The active lives of 3 lockdown grandmas | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio (front right) with her aqua aerobics friends
Violy Tupas harvesting eggplants from her backyard

Maria Violeta “Violy” M. Tupas was the poster girl of a happy retiree—going on regular meetups with former school friends/fellow retirees, traveling, spending time with her grandkids—when COVID put a sudden halt to her bustling social life.

“No more malling, no more free movies at the mall, no more buffets! And no more visits with my apos, because however much I miss them, I don’t want to be the cause of anybody getting sick,” she says wryly via video chat. She got fully vaccinated in July.

“But I’m still thankful,” adds the former educator, who retired in 2016. “I learned new things! I discovered video chat, group chat, Facebook. Now I have scheduled chats with my friends from elementary, high school and college—all around the world!”

The bubbly 69-year-old adds, “This is what my daily life is now: Twice a day, I inspect my plants, I talk to them, repot them. I picked up gardening when my eldest daughter gave me big plants to keep me occupied. I never had time to do gardening before. Then I go on my scheduled chats. Tapos kumakanta na ako mag-isa,” she says of her videoke hobby.

She also started working out with her youngest daughter who lives with her. Her son bought her an exercise machine “for seniors.”

“Do I feel isolated being cooped up at home? OK lang. I don’t feel that way. If you want to get sick, go ahead and leave the house! I love my life! There’s so much you can do at home,” she says with a laugh.

Like anyone, she felt saddened in the beginning. She had travels scheduled with her children, a bonding activity she always looked forward to, and they had to be canceled.

“I miss my three grandkids the most. We’ve had dinner together only once in almost two years now. Tiis na lang. We don’t want anyone getting sick.”

‘Lola plantita’

Dr. Ma. Antonia “Mary Ann” M. Vialu, 75, is another retiree who has chosen to channel her energies to gardening. She’s continuing what her husband, who died of non-COVID-related illness at the beginning of the pandemic, loved to do, she says.

“I’ve become a lola plantita,” says the former college educator with a laugh, adding that she’s tending to mayanas and her late husband’s hibiscus and orchids.

“This period brought me closer to God and family. I make sure to attend an online Mass first thing in the morning.”

Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio (front right) with her aqua aerobics friends

Vialu is fortunate that her daughter’s family lives with her, so she gets to spend time with her younger grandchildren.

“I’m so happy to be with my 4-year-old grandson. We were living in the States when his (now teen) brothers were little, so I didn’t get to see them grow up … With the older boys, we bond in the kitchen. I’m back to baking,” she adds.

“It helps a lot to have the boys around. If not for them, I’d be living alone! I teach them chores, because their mom is busy … The good thing is, we get to eat lunch and dinner together, pray together.” She also cherishes the video chats with her two sons.

Twice a month, she’s happy to sit as a panelist for online thesis consultations or defense of MBA candidates in the university she used to work at. “To keep the mind active,” she says.

“The kids don’t want me to watch the news because it’s stressful.” When she got fully vaccinated, they would take her on car rides. “We just drive around and stay in the car, buy takeout, so I don’t feel boxed in just staying at home … After my nap, I garden in the afternoon or work out at the boys’ home gym.”

What she misses are the breakfast get-togethers with her husband and siblings, which they used to do a few times a week. Now they just send each other food—“ayuda”—on special occasions.

“The kids planned a big trip for our golden wedding anniversary this year. But it wasn’t meant to be. No point in dwelling on that. I still have so many things to be grateful for,” she says.

Aqua aerobics and reading sessions

By 8 a.m. three times a week, one would find retired restaurateur-hotelier and author Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio wading in a pool in a gated village 15 minutes from where she lives.

“These lockdown days have not quite fazed me as I’ve continued doing my usual aqua aerobics,” she says. “We five senior ladies skip, jump and run in the pool under the morning sun. As I do not want to get too dark or sunburned, I slather sunblock on my arms and legs, as well as on my face.”

She adds, “Of course I wear a wide-brimmed hat like my aqua friends in order to preserve my ‘kutis porselana.’ My BFF in UP (University of the Philippines) once said that porselana is what orinolas are made of.”

Mary Ann Vialu keeps active in the home gym.

Their morning sessions are hosted by restaurateur Annabel Santos Wisniewski, “who always serves scrumptious breakfasts after we’ve showered. The other day we had ube champorado and curly dilis. She usually serves sinangag with longganisa, pork tocino or beef tapa.”On Thursdays, Panlilio joins other senior ladies “who are readers like myself in a session with our reading guru, Maribel G. Ongpin.”

Panlilio took an early retirement from their family business of hotels and restaurants at age 59. She decided to go back to UP, where she had graduated 35 years earlier with a degree in Home Economics.

“I enrolled in an MA course in English, major in Creative Writing, and laughed when a young classmate started to call me ‘Ma’am.’ I then decided to get a blepharoplasty to remove my eye bags, and would assiduously apply Roc Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer on my face in the morning.”

Netflix has become a pandemic pastime “with lots of interesting K-dramas like ‘Crash Landing on You,’” she says. “As I’ve gotten tired of reading the translations, I’ve moved on to English-language ones like ‘Designated Survivor,’ ‘Madam Secretary’ and ‘Queen’s Gambit.’ As I speak Spanish, I am currently enjoying a series titled ‘Velvet.’”

She joins daughter Nicole and granddaughter Kendra for dinner nightly, “when I tell them how I’ve kept myself out of mischief during the day.” INQ

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