda be said in Pinoy headlines
Aguinaldo, Magsaysay, and Aquino stretched and smiled and got doublecrossed by low life international goons & agents
Gay bankers with criminal connections
Dope pushers in NBI working with dope pushers from China working with big time syndicate Parañaque City
Hadda be said with a big mouth
Hadda be moaned over factory foghorns
Hadda be chattered on barber shop news broadcast
Hadda be screamed in a rural slaughterhouse
Hadda be yelled in the plazas where young lovers are petting it out
Hadda be howled on the streets by newsboys to jeepney barkers
Hadda be foghorned into Pásig River
Hadda echo under hard hats
Hadda turn up the volume in cheeky high school proms
Hadda be written on unused library books, footnoted
Hadda be in headlines of Sagad, Hataw, and Toro
Hadda be barked over TV
Hadda be heard in side alleys thru KTV bars
Hadda be sent via SMS
Hadda be cellphones ringing, comedians stopped dead in the middle of a comedy bar joke in Las Piñas,
Hadda be GMA, NEDA Neri, Mayor Atienza, and COMELEC Ábalos golfing together weekends or whenever/wherever —
As reported by almost all dailies across the islands
Hadda be the Freemasons and the neocolonialists together
Started war on Mindanáo, poison on Recto, assassination of Luna and Aquino
Hadda be dope cops and the kidnap-for-ransom crooks
Kidnapped all those filthy-rich scions in Chinatown
Hadda be the NBI and the military working together in cahoots against the leftists
Let Lucky Manzano campaign for both mommy and daddy… family relations, party fidelities, political madness
Hadda be religious goons bribing cross-eyed officials with vote-rich members, singing gospel gobbledygook, praising money and recruitment
Hadda be heard inside the classrooms:
Nationwide brainwashing by UP professors
Hadda be the police, and organized crime, and the military together
Bigger than Gloria, bigger than ZTE-NBN!!!
Hadda be a gorged throat full of murder
Hadda be mouth and ass a solid mass of rage
A red hot head, a scream in the back of the throat
Hadda be in Obama’s brain
Hadda be in Clinton’s mouth
Hadda be the Pinoy language committe, pidginizing our tongue,
erasing our identity, forgetting who we are, what we were…
The Palace, the military, the billionaire cronies, the police, UP historians teaching the leyenda negra,
Protestants and Freemasons,
Dope pushers and sadists,
One big set of criminal gangs working together in cahoots
Hitmen, murderers everywhere, outraged, on the make
Secret drunk brutal dirty rich
On top of a heap of slovenly prisons, industrial cancer, burned plastic bags, garbage cities, Hollywood movies, Erap’s resentments
Hadda be the rulers, wanted law and order they got rich on
Wanted protection, status quo, wanted junkies for poll watchers, wanted influence, wanted Magsaysay to die in an air crash, wanted war over the Spratlys for oil to feed their diamond-laced cats
Hadda be the police and organized crime and the military and Gary V.
Multinational capitalists’ strong arms squads,
Private detective agencies for the very rich
And their armies, navies, and air force bombing rival political clans and their hapless supporters.
Hadda be neocolonialism, the vortex of this RAGE
This “gobbleization”
Man to man
Nation to nation
Hayden to Katrina
Horses’ heads in the haciendero‘s bed, Luisita turf and farmers’ rallies, hit men, gang wars across political landscapes,
Bombing Basilan with “firecrackers” will not settle the score (because they never wanted to settle the score for hunger for funds)
Joma’s red democracy bumped off with the Palace’s pots and pans, a warning to rural local governments
Secret armies embraced for decades, the military and the Palace keep each other’s secrets, the Freemasons and the anti-Catholics/Protestants never hit their own,
The KKK and Ku Klux Klan are one mind
Brute force and full of enmity
One mind, brute force, and full of enmity!
One mind, brute force, and full of enmity!
One mind, brute force, and full of enmity!
One mind, brute force, and full of enmity!
It hadda be rich, it hadda be powerful,
Hadda hire history from US universities
Hadda murder in Indonesia — 500,000
Hadda murder in Indochina — 2,000,000
Hadda murder in Czechoslovakia
Hadda murder in Chile
Hadda murder in Russia…
Hadda murder kids over 10 in Sámar
Hadda murder in the Philippines — 1,250,000

Hadda milk us more till we fall apart…


Hinulugang Tactac: finally, a major makeover is in the offing!

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Two years ago, I wrote my regrets about the polluted state of the Philippines’ most famous waterfall, the celebrated Hinulugang Tactac (now usually spelled as Taktak, but I still prefer the original because that’s the way it should really be). It’s a pity that, for several years, Hinulugang Tactac remained forgotten and disrespected by the people surrounding it. What a political slap in the face because back in 1990 it was proclaimed as a National Historical Shrine under Republic Act 6964. Once a picnic haven for backpackers, tourists, and pilgrims of nearby (and equally famous) cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje, it’s fast becoming another Pásig River: the place is now filled with unspeakable filth and garbage.

If José Rizal were alive today and have seen the pitiful state of Hinulugang Tactac, he would’ve fainted in disdain (he used to visit the place; his mother, Doña Teodora Alonso de Mercado, was a devotee of the church of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage).

But all is not lost. Hinulugang Tactac is not yet considered biologically dead as compared to the ill-fated Pásig River. And the good news is that –finally– the local government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will collaborate with concerned groups to bring back to life our country’s beloved and historical waterfall:

The city government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are working with private groups for a P100-million makeover aimed at restoring the glory of the Philippines’ most famous waterfall in 10-20 years.

With an amount like that, cleaning up Hinulugang Taktak shouldn’t even go beyond three to five years.

I’ve never been to this place. But I plan to visit it of course. And when I do get there one day, I hope that Hinulugang Tactac would have gotten back its pristine beauty. The money, the clean-up project, and the people/groups concerned are all set. All it takes now is political will and loads of discipline to save the waterfall. Thus, in due time, we can all sing with genuine cheerfulness once again this famous song:

♪ Magbihis na cayó ng pinacamagandá
At cayóng lahát ay sa amin sumama
¿Baquit? ¿Saán ba tayo pupuntá?
¡Sa Antipolo na laguing masayá!

Tayo na sa Antipolo
At Doón maligo tayo
Sa batis na cung tauaguin
Ay hi… hi… Hinulugang Tactác
At doón tayo cumáin
Ng mangá, suman, casóy at balimbíng
Cayá’t magmadalí ca
At tayo’y tútuloy na sa Antipolo.

Doón sa Antipolo inyóng maquiquita
Ang mapanghalinang tanauing cay gandá.
At sa mayuming mga dalaga
Sa sulyáp laang mabibihag ca ná. ♫
(repeat chorus)

Click here to listen to the song’s famous chorus!

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