AT 101 years of age, Dr. Luz Gacula is still amazingly mentally sharp, remembering with accuracy dates of events that took place 80 or so years ago. She spoke to the BusinessMirror in impeccable English.
Despite her longevity, her beauty and charm is evident, reflected, she said, in her daughter Grace, married to Ilocos Sur Cong. Eric Singson.
“Doctora” Gacula currently holds the distinction of being the oldest living alumna of the University of the Philippines’s (UP) College of Medicine.
The former Luz de Guzman of Bacoor, Cavite, became the wife of Ricardo Gacula, a doctor-turned-politician who took her home to Candon, Ilocos Sur after both graduated from the UP College of Medicine. She was an anesthesiologist, while her husband was a surgeon.
The husband-and-wife team raised two sons—George who became a doctor and Geoffrey, a lawyer—and two daughters, Grace and Glory. Grace graduated magna cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas College of Pharmacy, while Glory received a Medical Technology degree, also from UST. Their four children gave them 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
From 1938 to 1993, Doctor Ricardo and Doctora Luz ran the Candon-based Gacula Clinic where new doctors and other medical practitioners had their hands-on start in actual surgical procedures and treating patients. Even their first-born, George, a graduate of the Far Eastern University College of Medicine, practiced in his parents’ clinic.
Doctor Ricardo became a guerrilla leader when the Japanese invaded the Philippines during World War II. He was forced to go into hiding and, during several close shaves, was saved by townmates and patients who did not identify him to the invaders.
Doctora Luz also had to move several times in a caretela and by boat to escape Japanese forces looking for her husband. In one incident, the boatman ferrying her and her year-old son George asked her to pray for God’s mercy as huge waves were rocking their boat that was in danger of capsizing.
She prayed that she was returning the life God gave her and, in return, begged God to spare her son. Today, she marvels that she is still alive, “guarded by God until now.”
She said meeting her husband again after several weeks on her birthday was a very lucky day for her. She said she prayed and cried incessantly for him. “The uncertainty of not knowing if he was alive or dead was unbearable.”
She said she did not want to be married to a politician and became a doctor when two friends convinced her to study medicine with them. She wanted to be a pharmacist and resisted her father’s wish for her to become a lawyer.
Throughout the years, the Gacula house became a refuge for their indigent patients and a welcome stopover for friends who belonged to the who’s who in Philippine high society and politics: The family of Presidents Elpidio Quirino, Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos and Sen. Lorenzo Tañada were regular visitors.
“Apo Lakay” (The Grand Old Man) passed away in September 1998 at the age of 92.
Doctora Luz takes COQ10, drinks Melatonin at night, and loves Nestle chocolates and Hershey Kisses. She favors chicken, squash, sayote, carrots and kangkong.
She has chronic arthritis and suffers from insomnia, but she never had vices.
“There is no room in my life for alcohol and cigarettes,” she said.
When asked how long she wants to live, the doctor said she wants to see Reese Lagunilla, a grandson of her late daughter Glory, to graduate from college. The young man is now in second-year high school.