Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Died at 104
(pic courtesy of grand daughter Marcy Blas)

In 1981 or 82, I saw a notice by the Guam Tribune, a newspaper owned by Mark Pangilinan, seeking village reporters. It wasn't a paying job but I figured I'd do it. You got to start somewhere, so I signed up for my home town of Sinajaña.

I did two articles on Sinajaña before I lost interest in writing more for the Tribune. One was on the history of the village and the second was on the oldest person living in Sinajaña, the man pictured above, Martin Oliva.

As a priest I usually don't have a problem asking to meet people but back then I was amazed that he was willing to talk to a 19 year old college kid.

Social Security says he was born in 1884, but in 1981 or 82, he was already claiming to be over 100. His family attests, also, that he wasn't bound to the age stated in later documents. So how old was he?

Back in the 1880s in the Philippines (where he was born), the Marianas and in many other places, a lot of people did not read or write and, even when they did, documents were not as big a deal as they are today. My own grandfather fudged his personal details (even his name) when he entered the U.S.

Based on his life story (I think he served in WW1) he must have been 100 or at least close to it.

I went to visit him in his home, where he lived with his wife. She was his 2nd wife as he had outlived his first wife. She herself was at least in her 60s if not older and was thin and spry and I remember her walking to Mass everyday with her umbrella in hand.

The question that I have never forgotten having asked him was "What's the secret of your health and long life?" For his age, he was still mentally sharp and physically mobile.

His answer was, "One cigar a day, one shot of whiskey a day and a page of the Bible every day."

That was his answer. For real.


(Social Security)

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