Celebrating 105 Years of Moving
By Grandson, Paolo Cruz Galido
Today we celebrate the life of Milagros Cruz, also known as “Mommy” or “Lala” to her grandchildren, “Tia Mila” to her nephews and nieces, or Mana Mila, to her younger brothers and sisters.
She was the 3rd eldest out of 11 children, born 104 years ago on February 16, 1912. She was a sister to 5 brothers and 6 sisters.
She came from a prominent family, her father being a mayor in Gandara, a small town in Samar located in eastern Philippines and her siblings being all professionals.
She was born in 1912, the year of the Pig, and lived up to her Chinese horoscope’s characteristics and traits, having inexhaustible energy, an abundance of good fortune, loyal, honest, trustworthy, and noble.
She was a mother to 4 sons and 1 daughter, and a stepmother to 5 sons and 1 daughter.
She was a grandmother to 17 grandchildren, and great grandmother to 20 great grandchildren.
In her grade school years, she studied in Gandara, Samar, and her high school and college years were spent in Catbalogan, Samar. She loved school so much that she became a teacher and taught the 3rd grade.
In Manila, she met her prince charming, a very smart and humble man, Pablo M. Cruz (who my mom named me after), who was well-liked by her family even though he was a widower.
He was a CPA topnotcher and served as a cabinet member for President Carlos Garcia from 1957-1961.
They were married November 15, 1940.
She became a social butterfly, a cabinet lady during her husband’s tenure in office, and was a paralegal for the civil service commission for almost 30 years.
They were blessed with 5 wonderful children (Alex, Eddy, Nora, Joey, and Rene) and settled in Quezon City, a suburb of Manila.
They were happily married for over 25 years. During the later part of the marriage, her husband had a lingering illness after a stroke and died in 1968.
In 1980, Mommy immigrated to the United States to join her only daughter, Nora, and her oldest son, Alex. She stayed with my mom, Nora, in Santa Ana and Whittier, CA and helped babysit and raise my sister and me.
Mommy was blessed with a long fulfilling life and good health. I don’t remember a time when she was ever seriously ill. In her later years, she had a few hospital admissions. While being in her 90s to 100s, there were times we feared that her time could come soon but she always proved doctors and us wrong, living by her name, “Milagros”, translated as miracle, in Spanish.
And a miracle lady and inspiration she was, making it to almost 105 years old, next month on February 16th.
She was proud of her accomplishment, her favorite question often heard was “how old are you?” Her response would always be, “you guess.” Any carnival psychic was always doomed to lose to that answer.
Many people often asked, what is your secret?
Without hesitation, she would respond, “Keep Moving”.
Taking note of how she lived her life, the following secrets were the recipe to her longevity.
Secret #1 Keep moving.
Keep moving was her motto. She enjoyed her social life, going to the senior center to socialize and dance with friends; she gardened and tended to her beautiful orchid greenhouse and other plants. She attended and volunteered at the Whittier Senior Center regularly and could outlast everyone on the dance floor, even in her 90’s. To keep her mind sharp, she frequently played mahjong and dominoes. She practiced multiplication tables even at 104 years old without even having to think hard about the answer.
Secret #2 Worship and Thank God.
Mommy loved to pray and prayed the Rosary daily, not only for herself, but unselfishly for everyone. She was strong in her faith, attended church often and each Sunday. She was part of the Catholic Women’s League, and a member of the St. Bruno prayer community. Thank you God for her almost 105 years of a beautiful and amazing life.
Secret #3 Be lovable.
Being lovable goes a long way. Not only did people admire and want to be like her, it also helped her being loved back. That’s important when you are 104. You will need people to take care of you, something my mom and all of Mommy’s caretakers did well. Love is an important ingredient and also helped get her to that age.
Secret #4 Garden any kind of plant, flowering or not.
As a mother of 5 and grandmother of 17, not only did mommy know how to raise children, raising plants was also her specialty. Nurturing a plant helps to give appreciation for life. Her secret to thriving plants and orchids was to talk and sing to them, an important part of her secret recipe for bringing plants back to life. Her singing went a long way. I remember a time when we had pet doves and lovebirds, and only she had the ability to make them dance with her singing.
Secret #5 Dance with gusto.
Dancing is all a part of “Keep Moving”. Mommy loved to dance, and was known for outlasting everyone on the dance floor. At her last birthday, at 104 years old, she continued to share her inspiration with those in attendance. She loved to dance the kuratsa, a traditional Filipino dance which people would often throw money on a handkerchief placed in the middle, always collecting a nice wad of cash and sometimes a credit card at the end. Dancing was her forte, making her feel alive and invigorated.
Secret #6 Keep your appearance.
It was important for mommy to always have a well kept appearance. If you look young, you feel young. Mommy always had the best outfits with matching accessories. Her daughter, Nora, even at 104 years old, made her regularly go to the hair salon to have her hair dyed and have her nails painted. At 90 years old, she still wore high heels and could still outlast people on the dance floor.
