Gardener-mother, 64, reaches dream to complete high school
BAGUIO CITY—Natividad Andawey delivered a valedictory address on behalf of her 200 classmates here on Friday.
It was a moment she was waiting for in more than 50 years. “I am 64 years years old. This is a dream come true,” she said, holding back tears. “This is your inheritance that cannot be stolen.”
Andawey, a mother of six, is one of six gardeners of Burnham Park and Sunshine Park who passed the government’s high school equivalency test. The rest are in their 40s and 50s.
Andawey, who was born in Sabangan, Mountain Province, reached third year at St. Vincent High School in the Mountain Province capital of Bontoc and never had the chance to finish school.
“Then I got married and had to stay in Baguio,” she said.
Andawey, who became a gardener in 1987, works at Burnham Park’s nursery.
Her colleague, Jacinta Buclig, 59, who works at the outer lake gardens of Burnham, considered their “graduation” one of the happiest days of her life.
“Maybe when one of my children graduates two years from now from law school, that will be the happiest,” Buclig said.
But like Andawey, she is back to taking care of the flowers of Burnham hours after changing from their white togas. That is after treating their fellow gardeners to pinikpikan, a Cordilleran chicken stew.
Manuel Fagsao, Estanislao Pagui, Herminia Pumeg-as, Ma. Luisa Patagan, Andawey and Buclig passed their high school equivalency examinations in February.
Twelve gardeners took the exams in August last year and at least three were a few points short from making the grade.
Buclig said it was only on her fifth try that she clinched it.
Andawey thanked Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon and their “teacher,” Nonette Bennett, for their success.
Their review was coordinated by Cenzon, with Bennett, a journalist and member of Cenzon’s staff, acting as their tutor for six months.
They started their review sessions in May last year and took the exams in August. They reviewed for two hours almost every day.
Bennett said the biggest hurdle for some of them was returning to a classroom after years of working the soil and tending flowers.
“They said the words are blurring right in front of them,” she said.
Pumeg-as, who works around Burnham Lake, said another problem was learning Filipino. Many of the gardeners are from Mountain Province, where it is easier to converse in English.
Bennett said her students also struggled in composing essays.
“Ma’am Nonette was very patient with us. God knows how hardheaded we can be,” Andawey said. “She never receives anything from us. Sometimes we give her P20 each, but she would use that to treat us and buy us food.”
Bennett said that because of the gardeners’ success, even the street sweepers wanted to join the review classes starting next week.
Fagsao, 47, a gardener at Sunshine Park, said his graduation encouraged him to plan taking up law.
“Now, I believe I can continue with my dreams,” he said.
There are at least 80 gardeners employed by the city government to make the park a bed of roses.
“Being with flowers is relaxing work,” Buclig said.
Their most stressful periods are during storms and Panagbenga (Baguio Flower Festival).
Andawey and the nursery crew keep flowers to replace blooms lost during storms and those trampled on by tourists and residents during the flower festival held every February.
“We were the ones who didn’t finish our education, but sometimes it is the tourists who should be educated to take care of the flowers,” Andawey said.
Oldest mom in Rosales
In Pangasinan, a 101-year-old mother of six was honored by a local shopping mall during its Mother’s Day program on Saturday as the oldest mother in Rosales town.
Known in her village as Inang Isyang, Lucresia Tamin brought up her children to become good, law-abiding citizens.
“She brought us up … and she did well. No one among us ever got hooked on any vice. We are not drunkards, we don’t gamble and we don’t take drugs. We were never imprisoned. She may be uneducated and poor, but she gave us proper moral upbringing,” said her eldest child, Arcadio, 64.
Tamin, who used to sell vegetables around Pangasinan, lives by herself in Barangay Rizal and does household chores despite her poor eyesight.
Arcadio, who lives next door, prepares his mother’s daily breakfast of tea and bread. Arcadio’s wife cooks lunch and dinner for Tamin.
“She doesn’t want to live with any of us, her children, because she doesn’t want to interfere [in our domestic affairs],” Arcadio said.
Tamin said her children were her source of happiness. With a report from Marla Viray, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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