Grad dad says ‘age is just a number’
by: John Hedrick Castillo & Hazel Fajelga

“Age does not matter.” If you think that this quote is only for those who tie the knot in their ripe ages, think again. A graduating student of BSC has his own version of this quote. He lives in the mantra “age is just a number.”

Ronald Bumagat, 27 years old and a father of two, is probably the happiest dad today because he will defy the song “Unreachable Star.” All stars have aligned to his favor. Receiving his most sought-after diploma from Batanes State College is a crystal clear evidence of this. Our daddy graduate is finishing Bachelor of Secondary Education, major in Physical Science.

What makes Ronald, a native of Calayan town in Cagayan, different from among the 157 members of the graduating class of 2017 is his basketful pieces of trials in climbing the peak of this success. He was 22 when he stopped his secondary education, but never did he raise the white flag against the army of trials, difficulties and problems.

His spring of inspiration is the unending smile of his two children. “Kung wala ang aking mga anak, talagang hindi na ako mag-aaral pa. Sila ang aking inspirasyon. Kaya, kahit mahirap, kinakailangan kong gawin ang lahat para at alang-alang sa kanila,” he said while he is controlling his shaky voice. According to Ronald, he does not want his children to taste the claws of poverty, so he does all possible means to escape the grip of scarcity.

When the time he was crawling his tertiary education, he literally dove into the deepest sea of hope to finance his studies and to support his children. “Putting my life in danger is not a joke, but for me, both living and dying for my children are my manifestations of love to them,” he added. During weekends, he goes into deep sea fishing and earns almost a thousand pesos. He usually stretches such amount to meet all their needs.

“During daytime,” he recalled, “I would go to construction site, especially in forming hallow blocks…and I would earn PhP5, 000.00 at most.” During his break time in the construction site, he would usually open his notes and review for his afternoon and evening classes. “Bawat pitik ng oras para sa akin ay mahalaga, dahil bawat patak ng pawis ko ay para sa kinabukasan namin ng mga anak ko,” he said while controlling his tears to ooze.

The ride on his education and life as a dad were not as typical as the waves in the sea. He needed to brave the gigantic waves higher and fiercer than the waves in the Balintang Channel. That is why, he could vividly recall the times when he seemingly liked to raise the white flag and let go of his aspirations. There were many times when he needed to borrow money from other palm-opened persons just to pay his tuition and other fees at the eleventh hour.

He has been dancing with the music titled “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” But today, his playlist will change; he will stand tall and walk with pride through the very popular graduation march. For those who think to quit and who waste their time in studying, Ronald’s life is a silent shout of wake-up call. But he primarily wants to awaken those who are ashamed of continuing their studies because of their ages. Does age still matter? Yes, it does for those who quit. But for those who persevere like Ronald, age is just a number.

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