V The Rising: Resillience Against All Odds

In my old age, as I became sickly from the winter colds of New York, I decided to go home to the Philippines and pick up my relationship with my family and play again in the comfort of a native homeland. Though there was a part of me reluctant, I was excited to leave for good. Endless good-byes with friends, and from the Iglesia I called family, envelopes of tokens and gifts, hugs and kisses, waves of farewell, endless ringing of my cell phone, I will never forget as my heart got numb from the warmth of everybody’s sincere wishes and concerns. I closed my eyes to sentiments but hoped for a new life. The year was 2017. My excitement was quenched as life went fast by me. A lot have changed in a lot of ways. I was home but not at home. I’m starting to feel the pain, so that I decided to return to America as my refuge and never to come back ever.


I never cried over failure and loss, I always moved on to the next. Always waiting for what is God’s next plan for me. This makes me excited all the time because it makes me hopeful and challenged but ready for surprises. In the summer of 2019, The Philippine Community Center Services for Aging (PCCSA) made me a Chairman of the Board. They named the Home Living Program after me, and I was actively in charge of the Irene Lumbrera Home Living. With improved housing and living conditions, my health got better, too.


Inching from a negative balance as I came back to New York, my bank is getting filled again as I made a trip to the bank every month, with Myrna driving me as I dressed up with all my fancy jewels and sunshades, hiding my cane in a disguise of a beautiful umbrella, a beautiful matching hat for a well-dressed rich and famous look, I have no job, but I am provided for. I have a room for myself on a corner brick house, I have somebody taking care of me around the clock from my public trust and friends, enjoying my food stamps for a dinner of grilled pompano and Cabot cheese spread on my toast for breakfast. With some city housing aid, do I need any more? This is my American dream for now, and I can only wish that our vision for services to the aging seniors will come to fruition, so help us God. ~Irene Moraga Lumbrera


Homeless Bound

I know how it feels to be homeless because I was there so many times before. But I always survived and able to provide shelter for myself. I remembered when I needed a home after Juaning left me. There was a homesite in Quezon City for government employees who has ability to pay. I was neither a government employee, nor without income and ability to pay, but nevertheless needed a shelter. I went to see the Director begging, to no avail. One day, while I was in the Central, there was a Judge, also a member of Iglesia who comes regularly to the Central, as I was always there helping. I talked to him and was able to bring him with me to the homesite to speak to the director. Although The Director is my cousin from Bulacan, he doesn’t know me because I was young then. He only knew my brothers. Nevertheless, I cannot be accepted because, I did not fit with all the requirements for the award. Then the Judge told the Director, “And where do you want this young woman to go, to the streets? She is homeless and abandoned!” Then that’s the end of the discussion, the Director signed my papers, and I walked with wings in my feet while the residents were all looking at me. I could hear their buzz of whispers to each other but I can only feel the beat of my heart in excitement.


While I lost a home when I became an Iglesia, I gained them all and much bigger, in the community as the Church of Christ. I have never felt so proud to belong in this family. When I went home to the Philippines to retire, I was feeling that there is something not right or perhaps I was missing New York already. After a month, I can no longer take the misery of living with my daughter-in-law so I asked my son to get me a plane ticket back to New York. Then I met my friends Ludy and Myrna again. In a period of a year, I have lived in so many places courtesy of The Nursing Office. I lived in the basement, I slept in the sala, (living room), I lived anywhere they can squeeze my bed. I was always sick as a result. My Primary Doctor Sherwin Batoon took care of me, anytime, day and night. His nurses took an extra mile to help me, or how could I survive my chronic problem, I am always coughing and short of breath, or I will forever be in the hospital and to the nursing home. To all specialists I was sent, but they cannot find anything. I have never smoked but could have inhaled so much from the streets of the Big Apple, the city that I call home. Could it be from the volcanic ashes of Taal as it erupted in the sixties when I served the victims food and water? Or the smell of dye from my textile business? As I always had, I have learned to live with what I have. From my background of Medicine with Juaning, I always survived my episodes, longer and longer, I stayed homebound, without going to the hospital again. Like a cat, my life comes back, like a rubber ball, I bounce back. I even asked the Father, if He can take me “home” already, but I guess, He is not done with His plans for me yet. I do not wonder, but I trust in Him, eager for a surprise each day! ~Irene Moraga Lumbrera


Advocacy for Aging and Against Homelessness

While it is not my choice to be still alive at ninety-four, I have asked God before, in my near death and now in my sick bed, I know that there is still something for me. While I have my needs provided for, there are numerous aging people out there, with all the miseries of being alone and isolated, sick, and frail, scammed and taken advantaged of their lifetime earnings, robbed off their dignity, abused and uncared for, The Philippine Community Center Services for Aging is giving back and making a difference in the lives of seniors and elderly persons by "Preparing and Enjoying the Golden Years." This advocacy has given me deeper meaning in my life, far beyond the personal satisfactions I have already experienced and achieved.  Indeed, the best and most satisfying life is serving those who are truly in need. The ultimate dream and mission is for it to become an "enduring" institution to serve one of the most forgotten sectors of the Filipino American community, the seniors. My personal experiences with my Impos and Ingkongs and my own aging and homelessness make me a perfect advocate for them. ~ Irene Moraga Lumbrera


