Bicol has high number of centenarians due to coco-based meal and concoction
By Rhayz B. Barcia LEGAZPI CITY ---The country’s coconut producing and consuming region, Bicol, recorded at least 171 centenarians. Topping the list is Albay province with the highest number of living centenarians on record. It is believed that consuming more coconut juice and coconut milk for vegetable and meal concoction helps prolong the lives of the Bicolanos. In Juban, Sorsogon, Corazon “Ayoy” De los Reyes-Barcia, mother of 11 children and grandmother of more than 50 grandchilden and great grandchildren, is the Bicol region’s newest centenarian. She is reported to be eating vegetables with a fusion of coconut milk during meals since her younger days. Some study made, however, by foreign researchers claim that consuming milk from palm oil, including coconuts, is unhealthy. But this seems not to be not the case among Bicol centenarians who have been consuming food from coconut meat and juice since birth like Lola Ayoy. A plain housewife but treated like a queen by her late farmer husband Honorato Barcia, Lola Ayoy, recently feasted on a meal of small fish, vegetable mixed with creamy coconut milk, tendered by her children and grandchildren mostly based in Metro Manila and abroad to celebrate her 100 years of age on earth. Three out of 11 children of Lola Ayoy were gone. Her eight children, grand children, including great grandchildren, went to Juban town Last June 18 to join Lola Ayoy’s centennial birthday celebration wherein almost all their neighbors also converged to join the festive event. At 100 years old, Lola Ayoy can still dance, has good hearing and sense of smell although her sense of sight is no longer as clear but her over-all health is amazingly rosy even without taking the so-called maintenance medicines normally being taken by senior citizens. When asked her secret of longer life, Lola Ayoy said that healthy lifestyle practices and consuming smaller fish, vegetable with coconut milk concoction, locally grown fruits, coconut juice, prayers and occasional piece of meat make her fit. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Bicol said that the Bicol region has high number of centenarians wherein in 2016 there were 135 centenarians and 36 more centenarians in 2017, excluding Lola Ayoy who had just celebrated her 100th-year birthday Sunday last week. Based on DSWD record, there are presently 171 centenarians in the Bicol region. Among the six provinces of Bicol, Albay has the highest number of centenarians with 39 followed by Camarines Sur with 36. Next to Camarines Sur is Sorsogon with 22, Camarines Norte with 20, Masbate and Sorsogon with 9 centenarians each. Out of 171 centenarians, at least 59 centenarians were given cash gifts by the government following the passage of Republic Act 10868 known as Centenarian Act of 2016 authored by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman. Jesseshan Marbella-Aycocho, DSWD regional information officer in Bicol, said the department is also currently processing the papers of at least 20 centenarians for them to receive the government’s cash gift. She said that there are 20 centenarians whose cash gifts are still on process due to the late compliance and submission of documents. “Processing depends on the compliance of documents as proof of their age eligibility,” she said. Arnel Garcia, DSWD regional director in Bicol, said that RA 10868 authored by Bicolano Rep. is a big help to the senior citizens. Garcia said they have started the process of giving cash gifts of P100,000 to each qualified centenarian in the region. “Some of our centenarians have already received the money. In fact, we personally delivered it to them,” he said. The Centenarians Act of 2016 was a pet measure of Lagman since the 15th Congress but enacted only in 2016. Lagman first filed the bill in the 15th Congress. It was pursued anew by his son, former Albay Rep. Grex Lagman, in the 16th Congress wherein it was enacted. As mandated by the Centenarians Act, every Filipino citizen who celebrates his or her 100th birthday shall receive a cash gift of P100,000 from the national government in addition to the cash incentive from the city or municipality where he or she resides.