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Petra Lukingan: From Prison Bars to Triumph - An Igorot Centenarian's Story of Resilience

Discover the inspiring journey of Igorot centenarian Petra Lukingan, Mandaluyong's oldest inmate, triumphing over adversity with resilience.

 |  4 min read

Petra Lukingan, Mandaluyong prison's oldest inmate and Igorot centenarian, inspires with her story of triumph over adversity.

The Remarkable Journey of Lola Petra Lukingan

Petra Lukingan, fondly called "Lola Petra" by those who know her best, embodies the extraordinary resilience that can emerge from the depths of adversity. From her humble beginnings in the rural town of Data, Sabangan, Mountain Province, to being celebrated as a centenarian by the Baguio City Council, her story is one of unwavering determination, enduring love, and ultimate triumph.

Early Life and Hardships

Born on January 24, 1924, Lola Petra entered the world amidst the rugged landscapes of the Philippine countryside. Raised in a family of farmers, she learned the value of hard work and perseverance from a young age. However, financial constraints prevented her from pursuing formal education beyond Grade 1. Instead of books and classrooms, Lola Petra found herself in the fields, toiling alongside her family to make ends meet.

Lola Petra, the resilient centenarian, smiles brightly in Baguio City after her release from prison. Photo by Kara David

Family and Love

In 1948, Lola Petra's life took a turn when she crossed paths with Leoncio, the man who would become the love of her life. Despite the challenges posed by his military service during the Korean War, she remained steadfast in her devotion, supporting her husband and raising their four children-Henry, Harry, Manuel, and Novel-with unwavering love and dedication.

Tragic Losses

Throughout her life, Lola Petra faced more than her fair share of heartbreak and loss. In 1983, tragedy struck when her eldest son, Henry, fell victim to an ambush while serving in the military. The pain of losing a child shook her to her core, but she found the strength to carry on, drawing solace from the memories of happier times. Yet, fate dealt another cruel blow in 2003 with the passing of her beloved husband, Leoncio. Despite the crushing weight of grief, Lola Petra refused to be broken, finding solace in the love and support of her remaining family members.

Despite her advanced age, Lola Petra's indomitable spirit faced its toughest test yet in 2012 when she was charged and convicted of falsification of public documents. At the age of 88, she found herself behind bars, becoming the oldest prisoner at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong. Despite the injustice of her situation, she refused to be defined by her circumstances, maintaining her dignity and resilience even in the face of adversity.

Lola Petra's story gained international recognition when it was featured on the Philippines' longest-running documentary, "I-Witness." In the award-winning documentary "Dorm 12" by Kara David, the heart-wrenching situation of aging inmates at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City was highlighted. Among them was Petra Lukingan, or "Lola Petra," the oldest inmate in the correctional at the time. Despite being unable to read and write, she was convicted due to four counts of falsification of public documents. After the documentary aired, the winds shifted for Lola Petra. Kara David personally visited her at the correctional, presenting her with a rosary blessed by the Pope himself, following David's Papal Coverage.

Lola Petra's journey from prison bars to freedom inspires hearts worldwide. Kara David

Release from Prison

In 2015, after serving three years, two months, and nine days in prison, Lola Petra was granted release following a presidential pardon recommendation due to her hearing disability. Her release marked the end of a challenging chapter in her life, yet her resilience remained undiminished. She emerged from her incarceration with her spirit unbroken, ready to embrace life's challenges with renewed vigor and determination.

Life in Centenarian Years

Today, at the remarkable age of 100, Lola Petra's spirit remains as strong as ever. Despite the hardships she has endured, she attributes her longevity to her simple yet nourishing diet of self-cultivated vegetables and a preference for fish over meat. Though she now relies on a wheelchair for mobility and struggles with a hearing impairment, her vision remains clear, and her zest for life undiminished. Supported by her devoted son, Novel, who serves as her caregiver, Lola Petra currently resides in Kias, Baguio City, continuing to embrace each day with gratitude and resilience, a living testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome even the greatest of challenges.

A Story of Resilience and Triumph

In the face of adversity, Lola Petra's journey stands as a shining example of resilience, courage, and unwavering determination. A proud Igorot, her life embodies the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, inspiring all who hear her story to embrace life's challenges with courage and grace. As we celebrate her remarkable century on this earth, let us honor Lola Petra not only for her longevity but for the indomitable spirit that has defined her extraordinary life.

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