High School @ 68: Education in the afterglow of sunset

He sat quietly on his chair on the last row, staring at the white text written on the chalkboard. Eyes, now exhausted yet still calm. A sunglass, tucked on the hem of his white T-shirt that is still surprisingly neat and gleaming even it is already pass 4 o’clock in the afternoon. He wore a pair of flesh white shoes, printed with thin black stripes; laces carefully entangled to each other. His pants is on a quaint faded effect that match his black sling bag which is embracing his body like a child. The bell suddenly echoed to the whole campus as if announcing freedom at last. He stood up, and put his ball cap in reverse. The tangle of his hair that is greying prematurely, now covered and he finally joined his classmates in a tumultuous utterance of farewell to their dear teacher.
He is Virgilio G. Penticase –a grade 11 student of Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School (DCPNHS) from Catarman, Dauis, Bohol. He is now 68 years old and still, a certified eligible bachelor.
“Basin naa moy silingan daga edad 40, ah kana lang akoa. Din-a pud ko anang batan-on kay maulaw ko ana,” he said jocularly before the interview started which gives an atmosphere of gaiety that promise a voluble conversation with this down-to-earth man.  
Tatay, as what his classmates and younger teachers call him, finish his elementary education on 1963 and it took him almost 50 years before he decided to pursue secondary education. Tatay Virgilio’s story is a perfect epitome that no precious stone known to man can replace the value of education. And what motivates him to continue what he started way back 1963 will surely touch your soul.
Perhaps, we study to earn a degree and most us see education as an investment. But as long as Tatay is concern, he wants to study again because of one simple reason –to know how to fill-up forms. “Dugay na to. Ingon tong laki, ayaw usiki nang porma nong kay inihap ra ba na. Baw, komedya ra gud siguro to,” tatay recalled. “Ingon ko, saon man ni sir? Diktari nalang ko are aron dili masayop kay kahibaw man ko mosuwat ang poblema lang pagsabot sa English, lisod gyud,” he continued with a shy smile. 
                But going back to school in era where technology plays a huge part in the learning process is too strenuous and far more challenging for Tatay Virgilio than filling-up a bio data. He needs to adapt with the vivacity of his environment despite his age. “Tanang subject galisod ko. Pulos man mga maayo motuon mga maistra  ari yamo may maot. Ahong utok maoy deperensya. Lain man ng dugay ka makaundang ug eskwela,” Tatay explained. There are even instances where he falls asleep during class discussions and he admits that he easily forgets their lesson. “Pero di nako tayuon,” he defended himself.  Tatay confessed that some of their assignments is too difficult for him and obviously, he does not have any idea how to use the internet. What makes it even harder for Tatay Virgilio to study his lesson is his diminishing eyesight. “Din-a maklaro ang letra gagmay kayo. Gawas ug nay antyuhos kanang para basa bitaw? Hing palit ko, nabuak man natumban,” Tatay continued. Nevertheless, he diligently answers all their activities through the help of his classmates who always offer him a hand. Still got an excuse for not completing your requirements? Talk about perseverance.
                As he watched other students who are busy chatting with their friends while others are staring intently in their phones’ screen, Tatay made a comment regarding the effect of technology to the youth. He said that the youth of the 21st century can easily understand the English and Filipino language  because of television. “Kanang ing-ani (cellphone) gani kung tagaan ko ninyo, iasa man na naku? Di man ko kahibaw mogamit. Mga bata ron mao nay namat onan bisan tulo ka tuig kahibaw mogamit,” he stated.

 During his childhood years Tatay recounted, feeling nostalgic, that even a radio can be rarely seen in their place and it must be the reason why he finds it difficult to familiarize English and Filipino language which is now the medium of instruction at school. Also, his childhood and teenage years is not a typical play-day-memories or a growing-up-with-fun scenario. As a brother to six siblings, he decided to help his family in earning a living after graduating elementary through helping his father who was a fisherman. Thus he spent more time playing with the waves than reading a book.

 However, if there is one question that you are dying to know right now it must be, “Why on earth is he still single?”

“Aw  wa puy kursonada,” is what Tatay Virgilio’s immediate response. And when ask why the idea of marrying someone did not cross his mind, Tatay simply answered, “Way kaya pud. Pila ra man ng pangitaana, managat, yamoy porsyento na gawas engineer, aw kana! Dako nag porsyento.” Though it did not answer the question directly, Tatay already offered a kind of answer that will make anyone speechless. Right now, he is living contentedly with his brother who also happened to be a bachelor. Yes, you heard it right -a bachelor.

 After spying about Tatay Virgilio’s love life, he suddenly got serious and started talking about the E word again. As the only 68-year old student in their class, he always tells his classmates to take their studies seriously. He keeps on giving his advice that education is the only gift, the only “bahandi”, a person can give to himself. And as long as we are young, we should never stop yearning to learn. “ Labi nang nay ikagasto? Ayaw undang eskwela,” tatay said vehemently.

Just when Tatay is about to tell his plans after he will finish Senior High School, one of his classmates approached him and reminded him that he should be at school before 9 o’clock in the morning the following day for they have a skilled test. And Tatay simply replied, “Oh are lang ko mamahaw kay kung adtoa amua, malate man ko.”

Then there is silence.
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“Gikan sa Bohol Museum, magbaklay ko padulong are (DCPNHS) unya pauli pod basta dili mag uwan. Kara adlaw na,” he said, answering a question not yet asked.

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Come to think of it.

While there are students who see education as a mere obligation, there are some student like Tatay Virgilio who genuinely wants to learn.

While there are students who spent their time squandering their parents’ money for fun, there are students, like Tatay Virgilio who bleed on their way up just to earn that precious diploma.

While there are students who wants to give up, there are students, like Tatay Virgilio who are willing to sacrifice for the sake of education.

And to those people who think they do not deserve a second chance, Tatay Virgilio is a living proof that it is never too late to continue what you have started.

It takes more than courage and perseverance; more than determination and patience to chase that never-forgotten dream - to learn.  As for Tatay Virgilio’s exceptional story, it’s humble beginning started with “aron makakat-on lage”. In the world where everything moves forward, what it takes for Tatay Virgilio in fulfilling his heart’s desire is not going ahead, but going back.

-Crislin Joy C. Daigan


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