Evidence Based Testimonial on Marijuana

As Irene gets older, her bones and joints are deteriorating and compromised, making her almost bed ridden. I cannot feel the pain, but when she walks and I hear her joints clicking, I’m admiring her more for every step she takes as graciously accepting her fate. Like a brave, good child, she quietly takes her pain. She already takes the end of the line non-narcotic pain medicine, and now hinting me to try something more. She remembered an old hunchbacked woman she met long time ago who lives by the Kapilya in Calaca. Every morning, she boils some leaves from her plant. One day the Central issued a directive to kill all marijuanas to stop addiction and other drug related narcotics. They searched for Marijuana in every garden. When she saw the old woman’s plant, she took a sample and showed it to the church administration. Surely, it was marijuana! Her whole family got mad, after the plant was killed. It was the marijuana she drinks every morning and night that keeps her going, pain free and makes her sleep like a baby all night. Irene wants to try it now and see for herself.

~Myrna D. Santos


Sweet Homecoming 

At ninety-four years old, I have no more fear of anything, more so of death. While the reality of the virus pandemic was everywhere, I have surrendered my destiny to God’s Will. I have painted the greatest mural of my life, with all my dreams and life’s works.  I have mastered my body; I have prepared my soul. I know what to do and I am happily waiting. I will meet God, my Father, with all the grandeur of the Promised Paradise, that no words can justly describe but “Heaven”. I was blessed with good memory, my marbles shiny, intact as ever. My niece, Nita who is fond of me, asked me to write the Family Tree. I only know one way to do it. I will integrate the stories here and add more color to the pages of this book, my public wall. I can only be as accurate from the first and second generations, knowing the family either by their names or a brief description of them. I have started this book as a family legacy and heirloom for the future generations to cherish and be proud of as they continue their search for a meaning why there is so much to know of this life so full of memories and treasures over the past century. Then my life is well accomplished. Like my Ingkong, I will ask my ward to give me a bath and put on my dress to prepare me for the journey when my soul takes that last glimpse on the world where I lived, to go to the next, where there is eternal peace.


I will transform while in my deep sleep dreaming of my garden with all the flowers in bloom as the gate opens with all my loved ones in joyous reunion; Boyet, happily waiting for me by the gate, and hand in hand he will guide me to the paradise I have always longed for; the woman with the long hair side by side with the man wearing a buli hat, who is my mother with my father and all my ten siblings, Guillermo, Mario, Emerenciana, Juana, Pedro, Florencia, Socorro, Flaviano, Roberto; my Inkong Igmidio, Impong Polin, Impong Tuding, Impong Martina, Inkong Victor, Juaning, Ka Felix, Dr. Leviste, the rural doctor, Mrs. Lopez, my friends, and my dogs I enjoyed so much, sixty in all. Until then, Life is sweet to be enjoyed with my family and friends. Near or far, it is just the same, it does not matter, but the attachment of a common bond of love, respect and caring, in words, in thoughts, good and happy memories indeed, without regrets. To me, I am home at last, until we all will meet again! I can only pray for Imelda. I hope to see her there as well. Carmen, my niece and first born of Juana, was beautiful as a child and very intelligent. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of the East, of more than a thousand graduates. She came to the US and worked in the United States Internal Revenue Service in Connecticut. We grew up together, I helped Juana to take care of her. We have differences because Juana always favored her. I got to kneel on a bed of salt and beans. How can I forget as she threw me out from her car in the middle of the highway in a busy New York?  I was soaking wet from the rain as I walked to the nearest bus stop. I can understand why she did not get marry, nor with nobody of her fifteen siblings close to her, either. She finally left New York to retire in the Philipines, she came to visit me and that was the last summer, she has succumb to age and sickness, her end after less than a year. 


While I am the last living child of Isko and Antonina, I am the last matriarchal great grandmother of Karvin and Kali, the children of my grandson Paulo and Katherine; Princely I, became a nurse and married Glecery "Glessy” Templo, on that year when I was supposed to retire in Lipa in 2017. They have two children now, Pimi and Primo.  I have walked with God and have earned heaven and exalted with the honor of sitting by the “kabisera”, which is a reserved seat for respect, and honor, especially for the main guest or head of the family. There I will remember Juana and her fifteen children she has loved all the days of her life since she was seventeen, Carmen, Virgilio, Iluminada, Angelina, Eduardo, Juanita, who came to America as exchange scholar, Pedro Jr., Monchee, Lenny and Ching who were like twins as they were always together; Doroteo, Margarito, Corazon, Nonong and Chona, the youngest, who died in her teens. The latest family guests who have traced my whereabouts this year, is my niece Chona Claus from Texas whom I have never seen since she was a baby. It is a pleasure to meet her family here in New York. I hope I did not miss anyone. To the sixth and future generations of this family, I may not have the chance to meet you all, but I surely heard your names, your stories and how beautiful you are in your own special ways. I leave you a piece of me, my heart that will always love you. May you all take pride in this heirloom, in honor of your legacy, the Moraga & Lumbrera heritages. ~Irene Moraga Lumbrera



Ludy, Myrna, Connie and Jimmy celebrate my 89th birthday
Irene Lumbrera at 94 years old with Philippine Community Center Services for Aging Executive Director, Dr. Francia DeVera (April,2023)