TACLOBAN CITY– At 73-years old, Ana Morillo is all set to graduate from her senior high or Grade 12 at the Don Juan F. Avalon National High School (DJFANHS) in San Roque town, Northern Samar this July 11.

Ana Morillo, 73, is all smiles in her graduation photo, as she is to march on July 11 for finishing her senior high education at the Don Juan F. Avalon National High School, San Roque town in Northern Samar. (Photo Courtesy,Rodnie Morillo)

It took her 58 long years since she graduated her elementary and for her to continue her studies via the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Department of Education (DepEd).
Morillo is a widow for three years now with three children and seven grandchildren. She is also the eldest of her eight siblings, of which only one managed to finish college.

“I am happy that slowly, my dream to finish my studies and earn a college degree is now being realized,” she said in a phone interview on Wednesday (June 28).

She said she wants to take accountancy in college at the University of Eastern Philippines (UEP) in Catarman, about 28 kms away from their town of San Roque.

Morillo took the ALS at the age of 71 which she finished in 2021, the height of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and finished it this year, with the impacts of pandemic is receding.

ALS is a program of the DepEd that provides opportunities for out-of-school youth and adult learners for them to complete the basic education.

According to Morillo, while she was able to graduate her elementary in 1963, she was not able to continue her studies due to sheer poverty.

“We were so poor. Both my parents were farmers and at that time, education was not being considered as a priority, especially for women like me,” she said.

Her parents, both deceased, only reached elementary levels.

And while Morillo was out of school, she busied herself attending the household chores and tended the needs of her younger siblings.

And when she got married in 1974 at the age of 24, her dream to earn education took a backseat as she was preoccupied attending to the needs of her children and later, even some of her grandchildren.

“But all this time, I never gave up on my dream to earn an education,” she said.

And in 2021, her dream to finish at least secondary education was realized as she enrolled under the ALS in an elementary school located in their village of Ginagdan.

She took accountancy, business and management (ABM) strand, saying she find math subject ‘easy.’

“At that time, I felt it was the right time for me to continue my studies and enrolled under the ALS. In fact, I even encouraged some seniors in our village to return to school but no one listened to me saying they are old already,” she said.

She admitted that when she returned to school, she found herself ‘rusty’ and had to adjust to the demands of being a student.

“I was out of school for so long, 1963 to be exact, and since then, there were several changes in our education system. I was also preoccupied attending to my family and tending our small sari-sari store,” she said.

She also did not mind that her classmates were much younger than her. And out of the 11 ALS students enrolled, only three of them managed to finish it, Morillo said.
And it was her youngest son, Rodnie, 32, who helped her in her studies and some of her school works.

Rodnie is now on his second year taking up Bachelor of Science in community development at UEP. He himself has to stop several times due to health reason.

“I am proud of my mother. She is really serious in earning an education despite of the challenges, hardships, and even bullying due to her old age,” he said.

It was Rodnie who submitted the school works and modules of his mother to the school during the pandemic as she was not allowed to go out at that time, being already a senior.
His two siblings have their own families now.

Morillo’s school adviser, Jigs Roncesvalles, said that he is proud of her perseverance to acquire education at her ripe age.

“Just proud of her, given her age, she pursued her studies, proving to everyone that age is never a barrier in continuing one’s education,” he said.

Roncesvalles described Morillo as ‘very diligent, hands-on, and she takes responsibility of her own learning.’

According to him, since the DJFANHS was founded 55 years ago, Morillo is the oldest to graduate from the said school.

She is among the 528 students of the school that will take their diplomas and finish senior high in this year’s school term.

Morillo said that while she is determined to finish her college degree, she is realistic enough that she could not land a job either in the government or private company due to her old age.

“That’s how our country treats our seniors, which is so sad. Still, I am determined to fulfill my lifelong dream which is to earn a degree. That despite my age, I can proudly say that I was able to earn an education,” Morillo said.