Octogenarian eyes journalism degree after junior high
GASAN, Marinduque, Philippines — For three years, 80-year-old Teofilo Bonites Sr. walked on a muddy and slippery road every Tuesday and Thursday to attend classes at the Community Learning Center in Bacong-Bacong village in this town.
But “Tatay Philo,” as Bonites is called by his friends, said the 2-kilometer walk became easier because his 66-year-old wife, Rosaly Frayre, always accompanied him.
On July 16, Bonites finally realized his dream of becoming a junior high school graduate under the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) program, along with eight other adults from his village.
The octogenarian, who amazed his classmates with his persistence and dedication despite his advanced age and ailments like diabetes, vertigo, cataracts and hernia of the stomach, said he drew inspiration from former US President Abraham Lincoln.
His favorite quote is from a book about Lincoln: “Life will be like a roller coaster: sometimes you’re up, oftentimes you’re down. At the end of the day, your destination, where the life’s journey leads you, matters the most.”
Bonites was born in 1941 at Barrio Buta in Pontevedra, Capiz, according to official records. Although he excelled academically, he was forced to drop out due to financial problems as he had nine other siblings.
To earn money, he went to Manila where he worked as a newsboy, then as a newspaper agent and a dishwasher for a newspaper company. Still, his daily pay was not enough to let him return to school. He eventually managed to graduate from elementary school with the help of his brother.
Three years ago, Bonites saw a poster for the ALS program at the village hall in this town. At that time, he was 77 and had retired from his job of selling food supplements and beauty products after sending his five children to college.
When he returned to school, he proved to be a competitive student. He joined the Tagis Baybay (English division) in the 2018 District ALS Tagis Galing in this town and emerged the champion. He also represented Gasan District in the Division ALS Tagis Galing and won second place.
‘Techy Tatay Philo’
Unlike other people his age who find it hard to keep up with the times, Bonites is known as “Techy Tatay Philo” because he preferred using modern technology over hard copies of modules after online distance learning became the norm due to the pandemic.
In an interview, Bonites thanked Chona Recto, his ALS mobile teacher; Alberto Llaguno, district ALS coordinator of Gasan; the principal and teachers of Gasan Central School and Rolito dela Cruz, ALS focal person of the Division of Marinduque, for their insights and motivation.
For now, he has set his sights on another goal: to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communications, major in journalism, at the Marinduque State College to fulfill his dream of becoming a journalist. INQ