Five generations of Igitol celebrate matriarch’s birthday
At 100 years old today, Ana Lian Igitol has got to be the oldest person—or at least among the oldest—in the CNMI right now, her family said at her birthday party yesterday in Koblerville that also became a community celebration of family, love, and culture.
“We are very blessed with the outpouring of love. God willing, we will be celebrating her 101st birthday and so on. I think it is love and hard work that she’s still here to celebrate her 100th birthday with us. Right now, we believe she’s the oldest person in the CNMI,” her oldest son Pedro “Pete” Juarez Lian Igitol, 77, told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
Born on March 3, 1914, Ana L. Igitol has 14 children but only six remain today. She has 17 grandchildren, 34 great grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren.
She is fondly called “Na, Nan Nena or Na Lanchu,” and is currently living with her youngest daughter Rosa L. Igitol and her family in Koblerville, where the birthday celebration was held yesterday. The family takes turns caring for the Igitol matriarch.
Families and friends from the CNMI, Guam, and other Micronesian islands and U.S. mainland came to celebrate the centenarian birthday, with stories about family life and friendship, food, cultural dances and even card tricks for adults and children.
Pete Igitol said his mother lived an active lifestyle and it could be the key to living at least a century.
“I think for one to reach 100, you have to live a good life, look at what you eat, slow down on alcohol and lots of love for your family and other people. It could also be in the genes. Many of our relatives passed on in their 90s,” Pete Igitol, a board member of Hafa Adai Beach Hotel, said.
U.S. Army SPC Ivan Igitol, one of the grandchildren, said even when he was in Aghanistan, he was hoping that he’d see his grandmother turn 100. And he did.
“I’m very happy. She’s a strong woman,” he said. Ivan and her daughter SPC Britney Igitol were among the 16 CNMI soldiers who returned from their Afghanistan deployment in January. Some of the soldiers they served with in Afghanistan flew in from Guam to join their family’s celebration of the Igitol matriarch’s 100th birthday yesterday.
Ivan Igitol also believes that his grandmother’s lifestyle and values helped her reach 100 years old.
“She had been farming and fishing with my grandfather. She had an active lifestyle. Before there were corned beef and Spam, they lived with what they can fish and grow in the farm like banana, corn, sweet potato, coconut. No processed food,” Ivan Igitol said.
Ivan Igitol’s wife, Marie Salas-Igitol, said Ana Lian Igitol “is an inspiration to all of us and to many.” Marie is the CNMI Family Readiness Support Group coordinator for the Guam Army National Guard.
Ivan and Marie Igitol said just a few nights ago, they asked their grandmother to sing a song.
“And she hummed a song. There were no words, but there’s humming. She can still make out the tune. Her hearing is still okay,” Ivan Igitol said.
Na or Nan Nena lived through World War II and other periods in CNMI history. She married her husband Pablo on Oct. 12, 1935, in Nuestra Senora Bithen Delos Remedios in Tanapag. When they got married, she was 5 feet and 1 inch tall, while he was a 6-footer.
“She was a feisty—lively, spirited, energetic, aggressive and go-getter woman whom Ta deeply cherished and loved. Besides being a great wife, mother and cook, Na’s trade occupation was a baker. She was truly an avid baker known for her home-made bread, browas (chiffon cakes), rosku, cookies and cakes which the [children] benefited [from], if they happened to be at the farm helping with the baking,” her family said in a tribute to her.
The family said their Na and Ta were known and seen everywhere as the “loving couple who drove and went to social and church celebrations together, but most especially to baseball games and campaigns.”
Ana Lian Igitol’s husband Pablo passed away on March 31, 1998, at the age of 85. She was 82 at the time.
Rosa Igitol, their youngest child, paid tribute to their mother by saying, “Na is love, Na is warmth, Na is respect, Na is faithful and Na is God-sent. I love her with all my heart and soul.”
Of Na and Ta’s 14 children, the only six remaining are Pedro “Pete,” David, Delfina, Martin, Leonisa, and Rosa.
In the CNMI, the last known oldest person got to live 97 years and passed away in March 2011. This makes Ana Lian Igitol the oldest living person in the CNMI, as far as her family and friends know.
“It’s rare to celebrate somebody’s 100th birthday so the family is thankful and feel blessed,” Pete Igitol added.