Leonila Garcia Abecia, in her twenties when she lived in the Philippines. She just turned 105 years old in Prince Rupert. (Jean Sabado photo)

Celebrating Lola’s 105th birthday in Prince Rupert

Leonila Garcia Abecia was born in 1914 in the Philippines

A lot can happen in 105 years.

University, a career, marriage, kids, acquiring a farm, two world wars, experiencing martial law, sponsorship to another country, joining a new community, losing a husband, sharing love with 23 grandchildren and 36 great grandchildren, family visits, fishing and gardening, then a fall, a broken hip, moving to a long-term care facility.

There are approximately 1,530 people who were aged 100 or older in B.C., according to Statistics Canada for 2018.

Leonila Garcia Abecia turned 105 on March 14, 2019.

Family came from as far as Vancouver to be in Prince Rupert for her birthday. They call her Lola, which means grandmother in Filipino.

“She credits her longevity with genes, healthy eating habits and a positive attitude in life,” her daughter, Luzminda Abecia Juance wrote from El Paso, Texas.

Well into her 90s, Lola didn’t have any medical issues, according to her family. Then 10 years ago, she fell and fractured her hip. She’s been bedridden at Acropolis Manor ever since. Family members take turns to visit and feed her, and Father Terry Brock stops by on Sundays to share blessings.

READ MORE: Heart of the City — Family first on 100th birthday

Born in 1914, in Camiling, Tarlac, Philippines, Lola was the eldest of four and was often left in charge of her siblings. Cooking was her passion, and she eventually became a home economics teacher. This was where she met Maximo, another teacher who was working at the same school.

Maximo and Lola got married in 1936, and they moved to the tropical and volcanic Camiguin Island where they started a family.

After World War II they moved twice more, settling into the southern area of the country to set up a farm in the Maguindanao province. The family continued to grow with four boys and three girls.

“Life was a little rough with seven mouths to feed, but the couple managed to send their children to university with whatever income they could get from the farm,” Luzminda wrote.

In 1972, when the Philippine government declared martial law, they were forced to leave their farm to seek safety, and three of their sons migrated to Canada. Leonila and Maximo joined their family in Prince Rupert in 1977. She started a small vegetable garden in her backyard. They took part in Filipino-Canadian community gatherings, and spent weekends fishing on the Skeena River with family.

“Her family fondly called her ‘Lola, the Trout Queen of Skeena.’ Whatever they caught, Lola would cook it so her family could enjoy the fruits of labour,” Luzminda said.

She slowed down, her daughter said, when Maximo, her husband of 65 years passed away from a heart attack. However, even in her mid-90s, she still travelled back to the Philippines to visit her three daughters and their youngest son.

On Lola’s 105th birthday, the family thanked the entire Acropolis Manor staff for their love and care.

Lola doesn’t say much anymore. But in Luzminda’s letter, she said that her mother used to say “It doesn’t matter how old you are, whether you have dementia or physical limitations, you have so much of you that never leaves your side, your faith in God, your favourite song and your cherished memories. These are the things that never really go away.”

RELATED: Heart of our City: Ely Abecia — Flaming the Filipino Fire

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Shannon Lough | Editor
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Shannon Lough / The Northern View Leonila “Lola” Garcia Abecia, who just turned 105, next to her first grandchild, Jean Sabdo.

Leonila Garcia Abecia, who just turned 105, holding her first grandchild, Jean Sabado. (Jean Sabado photo)

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