For 67-yr-old farmer, education not too late
HE SAT at the back of the class, listening attentively to his teacher.
It was the first day of school on June 1 and Virgilio Ganade Penticase didn’t want to start on the wrong foot.
He didn’t mind that his teachers were young enough to be his children and his classmates, grandchildren.
Penticase, 67, is a Grade 10 student at Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School (DCPNHS) in Tagbilaran City, Bohol province.
“I have no problem with that (my age) because I want to learn,” said Penticase, wearing the prescribed uniform of white short sleeves polo and black pants.
Penticase, a returning student of DCPNHS, was even excited to see his new classmates and teachers.
He was born on June 26, 1948, to Antonio and Eusobia (both deceased) in Barangay Catarman, Dauis town.
At that time, people in their community were more interested in making money than investing in education.
So he and his sibling, Leonardo, now 65, never finished high school.
He was only 8 years old when he joined his neighbors in setting out to sea to catch fish. He also helped his parents plant vegetables on their small farm.
Penticase was already 64 years old when he decided to return to school.
“There were several instances where people would dupe me because I didn’t know how to compute. It is difficult if you are not educated. You are easily duped,” he said, explaining why he wanted to return to school.
Leonardo also encouraged him to finish at least high school but would not join him because he would be too ashamed to go back to classes. Both brothers remain unmarried.
With only P20 in his pocket, Penticase went to DCPNHS on June 4, 2012, to enroll in Grade 7. He brought with him his birth certificate and certificate of good moral character issued by a village chief in Dauis.
Concepcion Bagotchay, who was then the school principal, initially turned him down.
“I was hesitant to accept him because I didn’t know his purpose. He’s already a senior citizen and he might teach naughty things to his young classmates,” said Bagotchay.
“I told him to enroll in another school in his hometown but he was persistent to study at DCPNHS,” she added.
But Penticase would not take no for an answer. He insisted in enrolling at DCPNHS because he wanted to graduate from a known school, not an obscure public school in his barrio. Bagotchay eventually relented.
And Penticase didn’t disappoint his teachers. He didn’t miss a single class even if it meant taking a 30-minute jeepney ride from his house in Dauis to Tagbilaran.
Going to school also means less time in his farm which is planted with corn and root crops like yam, cassava and sweet potatoes.
But he managed to pass all his subjects and later advanced to Grades 7, 8 and 9.
His classmates respect him and call him “Lolo” or “Tatay.”
Filipino and Araling Panlipunan are his favorite subjects because he can easily understand the lessons.
His least favorites: English, Math and Science.
Being a student has its perks. Penticase is given “student’s discount” whenever he rides the tricycle and public utility jeepneys because he didn’t have a senior citizen’s ID.
“I only pay P8 instead of P10 because I am given a student discount,” he said.
Last year, Dr. Angelo Plaza, DCPNHS Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president, gave him a pair of eyeglasses so he could see and read clearly.
Jun Gutierrez, another PTA officer, said the PTA shoulders the cost of Penticase’s school supplies.
“He will inspire children to get an education, showing that poverty and age should not be hindrances to achieving our dreams,” Gutierrez said.
Penticase intends to finish Grade 12 as long as his health allows him to. He even plans to major in carpentry in Grade 11, a skill he wants to learn.
Going to college may just be a long shot because he’ll be 69 years old when he graduates from Grade 12.
“I don’t dream of finishing college because of my age. But only God knows if I will be able to get a college education because He knows everything,” he said.
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