CONCEPCION Sanchez Villafuerte, Tia Conching to me and my sister although she was not really an aunt but a distant relative, was an amazing woman who lived an amazingly long life. She was my mother’s closest friend. But while my mother died at 59, Tia Conching lived to the over-ripe old age of 105, breathing her last only Thursday last week.
Except for a pace-maker implant, Tia Conching was otherwise as healthy as healthy can be. Her hearing and speech were perfect and she conversed normally with people. Her eyesight was undiminished with age and she watched her favorite TV programs regularly. With a steady hand, she wrote legibly to friends and relatives.
After her eldest daughter died, our dear Manang Lucy, my wife and I sort of kept an eye on how her women-companions (caregiver cum house-help) took care of her. (The lone surviving son, Vic, who lives abroad, could only manage a visit once or twice a year.) From our regular monthly visits, we got so used to seeing her eat well, sleep well and relate normally with others that her death actually came as a surprise. It came quietly in her sleep after an otherwise normal day.
The Villafuerte’s and the Carvajal’s were next door neighbors but were very close in more than the spatial sense of the word. So close that it was like the Villafuerte and Carvajal children had two fathers and two mothers.
My sister and I would remember her as an extremely industrious and loving disciplinarian of a mother and teacher. The Villafuerte children all became well-behaved and productive professionals from having a loving but uncompromisingly disciplinarian mother. Many of her former pupils in elementary school would also attribute part of their success to having Tia Conching for their strict but caring teacher.
Proud member of the Catholic Women’s League, Tia Conching was as Catholic as Catholic can be and went to Church regularly. Most amazing was her faith in Sto. Niño. Lately she told me how she got everything she asked from the little Child including (would you believe) getting rid of the mice that scurried in her room and deprived her of some good night’s rest. Having no reason to doubt her claim, I could only smile at the simplicity yet depth of that faith.
The same faith gave her strength of spirit not to be devastated by the tragedy of her long life which was to see first her youngest, Federico Jr., then her eldest, Lucy, depart from this world ahead of her.
Tia Conching’s mortal remains will be interred, Sunday, at Barili’s Catholic Cemetery after the 2 p.m. funeral Mass at Sta. Ana Parish Church. Eternal rest behooves this amazing woman who “fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith” for 105 years.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on May 05, 2017.
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