By Maja Gawronska, MA
This month’s successful ager, Aurora Soriano Cudal, is a perfect example that it is never too early, nor too late to live your life to the fullest.
Oil painting of Aurora Soriano Cudal by artist Mona Mills displayed at San Diego Library,
part of 2015
San Diego Legends Exhibit
Ms. Cudal was born in the Philippines in 1933. She graduated with a degree in public health from the University of the Philippines at the age of eighteen. She married her campus sweetheart at age twenty-one and pursued a specialized course in public health while she was pregnant with her second daughter and carrying in her arms her eldest daughter. She was a mother of two girls and a career woman at the young age of twenty-three.
Her career in public health started from the grassroots and ended at the top as senior health education adviser of the Bureau of Disease Control, Department of Health in Manila. She also served as Consultant of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNESCO. She was the executive director of the Center for University Extension Service of the University of the City of Manila, the institution that awarded her an honorary doctorate degree in humanities.
Over the years, all but one of Ms. Cudal’s seven grown kids moved to San Diego and she often visited. After retiring in 1993, she settled in Chula Vista and started a new career. Through serving on the boards of many nonprofits, establishing the Filipino Tulungan Center, a resource service for the community, and writing her popular column “My Personal Testimony” in the Filipino Press, Ms. Cudal became a well-known activist in the Filipino community. She was inducted into the
San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013
and received the 2015 Legends of San Diego, a recognition given by the San Diego County Library Services and Aging and Independence Services. She was the first Filipino in to
Ms. Cudal spoke with us about her life, successful aging, and he blooming second career.
How would you define " successful aging"?
"Successful Aging" means overcoming the challenges of life and living, and becoming a better person as you surmount the difficulties of pursuing a career, raising a family, serving the community, and helping others.
It is not the number of years you have lived but the quality of service you rendered in your workplace, the passion you have shown in your volunteer service both in your church and in your community.
It is being able to go beyond the confines of your home and family, to help others, to build bridges of understanding and to promote goodwill among people of different ethnic backgrounds, social upbringing, generation, and gender.
It is maintaining a positive attitude in all circumstances, always believing that there is something good in the worst of people, that behind dark clouds is a silver lining, that a glass is half full and not half empty. That in financial and physical difficulties, God never fails. He will provide and He will take care of you.
Do you consider yourself a successful ager?
I will be 83 years old on July 12, 2016. I was able to adjust to a new way of life here in the USA. I was able to overcome the challenges of cultural and social adjustment. I have passed the limits of the current life span of human beings. I have lived life to the fullest in volunteer service. I am an octogenarian and I am still going strong in my community advocacy to improve the quality of life of others. I am partnering with young people to prepare them for leadership. I have a deep and abiding faith in God. I was able to overcome widowhood and depression by getting married for the second time. I am active in making use of the social media. I write blogs. I dance to my heart's content. I have a wide circle of friends, and I have a very supportive family (7 children and their spouses, 23 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. Now that I was able to undergo a successful Angioplasty, I am in a state of wellness that will keep me going and doing the things I love to do. If this is not being a successful ager, what is?
You have a very successful second career. How did you start it?
When I retired as a University professor in the Philippines at the age of 65, I thought I'll spend the rest of my life visiting my children in the United States and helping them in raising their children and managing their households, fully aware of the high cost of child care and housekeeping help. But it was not meant to be. One of my daughters petitioned for me, and I decided to stay, but what will I do? I tried to apply for a job commensurate to my training and experience. But I found out that there are unwritten hiring rules. I was told that I am over-qualified or I have no experience. Being told that I have no local experience when I have lots of international experience and training here in the USA, challenged me. I said to one of the interviewers, "If you won't give me the local experience, I will make my own experience. My church provided me the opportunity to write a grant proposal. I conducted an informal survey of the needs and problems of new Filipino immigrants and low income families and seniors. I consulted with friends with local experience. The results of the survey served as basis for establishing a Filipino Help Center. While waiting for the outcome of my proposal, I familiarized myself with the agencies, policies and programs of the County of San Diego on health and human services, education, employment, etc. My proposal was approved. The First United Methodist Church Administrative Council organized a Board of Directors to help in setting policies, I was appointed as Executive Director. I wrote a press release and submitted it to the "Filipino Press" for publication. The Editor was impressed of the "thank you letter" I wrote him, and invited me to write a column, which I still maintain up to this day. I became known in the Filipino community. I got involved with Filipino non-profits e,g, Operation Samahan Health Clinic and the Council of Philippine American Organizations of San Diego County. I was appointed as Community Outreach coordinator of Operation Samahan and was elected as Chair of COPAO for two terms. My 25 years in San Diego gave me the opportunity to hone my leadership skills as I was elected President of various organizations, e.g. San Diego Scripps Lions Club, University of the Philippines Alumni Association. I co-founded the FilAm Development Initiatives. I also extended my reach to be a member of mainstream organization such as Foundation for Change, and the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center of San Diego County.
What has shaped your attitude towards life that helps you be the person you are today?
Family upbringing. Healthy family life when I was growing up. My parents were my role models. (My father was the first Justice of the Peace and served for 30 years. My mother was one of the first Public health Nurses.) Growing up and getting involved in church activities - youth programs, women's society of Christian service.) Growing up in school and community, where you are a minority. My family was one of the first Protestant family in a community of Roman Catholics. I have to excel and show my friends that I am no different from the best of them. Influence of my elders, e.g. My father was a widower with six children and my mother was 22 years her senior. I have 4 brothers. All of us are professionals. One became a Congressman and City Mayor for almost 20 years; a sister got married to the Undersecretary of the Department of Education, culture and sports of the national government.
Are there any habits, beliefs, attitudes, or other factors that are helping you to age successfully?
Unselfish sharing of personal belongings to friends, generosity towards friends and strangers, going out of your way to help others, and accepting the fact that I am an ordinary woman doing what she can to the best of her ability. "If my best is not enough, at least I did my best."
If you are a successful ager or know someone whom you believe we should feature in our Successful Ager Series, please contact us at (858) 534-6299 or email@example.com and provide the person’s name, contact information, as well as a brief description of why you feel he or she is successfully aging. We will feature some of these individuals in future newsletters.