Lee Cataluna: Family grieves end of remarkably long life
Elena Montero, 83, isn’t sure she’ll be able to get through the eulogy for her mother’s memorial service. Her mother, Margarita Agullana Tabag, died Jan. 7 at age 108.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
Elena Montero, 83, isn’t sure she’ll be able to get through the eulogy for her mother’s memorial service. Her mother, Margarita Agullana Tabag, died Jan. 7 at age 108. “I thought I was prepared for this, but you’re never really prepared,” Montero said.
Tabag was born July 12, 1911, so really, she was 108-1/2. Her life was not only remarkably long, but, by her own measure, it was incredibly successful. “What was important to her was family, solidarity, education, no matter what,” Montero said. Tabag raised four children by herself in a rural area of the Philippines while her husband went abroad to work and sent home money to support them. She made sure all her children went to college. Their children went to college. There are now more than three dozen of her descendants, and many of them have gone to college or know it is expected of them. Tabag went to school though the sixth grade.
“She was a very strong-willed woman,” Montero said.
Tabag’s husband, Francisco Agullana, left to work in Guam and later Hawaii. The goal was to reunite the family someday, but that was not to be. At 53, Agullana died of a massive heart attack. Tabag and their children came to Hawaii in 1963 to attend his funeral. They stayed to start new lives.
They settled in Kalihi, and Tabag got a job in an industrial laundry, doing grueling work for long hours. She eventually remarried, and three of her children moved to the mainland to start careers and families. After her second husband died, Tabag went to live with her son Jessie in California, but she always asked to come home to Hawaii. When Jessie died, Tabag moved back to the islands.
Even up until a few months ago, Tabag was alert, conversant and prone to break into song as though there was so much of life that merited singing.
She lived in a home in Ewa Beach run by Aurora Alejandro, a caregiver who became like another daughter to Tabag. Even after Alejandro developed health concerns of her own, she promised Tabag she’d take care of her until the end, no matter what, making her favorite sweet rice for breakfast and shaking out all of her clothing before dressing her — an old custom Tabag held onto from her childhood days when she had to make sure there were no bugs hiding in the folds of her dresses.
Tabag is survived by daughters Elena Montero and Tessie Freer, son Eddie Agullana, 11 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren. In order to keep all the descendants straight, the family has to draw a diagram. “She was very productive,” Montero said. Services will be held Jan. 28 at Valley of the Temples starting at 9:30 a.m. for family and 10:30 a.m. for friends.
Montero is trying to write a eulogy for her mother, but it always comes back to the same theme: Everything she did was for her family. “Hers was a life of sacrifice for us,” Montero said.