Secret #7 Be social.
Being social also keeps you moving. Mommy was a social butterfly. She was active in her social life being the wife of a cabinet member in the Philippines and having siblings who were all professionals. When she immigrated to the USA, she volunteered at the Whittier Senior Center and became popular with her group as she was quite sociable and was a good dancer. In her later years, she often attended church activities and events with my parents.
Secret #8 Smile and laugh often.
Smiling and laughing was part of Mommy’s recipe to looking young. It made her 10x more lovable, and look 10 years younger. As they say, laughter is the best medicine. You don’t stop smiling and laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop smiling and laughing.
As they say, laughter is the best medicine. Mommy’s mind was very sharp, even up to very old age. “Pakwan” translated in the Filipino language is a watermelon seed. I had told a joke: “How do you get a watermelon pregnant?” You “Pakwan” – she laughed hysterically with everyone, and I asked her, “mommy what’s so funny about that joke, why are you laughing”, she responded “Pak, that is what you have to understand”.
Secret #9 Eat well – like fruits, crabs, and ice cream.
Diet and moderation is always important to good health. Mommy loved combining bananas with her meals, or follow a meal with fruits like mangoes, papaya or persimmon. Whenever she saw that we bought crab legs or ice cream Mommy’s eyes always lit up. Even in her last minutes alive, when asked “mommy do you want me to buy you some crab and purée it for you, she used her remaining energy to say “yes” by raising her eyebrows. When it came to ice cream, she, without hesitation, would be the first to grab the ice cream sundae from our server, whether it was hers or not. Her favorite flavor was strawberry or chocolate.
Secret #10 Travel anywhere and everywhere.
Travelling will always keep you moving. Mommy loved to travel. She was alongside us during every childhood family vacation and road trip, and loved to travel with her best friends, visiting the holy land, many parts of Europe including Italy, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Japan, Hong Kong and many parts of the Philippines.
Secret #11 Watch movies and TV.
Watching comedy and action movies were a big reflection of her “Keep Moving” attitude. Mommy loved going to the movies. Her favorite actors were Jackie Chan and Eddie Murphy. She loved watching shows, from “I Love Lucy” to soap operas like “The Young and the Restless” and “Days of Our Lives”, to going out and watching plays or going to the movies, even if watching a movie date meant going to sleep during her later years. It was the fact that we were going out that made her happy.
Secret #12 Take pictures, they live on forever.
When we are all long gone, pictures remain. One of her favorite activities was posing for pictures and in modern times, selfies. She took every available opportunity to be in pictures, when a camera appeared. When selfies and snapchat was invented, she was easily amused seeing herself on the screen and anxiously awaited to see how her picture turned out.
To the coolest grandma and the only grandparent I’ve ever known, my second mom and the matriarch of our family; I can’t thank you enough for everything. The long life you lived made up for all the grandparents I never met. You lived to be almost 105 short of 30 days, such a, long, fulfilling and wonderful life. Thank you for blessing us with your amazing self and your beautiful soul.
We will miss:
All of the things mentioned above
I will miss having a second mom
Your posing for pictures and agreeing to do the funny poses when asked to do so.
Your famous “Thank you eeber so much”, sang in the tune of happy birthday, which you sang every year in response to everyone, after being sung happy birthday.
We will miss you being so cool and understanding jokes that only us kids thought we understood
Your delicious home cooking
Your beautiful smile, your sweet voice, your elegant way of dressing up
For always making us proud to be the grandchildren of a 100 year old. We were so proud of you and your energy. No one else compares.
We want to thank you for:
Raising all your children and grandchildren.
Alongside our own mom, thank you for raising us right.
For all the things you did for us when you were younger; Thank you for making us pray, go to church and strengthening our faith. For praying for everyone, everyday. For baby sitting us, wiping our butts, cooking and feeding us, dressing us, picking us up from school, buying us things, believing in us and always putting us first.
For keeping house and inventing meals, listening and putting up with us and our overly disruptive drama.
For reminding us to “Keep moving”; for being the inspirational and admirable person you were, for being the social butterfly that you were and expanding our network of family and friends. For showing us what being a true friend is like; for always keeping in touch with people, writing letters and calling them the old fashion way.
Thank you for showing us what it was like to have and live a long, meaningful and fulfilling life. You were the matriarch of our family, our backbone and our rock. ‘
Thank you for sharing your 105 year old genes with us. Without you, many of us would not be here today, many would not have your DNA, or look as good or as young as we do.
I’m comforted to know that you are in good company now with my dad who left us one month ago. Please say “hi” to him and all our loved ones, tell them we love them, and watch over us with them.
You were our angel on earth, now our angel in heaven.
We love you dearly, with all our hearts, til we meet again.