LAVESAREZ – He has been living most of his years by the sea, so when his children and grandchildren offered to relocate him, he chose to stay.
Antonio Balag, a 106-year-old fisherman who lives in a nipa hut in Burubalading Island, Lavesarez town, Northern Samar, believes that the sea helped him live longer, calling it is his medicine.
“Medyo nakaginhawa ako kun nalilipongan ako san ulo, hiruhigda ak sa baybay, nagtahob ako san tuna (Whenever I feel dizzy, I would lie by the sea or bury half of my body in the sand. I feel better each time),” he said.
But he admitted that healthy living might also have helped him live a long life.
“An paghirot san aton lawas, mayor mente an pagkaon. Waray ak siton ng mga pagsigarilyo, mga pag-inom. Nainom inom ako, tala la nga ma-alcoholan an lawas ko (I took care of my body by eating healthy. I didn’t smoke and would rarely drink alcoholic beverages),” he said.
Though his eyesight is slowly succumbing to old age, he can still stitch his fish net. His hearing is still good and he enjoys conversations with family and friends.
Because his knees have gone weaker than before, he has already stopped sailing out to sea to catch fish. But he still wades into the water from time to time to check on his fish pens. He has trusted helpers who helps maintain his fish pens. They live in another nipa hut in the island, his only neighbors.
Aside from the little income from his fish nets, Balag also raises chickens in his yard and also plants root crops like cassava in a nearby farm.
While he receives a monthly social pension of P500 pesos from the government, he also hopes to receive its monetary gift for centenarians.
The town's Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer (MSWDO) is willing to assist Balag, but either the fisherman or his family has to go to the office to present necessary documents.
“Pumunta lang dito, wala kaming problema. Basta kumpletuhin yung papers, i-assist namin sila,” said Mesalina Dulfo, the town’s MSWDO.
Dulfo said her office received information from Balag's grandchildren that the old man does not have a birth certificate. But this would not be a problem as her office can help him file for late registration.
Under the Centenarian Act of 2016, senior citizens who reach 100 years old and above are entitled to receive P100,000 from the government.