Does education have a time limit?
I was eight years old when I entered first grade. I remember that my classmates laughed at me because of my age. It was obvious I was the oldest because I was also the tallest.
Our family is too poor to send us to good schools. We lived as laborers in a sugar plantation in Negros. Our father died just as I was going to see the world and experience it. Our mother worked in a sugarcane field; we considered ourselves lucky whenever we ate decent food. Maybe she didn’t have a good job to give us what we wanted, but she has a good heart and works really hard to send us to school.
My siblings and I helped our mother in supporting our family. Growing up, we rose at 3 a.m. to help her in the field and do chores. After that, we started walking almost 10 kilometers to get to school. Many times we missed the first subject. On weekends when there was no class, we worked in the hacienda and planted sugarcane to earn enough to put food on our table.
I was already 14 when I entered the sixth grade. One day, the English teacher approached me to say that they had chosen me to be the school representative in the spelling bee in the city. I said: “I am really sorry, ma’am, I have no money…” And she replied that she and the others would take care of things. I felt pressured at the time because I didn’t even have decent clothes to wear for the competition. When I told my mother about it, she cried. I could see the happiness, sadness and pride on her face. She told me she would do her best to get me something to wear.
I landed in second place in the competition, but I still brought pride to my school and family. My mother cried again when she saw my name on the poster outside our school announcing my win.
I graduated from grade school with pride and ambition.
Our mother decided to move us to Bacolod City, the capital, where her relatives lived.
I was in first year high school when my mother asked me to stop schooling to help my siblings in construction work. We were too poor to provide for ourselves. I had no choice but to obey her. I thought it was the end of my dream for a better future. I became a construction worker and I felt hopeless.
When I turned 17, my mother asked me if I wanted to go back to school. I said yes. I enrolled again as a high school freshman, and I was bullied all the time because of my age. I sometimes got into fights. But then I realized that nothing would happen if I let the bullies and their hateful words affect me.
I focused on my studies. I looked forward to what I wanted to be in the future. I completed junior high school still with pride and ambition.
But when I entered senior high school, my tribulations continued. I still get hurt when my classmates tease me because of my age. They would say, “You’re too old to be a student! You should be working now!” I was really upset and almost cried when the social studies teacher compared my age to that of his teaching colleague, who is younger than me.
At one point I wanted to stop schooling.
But every day I keep telling myself, “Age doesn’t matter.” I have a dream, and that dream will never be considered “game over” because of my age. They say I am too old to be in high school, but I have a yearning in my heart that I want to achieve. And that is my dream! I want to complete my schooling.
No one is too old for education. In fact, education is timeless; anyone can keep learning until the end of his or her life. No one is too old to pursue his or her dreams.