Lola Francisca poses a smile while in a family gathering. ||Photo from Merlene Susano

Francisca Susano, the 123-year-old candidate to the Guinness World Records’ oldest living person is not a Palaweña but a Negrense, her granddaughter confirmed after claims made rounds online a few weeks ago.

Merlene Susano told Palawan News in an interview that lola Francisca went to Palawan in 2012 only to visit her children and grandchildren in Puerto Princesa City. She stayed in Barangay Maunlad where her records were transferred during then.

Lola Francisca’s children residing in Negros Occidental.

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Lola Francisca, she said, went back in 2017 to Barangay Carol-an, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental where she was born on September 11, 1897.

Another granddaughter, Liezel Susano, said through a phone call that Francisca had visited Puerto Princesa more than three times before going back to Negros Occidental for good.

However, the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) in Puerto Princesa had already lost her records in 2018.

“Kasi nandoon ‘yong pinsan ko (sa Palawan), si lola pumunta siya sa Davao noong 2012 iyon, then hinatid ko siya sa Palawan kasi gusto ng anak ni lola na doon muna sa pinsan ko rin. Nandoon si Jose at Nelly, sila ‘yong nakasama ni lola sa Palawan kasi meron doon na senior citizen, kaya noon nalaman ng mga tao na si lola ay 114 or 115 [that time],” Liezel said.

Lola Francisca loves to play her harmonica every morning even at the age of 123.

Merlene is one of lola Francisca’s first-generation grandchildren. She is the daughter of lola Francisca’s 11th child out of 14. Currently, the 123-year-old grandmother already has over 400 grandchildren from the first to the fourth generation in her family.

Merlene is personally attending to her grandmother, using her experience as a midwife from working in Singapore.

Oldest living person
Posts circulating online claimed that in 2016, some volunteers in Puerto Princesa submitted Francisca’s story to the Guinness World Records organization while she was staying in the city. Her family in Puerto Princesa and Negros Occidental were also aware of this.

Various media outlets also interviewed Francisca back then about her age, Merlene said.

However, Merlene said she only learned the information about the alleged acceptance of Guinness of the evidence proving her grandmother’s age online and has not yet received any letter to support the circulating claims.

“May false news, may true news, hindi kami talaga nag-expect. Noong nakita ko ‘yong post na ‘yon, nag-search ako kung totoo ba ito o false ba. Pero sabi nila na na-receive na doon ‘yong documents ni lola pero hindi pa na-approve, na-receive lang. Masaya naman kami kung totoo ‘yon kasi ‘yon talaga ang hinihintay dito sa atin, ‘di ba?” she said.

“Pero wala kaming natanggap, sa balita lang kaya nagtaka ako. Kung na-receive talaga o kung ano ‘yong balita, sana meron na kami natanggap — kaso wala,” she added.

Merlene and lola Francisca enjoying a moment together.

Merlene said there was also an individual who sent her a personal message, claiming to be the person who first posted the content, but still did not believe it.

Life over a century
“Mahina na siya noon, umabot na nag 50-50 na si lola noon kasi ayaw niya na kapag nagkasakit ay nasa ospital. Ayaw niya kapag may mga synthetic sa katawan niya, lumalala si lola kapag ganoon. Inuwi ng pinsan ko sa Negros, hinatid sa bahay ng anak niya,” she said.

Merlene said there was a time when lola Francisca was confined to bed because of her age and an illness. She only started recovering from being bed-ridden when she provided her little daily activities that could speed up her recuperation and for her to start walking again slowly on her own. 

Lola Francisca’s family.

Aside from her grandmother’s age, Merlene said they are amazed at how lola Francsica can still clearly hear things and even play musical instruments.

“Si lola talaga is [may] good hearing [ability pa], kapag kinausap mo si lola, sasagot ‘yan. Ang gusto niya ay playing harmonica every morning. Kung minsan magigising siya ng 12-1 a.m., nagha-harmonica talaga siya and that is good as a lung exercise. Kumakanta rin siya, makulit kasi ako sa kanya kaya isa sa daily activities namin, kinakausap ko siya, kinukwentuhan ko siya at nagpapakuwento rin ako sa mga dating nangyari sa buhay niya,” she said.

What she enjoys the most is the time she spends with lola Francisca sharing stories and singing together. Although due to her grandmother’s age, she understands that being short-tempered is a part of things she must consider in taking care of her, Merlene said.

Merlene said among the stories that lola Francisca shared with her was learning about some of the pandemics and wars that happened in world history. Lola Francisca also told her that during Japan’s occupation of the Philippines, she experienced during running to the mountains to protect her family and hide from the Japanese soldiers.

With her son Ponciano, who plays the harmonica with her mother.

“Kapag binigyan mo siya ng pagkain na hindi mo siya kinausap, ayaw niya na after isa o dalawang kutsara, pero kapag meron kausap o kinausap mo siya na masaya, si lola ay kain nang kain talaga ‘yan,” she said.

Her grandmother’s diet is a big factor in reaching her age, she said. Merlene shared that lola Francisca avoids using additives and prefers eating vegetables and honey. Raised as a farmer, her grandmother practices eating on time which is a contributing factor to her good health.

“Sa pagkain niya, more on gulay lang talaga. Kumakain siya ng fresh honey talaga, pure sugar, umiinom siya ng kalamansi, low salt lang at no vetsin

“Kahit maraming anak si lola, kapag may problema ay si lolo lahat. Kapag may problema, ayaw niya pumatol sa asawa na mag-aaway talaga sila, ayaw niya ng problema. Ayaw niya ng gulo, peace of mind always,” she said.

Her grandchildren also make sure that she would not spend longer time lying on the bed or just sitting. She added that she could still tell stories whenever she is in the mood, but due to her age, she prefers a less noisy environment.

Threat of pandemic
As senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable individuals this time of the pandemic, Francisca’s family also makes sure that she is supplied with enough food supplements and vitamins to boost her immunity.

“Sabi ko ay huwag na lang si lola bakunahan, wala naman siyang sakit. Baka later on, magkasakit pa ‘yan o manghina siya. Sa ngayon ay more on vitamins na lang si lola. Meron talaga kaming vitamins, spirulina for immune system, iyan ang pino-focus namin sa kaniya,” she said.

She says that her ultimate wish is to have a happy family and avoids misunderstandings.

“Sa ngayon kasi meron mga problema-problema, ‘yong iba okay, may iba na hindi. Hindi maiwasan na may mga misunderstanding, ang sa akin nga wish ko ay sana happy family lang,” she said. 

Some of their relatives also reached decade-long lives but lola Francisca recorded the longest. She shared that one of her grandmother’s children is now also a centenarian.

“Tinanong ko ‘yong anak ni lola na si Ernesto Susano, sabi niya ‘yong uncle ni lola Francisca noon ay 130 years old namatay, live longevity talaga. Walo na lang sa anak ni lola ngayon ang buhay, ang pinakamatanda na nabubuhay ay 100 or 101 years old, iyong pang-apat niyang anak na bingi na ngayon, kailangan malaki boses mo para marinig, hindi tulad ni lola na kapag nagsasalita kami, ang ingay daw namin,” she said.

She still wishes to see her grandmother with more years to live.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.