ZARAGOZA, Nueva Ecija— This 100-year-old lady still washes her own laundry, does toilet habits on her own, walks by her lonesome with a cane, eats food with gastronomic passion and engages in neighborhood talk.
But she is no ordinary senior citizen.
Centenarian Dionisia Mamaclay-Reyes of Barangay Sta. Cruz in this town still alive and kicking. She turned 100 years old last Dec. 6 and expects to live some more years actively and somehow spritely at that.
Lola Dionisia still has an impeccable sense of humor. When asked what’s her secret for longevity, her answer nearly floored everyone when she quickly replies without batting an eyelash, “puffing cigarettes every day.”
“I’ve been smoking cigarettes since I was nine years old,” enthuses Reyes when she sat down for an interview with this reporter.
From La Campana to Balintawak to Marvels, the cigarette brands she’s tried goes on and on.
She said she felt good chomping cigarettes, practically disproving conventional wisdom which says smoking is bad for everybody’s health.
Lola Dionisia shrugs this medically proven threat off. “Pampahaba ng buhay ‘yon (That gives you a long life),” she said with a chuckle.
As if to prove her point, she lit up a cigarette stick from a pack and went smoking while fielding questions.
Research and experts’ advice have revealed that smoking can cause lung disease by damaging the airways and the small air sacs found in lungs. Lung diseases caused by smoking includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis and lung cancer.
According to the American Lung Association, there are approximately 600 ingredients in cigarettes. When burned, they create more than 7,000 chemicals, at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer.
Mamaclay-Reyes, who has not encountered any serious illness, said when she met a doctor, Roland Valdez and told him of her “longevity secret,” the latter advised her to “continue smoking.”
A mother to seven siblings, four of whom were still alive, Mamaclay-Reyes never entered school. She is also fond of singing.
Her daughter Lucita, the eldest of the surviving siblings, said her mother also is fond of eating and drinks up to seven glasses of coffee a day. “She gets mad when I try to prevent her from drinking coffee,” she said with a laugh.
Lola Dionisia’s family has a history of longevity. Two of her sisters, Gregoria Madrid and Consuelo died at the age of 105 years and 103 years, respectively. She lost her husband, Nicanor Reyes, who died at the age of 97.
The centenarian gets to mingle with his children who are still alive: Lucita, 66; Antonio Reyes, 62; Ligaya Gatlabayan, 60 and Gerardo Reyes, 55. Gone were Ricardo Reyes, Gregorio Reyes and Juanita Castro, who all died ahead of her due to various ailments, and Gregorio due to lung cancer.
A certificate of live birth was issued last Dec. 14 by the Zaragoza municipal civil registrar Lorna Bacani-Azarcon for Mamaclay-Reyes who was born on Dec. 6, 1916.
Despite the wear and tear, Mamaclay-Reyes said she never felt she is slowing down, despite a recent freak accident when she fell from her bed and suffered lumps in her face.
She said she wants to continue to enjoy life and live it to the fullest, with his family and relatives.
“Gusto ko pang mabuhay dito sa mundo. Masaya naman ako. Ang mga apo ko mababait. Mahal na mahal nila ako [I still want to live in this world. I am happy. My grandchildren are kind. They love me so much],” she said.
Lately, she has also been gulping down bottles of a popular energy drink endorsed by retired NBA legend Michael Jordan which, her relatives swore, makes her feel stronger.
The chinky-eyed “super lola” still has good eyesight and does not wear eyeglasses. Occasionally, she would call her grandchildren over the phone.
Appeal to President Duterte
Mamaclay-Reyes has been shuttling from this town to relatives in Gen. Natividad town and to Cabanatuan City, hoping to someday soon receive the much-awaited financial incentive and benefits for centenarians like her.
Mamaclay-Reyes said that she feared that she may not be able to receive the P100,000 cash incentive as there are two other centenarians living in this town, one of whom died recently without even receiving a single centavo of the financial incentive due her under the law.
She said she did not want to suffer the same fate and appealed to President Duterte to grant her the incentive.
“Mahal na Presidente Duterte, ‘yung benepisyo po sana e inyong tulungang maipag-kaloob [Dear President Duterte, I am hoping you can help me get the benefits…] referring to the incentive.
Last year, then-President Benigno Aquino III signed into law Republic Act 10868 that will grant a P100,000 cash incentive and additional benefits and privileges to Filipino centenarians.
Under the law, all Filipinos who reach the age of 100 will receive a letter of felicitation from the President of the Philippines and the P100,000 cash gift, whether they are residing in the country or abroad.
They will also be awarded with a plaque of recognition and additional cash gift by their respective city or municipal governments during the National Respect for Centenarians Day, which is set on Sept. 25 of every year.
An estimated 3,500 centenarians were benefited by the enactment of the Centenarian Act.
She also called on the provincial government, led by Gov. Czarina Umali and the municipal government, led by Mayor Louella Belmonte, to help in facilitating the release of the monetary incentives provided by law.
Asked what she would do if she receives the cash windfall, she said she would divide it equally among her grandchildren whose number she could no longer recall.