Felicisima Quiason is 90 years old. The matriarch of the Quiason family in Kansas City, Missouri, grandchildren and friends from out of town came to celebrate the momentous occasion at the home of Drs. Stella Quiason and Charles Smith where Felicisima also resides. As she jokingly made a wish for a 100th birthday, we all made a sincere wish for the same. For Grandma, as we all call her, is the one guiding force in all our lives, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, in laws and friends alike. We draw from her values, her strength and especially her wisdom.
At 90, Grandma reads the newspaper in its entirety. She keeps up with current events and the political scene. She has her own opinions about the world, chooses her own candidates carefully, and on election day, votes her conscience, unswayed by pressure from her children who usually vote for the opposing party.
Born and raised in Dinagat Island of Surigao in the Philippines, Grandma learned the value of hard work and perseverance. She became a school teacher and had a long career in teaching Math both in the Philippines and in Kansas City. It was a given that her children and later, her grandchildren, learn the four fundamentals of Arithmetic and compute in their heads without electronic aid. As she sacrificed to send her children to college, she also expected perseverance, determination and over achievement from her children. She stopped at nothing to make sure that all eight children became professionals. The story is told over and over about how her firstborn, Felix, (my husband) had been truant in dental school (dental school, mind you) and Grandma camped out at the University of the East Dental College to be sure that Felix stayed in class. What mother would have the courage and determination to do that? Felix did graduate from dentistry, went on to earn two postgraduate degrees and later spent the last years of his life teaching dentistry. Her children became dentists, physicians, nurse and accountants.
We laugh when she admonishes grandson Jacob for coming home with an A instead of his usual A+. And was she all smiles when Jacob surprised her by flying home from Stanford University just to be with her for that one day. Grandma sees talent as a gift that should not be squandered and encourages all to be the best that they can be in whatever path they choose.
Granddaughters quickly learn that their beaus must pass muster with Grandma who grades them on how respectful they are, how they value the granddaughter, their sense of responsibility and accountability and their family values. Grandma has not made an error in judgment yet as all the married granddaughters chose wonderful husbands and fathers.
Grandma taught her children the value of money, not so much as a means to luxury but as a way to give back to God and the less fortunate. So it is a family tradition on Christmas Day, along with the extravagant toys the great grandchildren get, a collection is taken up for less fortunate relatives in the Philippines. To this end, children and grandchildren all support their individual charitable causes by giving time, talent or treasure.
One of Grandma's many legacies is making the right choice. She is known for the term, "Paghunong" a Visayan word for "Watch out" or "Stop and think." She reminds everyone to stop and think and we have internalized this as the watch word for our choices.
Video by Vic Quiason
Felicisima Quiason is 90 years old. While few in her generation lay claim to this, it is not her best accomplishment. Her best achievement is in raising men and women of integrity, industry and compassion who in turn raise children with the same values. With the ripple effect, her circle of influence widens even more, love grows and touches this piece of the world.