Lilia Ibabao Celebrates 95th Birthday at Santa Maria Church

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
Orinda resident for 50 years, Lilia Ibabao, is excited to celebrate her 95th birthday with her family and friends at the Santa Maria Church in Orinda, June 25.

    Residing in Orinda for over 50 years, Lilia Ibabao is celebrating her 95th birthday at Santa Maria Church in Orinda, June 25.
    “I’m so grateful. Our life here is temporary, and we just have to make the best out of what God gave us for our life,” said Ibabao. “We have to make the most of it.”
    Ibabao was born in 1927 in Manila, Philippines, where she lived with her mother, father and nine younger siblings.
    In 1952, she graduated from medical school at the University of Manila. One year later, she had a one-way ticket to travel by boat to the U.S. It took her 21 days, stopping in Hong Kong, Japan and Honolulu. Arriving in San Francisco, she took a train to Cleveland to begin her journey as an obstetrician-gynecologist, later switching to practice as an anesthesiologist.
    Taking Route 66, she and her husband drove from Cleveland to escape the cold weather and made their way to sunny California.
    “The first winter in California was like springtime. I could not believe it,” she said.
    After continuing her practice in Pinole, while residing in Orinda and having a family, she retired when she was 70-years-old.
    “If you are retired, what do you do with your life? So I looked around and I said, ‘I am going to the Orinda Community Center’ and I enrolled in the art classes and dance classes to keep my brain busy,” said Ibabao.
    Ibabao does watercolor paintings, many of which fill her home, at the Orinda Community Center. She also takes dance classes and is learning to march in the Orinda 4th of July parade.
    She said she’s loved living in Orinda with all the friendly people, the schools in the area, raising children, having a lot of friends and having so many things to offer like the community center and the library.
    “Orinda feels safe and always quite like a little village,” she said.
    A member of Santa Maria Church, she’s celebrated her 25th, 50th and 60th wedding anniversary Masses. This month she celebrates again – her 95th birthday – with a Mass and a celebration afterwards.
    “There is nothing impossible if you try. Get your way up to the stars,” said Ibabao.
    Ibabao is excited to celebrate with her family and friends.
    “You have to see the world, before you leave the world,” she said. “Your time on Earth may be short, may be long; you have to try to see everything you can see in the world.”

Annabella Booth can be reached at

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