69-year-old Boholano graduates from senior high school

Students, faculty members and onlookers erupted in applause as one would-be graduate walked across the stage during the commencement exercises of the Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School (DCPNHS) in Tagbilaran City on Friday.

The crowd favorite was 69-year-old Virgilio Ganade Penticase.

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Penticase, who was born after World War II, abandoned his studies at a young age. Not everyone in his community was interested to get an education back then, he said.

But for the farmer, and now a senior high school graduate, it’s never too late to go back to school and take home a diploma.

The newly minted graduate arrived late to attend Friday’s 1st Senior High School Recognition Rites and Commencement Exercises at the Bohol Cultural Center.  He said he was not able to get a jeepney ride to the city.

Unlike other graduates who came with their parents and loved ones to celebrate the memorable day, Penticase came alone. His brother, Leonardo, 68, wanted to escort him on his special day but he begged off at the last minute since he was still nursing a cough.

He said he has a lot to be thankful for.

Virgilio Ganade Penticase, 69, proved that age is really just a number after he achieved his dream of finishing senior high school at Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School on Friday, April 6.|Leo Udtohan

“Nalipay gud ko kay gitagaan pa man ko og taas nga kinabuhi sa Ginoo nga kaabot ko run adlawa nga akong graduation sa Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School. Nagpasalamat ko sa Ginoo nga gitagaan ko niya og maayong panglawas  sa akong pag-eskwela kutob sa paghuman sa ako ng senior high (I am happy that God has given me long life so that I can attend my graduation at Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School. I am thankful that the Lord God has given me good health while studying until I was able to finish senior high),” he told your VRS.

The other students at the school see Penticase as an inspiration, according to another graduate Janrel Alagadmo.

“If he can do it, why can’t we?” said Alagadmo who wants to become a seaman.

For Penticase, being an inspiration was almost as rewarding as the diploma he’s about to earn.

As he walked across the stage to accept his diploma, everyone cheered. Others watched through tears as the entire DCPNHS class of 2018 stood to cheer him on.

Teachers came to hug and congratulate him. Some parents and spectators came to have photo ops with him.

Class adviser Haidee Felisilda said Penticase was an example whose perseverance and strength of character greatly motivated him to finish senor high school.

“Even though he is 69 years old he is still determine to learn and to graduate in Grade 12. He still managed to come to school everyday. He inspired a lot of his younger classmates to study well, showing that poverty and age should not be hindrances to achieving our dreams,” said Felisilda who hugged Penticase after the graduation.

And even though he’ll be 70 to start his college in June 2018, he has no plans to stop chasing his dreams.

Virgilio Penticase with teachers Mirasol Dela Peña, Jun Karaan, Jubel Martinez, Juliet Rellita, Joy Rebleza, Rhizza Abarquez and Gemma Pabata|Leo Udtohan

“I want to go on. I want to take up Commerce,” he said as long as his health allows him to.

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 68, 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 in 2012 as a Grade 7 student.

“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.

He didn’t mind that his teachers were young enough to be his children and his classmates, grandchildren.

Going to school also means less time in his farm which is planted with banana, 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 were his favorite subjects because he could easily understand the lessons.

His least favorites: English, Math and Science.

Being a student had its perks. Penticase was 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.

He bore challenges in life while studying.  His health problems—arthritis and poor eyesight—and the additional two years in high school discouraged him to continue, but he didn’t quit and surrender.

“I’m 69 years old. If I could do it, they could do it. All they have to do is keep going and don’t give up,” he said.  

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