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Virgie Moreno in times of war and love



Virgie Moreno was the first executive director of the UP Film Center.

(Last of two parts)

In the parties that Virgie Moreno hosted at their family residence, I enjoyed poetry readings, opera and singing, as though we were characters in an old movie. Members of the diplomatic communities were often invited.

She would also invite media people. Eventually, I would get invited, too. Or, if I was in the vicinity, I would drop by and say hello, and we would have snacks together, which would stretch to dinner.

Conversations revolved around their experiences during the Second World War, like how the whole family would hide in their basement during bombings and she would bring boiled camote and a drink, a flashlight and something to read: a dictionary! She said she must have memorized at least the first 10 pages of the dictionary.

One remarkable story was how she saved her family from death. She courageously welcomed the Japanese officer alone while the whole family was hiding. In her Sunday dress with shoes and socks, her long hair tied, she offered and served the Japanese officer canned peaches with shaved ice, and while the officer was eating, she played the piano, her hands shaking. That was Virgie playing hostess reluctantly to an enemy.

She also vividly remembered her first trip abroad to the US as a scholar on a ship at age 22, and how she vomited continuously. The sailor who had been assigned to assist her never left her side, and eventually became her boyfriend.

Of course, she talks with hatred about her enemies, too!

When she left home for an event, she went straight to the car with her old-style beaded purple house slippers from Liliw, Laguna (she has an old supplier who would bring the slippers together with her favorite sampalok) and changed into her shoes before alighting the car. The biggest problem was, sometimes she would forget to change and would go down and walk straight to the event in slippers.

On 24 April, Virgie reached an age not far from when she would be receiving P100,000 from the government. It is not her age that matters, though, although reaching this far is a feat in itself.

More important is how she continues to use her faculties. She can still climb the stairs up and down unassisted. She can eat and drink anything she likes! Unlike people her age (if they are still alive), she has no maintenance medications.

For her, there was never a need to count calories: during a meal, she talks a lot and is so animated by her stories that, in the end, she had eaten only about three tablespoons of food. Now you know why she has never, ever gained weight. She would have complete meals, however, from breakfast to dinner with two snacks in between.

Also, a lot of people do not know that she does not drink water. Instead, she takes either pure fruit juice, usually orange or buko juice, or coffee, chocolate or wine or beer. She loves taho in the morning, but only if a magtataho passes by.

And just as the Moreno family does not buy mass-produced chickens, Virgie is also particular with personal care and never uses commercial shampoo. Instead, she applies gugo with calamansi on her hair.

Her secrets to long life are simple. Foremost is taking in natural food with the right nutrients — just enough and not excessive. Food has to be enjoyed and one should not miss regular meals. Keeping oneself and one’s mind busy is another must.

And, taking after Virgie’s example, curse your enemies with gusto when they are not around, and make that only once in a while.