Winnipegger Mercedes Calixterio celebrated her 100th year last September 24, 2019 at the Hilton Hotel with the loving presence of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, some siblings, relatives and friends.
And it was a grand salvo feted for a mother queen, Mercedes or “Inang” to her family, a former teacher after the 2nd World War, was the centre of the celebration. A special thanksgiving mass officiated by Rev. Fr. Darrin J.G.Gurr, Pastor at St. Gianna Beretta Molla Roman Catholic Church and followed by the warm-hearted birthday greetings from her loved ones as they offered the 100 beautiful red roses to her and picture taking with the greeters. Added to the excitements was the blowing of the birthday cake by the centenarian who was beaming with smiles, gladly responding to all.
Mercedes also received greetings from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Governor General Julie Payette, Manitoba Premiere Brian Pallister and Manitoba Lt. Governor Janice Filmon.
Mercedes, who was born on September 24, 1919, had a humble beginning as she started teaching after she finished her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at the National Teachers’ College in 1949, to support their twelve children. Her teaching career started in the rural areas and had experienced hardship for during that time, transportation was not available. She had to walk and climbed the mountain terrains and passing streams, just to arrive to her teaching post with the Itneg tribe living in the mountain. Mercedes juggled her time as a teacher and as an owner of a small scale business just to support the growing family.
During the second World War, both the husband and wife saw the ravages of war and had helped the Filipino soldiers by providing them food, clothing and doing laundry and other necessary needs. For their acts of valour during the war, the husband and wife became members of the Philippine Veterans Association. Mercedes’ services to the war was recognized by the US government.
In 1986, Trifona C. Bermisa, one of the 12 children, sponsored her parents Marcelo and Mercedes to Winnipeg and had helped prepare some food at the two nursing homes owned by the Bermisa family. Marcelo died at the age of 88 on December 2013, here in Winnipeg.
“Today is a very special occasion for all of us, celebrating my mother’s 100 years, living to a hundred years is a blessing and we are fortunate enough to be with her. And I would like to thank everybody especially Fr. Darrin Gurr, for all the spiritual support given to us; to all my friends who helped me prepare for this occasion and to all her children, 21 grandchildren and 26 greatgrandchildren, our relatives who joined to celebrate our Inang,our mother who is a woman of resiliency, full of wisdom and strong faith in God,” Trifona C. Bermisa said with a smile.
Arnold Tongol and Paul Ong, local multi-talented balladeers, honored Inang with songs of love and admiration. And a special performance by the St. Gianna’s Mob Dance Group.
Dancing followed to delight of the celebrant, Mercedes Cacatian Calixterio, who has the legacy of children, fellowmen and God who is blessed with many fruitful 100 years!
Photos by Gerladine Ong