Felisa Nillo Sansait aspires to live beyond being a centenarian


Living life to its fullest is one exceptional privilege denied to many while being surrounded and cared by loved ones upon achieving a full-cycled existence is, undeniably, a rewardingly gratifying bonus.

Centenarians (those who reached 100 years) and supercentenarians (those who have reached 110 years and beyond) are already cases of paucity these days. These stages of life are only achieved by about one in every one thousand elders especially so when the average life expectancy in the 20th century is 80 years… a dramatic increase considered as one of today’s society’s greatest achievements.

Being a centenarian with a fine state of mind despite experiencing occasional pains due to diminishing  physical state but (still) equipped with visually and audibly keen capabilities, Felisa Nillo Sansait was, indubitably, born propitious and blessed. Not all her contemporaries were able to hold the proverbial “eternal bliss’ in the palm of their hands… or at the least, having lived longer to effusively enjoy the glow of dawn or fondly watch the setting of the sun amid families before drawing their final breath.

The former devoted wife and hard-working mother, now tied down to the bondage of her wheelchair, still takes pleasure of greeting each morning with ferventness and bidding twilight with anticipation prior every restful bedtime. Daily subsistence might be hard and complicated and her limited mobility and difficulty of speech blighted any probable communication yet everything turns out well due to the incessant support of her children and with the aid of a caregiver.

In some instances when moments of idleness creeps in while her mom merely sits in silence and seems to envisage what lies beyond the horizon, Ramona, one of Felisa’s daughters, couldn’t help but reminisce the good old years of their youth back home in the Philippines. As Ramona fondly watches her mother, motionless and in serene mood, she feels petrified and speechless while her eyes are slowly blinded with tears… and merely allows vivid memories of yesteryears to profusely gush back.

Felisa was born on March 29, 1917 in Luna, La Union (Philippines). She was employed as a nanny in an American family in Manila…that developed her proficiency in English despite simply having finished grammar school. Fate had it that she would meet Ramon Sansait from Iloilo who was the family driver in the same household. They got married in 1937 following a brief and expedient courtship.

The couple’s stirring anticipation for a child almost crumbled after four years of not having one but instantly substituted with delight with the coming of their first-born in 1941who they christened Rodolfo. For the next two consecutive years Leticia (1942) and Teresita (1943) gave the couple triple bliss but only shortly for all three untimely perished within a month from the prevailing epidemic breakout of measles.

As if heaven and earth fell on the grieving couple with the devastating loss of their three children.

A year passed then Estrella came so timely that rekindled the dying ember within her parents’ hearts. The newborn served as a star that enlightened the couple’s course on re-starting a family. Scared that their fourth child might suffer the same doom, she offered a devotion to San Antonio de Padua and dressed Estrella in a brown dress with golden yellow rope-sash (patterned after the patron saint’s wardrobe) each time they would hear mass.

As if freed from the curse and off-the-hook from any negative premonition Felisa and Ramon were successively blessed with a child after another: Crispina (1946), Ramona (1948), Ramon, Jr. (1949), Ruben (1950), Artemio (1952), Leonora (1955), and Antonio (1958).

Typical of any Filipino family, the couple was driven to educate all their eight surviving children and defied every odd that would hinder their goal…even poverty. They wouldn’t allow their children to be impacted by their material insufficiency and deprive them of education.

Through untainted struggle and painstaking hard work their kids went to college although, unfortunately, some failed to finish or quit for inevitable reasons: Estrella took Commerce major in Banking and Finance, Crispina finished Accountancy (CPA), Ramona became a Medical Technologist, Ramon Jr. died young from polio, Ruben (a Criminology undergraduate) died at 55, Artemio (Journalism undergraduate but became Sales Manager of Toronto Sun newspaper), Leonora (a Nursing undergraduate) deceased on 2012), Antonio (a Nursing undergraduate) currently affiliated with Otis Elevator Company in Toronto, Canada.

It was Estrella who petitioned her mom to Montreal, Canada in 1974 after her father died and the latter petitioned Artemio and Antonio following her Canadian citizenship. Then Crispina, who was already a Jersey City resident, petitioned her mom in 1986.

Indefatigably assiduous and persevering, distance failed to thwart her mom’s decision to work in Atlantic City from 1988 to 1990 as a waitress in Tropicana Hotel’s fast food restaurant.

Things could have been smoothly going had it not for a fateful evening when a freak accident in the restaurant’s loading dock sent her into coma. Confined at the Neuro-ICU at Atlantic City Medical Center for a month and underwent extensive rehabilitation after recovery, Felisa was brought home under Estrella’s care.

She spent three years of completely nourishing back to health in Canada and flew back to Jersey City where she cared for her grandchildren whenever any of her children needed a babysitter. At times Atlantic City’s electrifying charm was hard to resist and she would enjoy playing or just relaxing pleasurably.

Just recently, Felisa, now in the sunset of her life and appears to be feeble and helpless but tries to cope up with her daily struggle, was tendered with a luncheon bash by her children at Hibachi’s Party Room at the Hudson Mall along Rt. 440 in Jersey City to commemorate her 100th birthday.

Attended by her five surviving children, twenty-four grandchildren, thirteen great grandchildren, family friends, and relatives, the centenarian celebration created a stirring ambience and family-oriented atmosphere that brought every guest to an accelerating ebullient mood alternating with melancholy feeling.

Felisa Nillo Sansait has unquestionably attained what she and her late husband had dreamt of for their children but the very essence of accomplishment hasn’t sink into her mortal being since old age has kept her emotions and senses numb… but for her family her main presence with them is more than enough to make living worthwhile despite life’s adversities and trials.

Photo credit: Dominic Senador

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