ILOCOS SUR, Philippines (UPDATED) – More than 260 athletes from the Zamboanga Peninsula had a dilemma: The Department of Education only allows graduation rites to be held on the first week of April.
But the only boat that will take them to Palarong Pambansa 2018 in Ilocos Sur on time leaves at the end of March. (READ: Arnis prodigies propel Soccsksargen to early lead in Palarong Pambansa 2018)
The solution? Vigan Central School, where they will be billeted for the games, agreed to host their graduation rites, too.
And so 144 Zamboangueños in Grade 6, 100 student-athletes in Grade 10, and 19 in Grade 12 had their commencement exercises in Vigan City.
Vigan Central School principal Editha Bagcal said they were more than happy to provide the means for the Zamboanga athletes to graduate.
“Nagpaano ako ng mga balloons.… Oo naman [pumayag ako na gawin namin ang special graduation], kasi siyempre kawawa naman sila dahil nasa ibang lugar at ang layo-layo,” Bagcal told Rappler.
(I even had balloon arrangements made… Of course I agreed to host the special graduation, because they travelled to a place far from home already.)
Bagcal also made a callout to all education officials in Vigan City for her brainchild “adopt-a-graduate” scheme, where each participating official became a parent figure for a graduate during the ceremony.
A dinner reception followed at Vigan Central School’s covered court.
Among the student-athletes who graduated were twin brothers Romeo Ralf Pulmones and Romeo Renz Pulmones. The twins, who are part of Zamboanga’s basketball team, are sons of Pagadian City Mayor Romeo Pulmones.
Renz said he was satisfied with the preparations made by Vigan Central School.
“Natuwa po kasi nabigyan kami ng opportunity na ma-experience ‘yong parang last day mo na ng pagiging Grade 10, Grade 6 [at Grade 12] sa graduation (I’m happy because they gave us the opportunity to experience our last day as Grade 10, Grade 6, and Grade 12 through the graduation),” said Renz.
His mother and sister were able to travel with him to Ilocos for the games. His father, however, was left behind at home.
Still, he thanked Mayor Pulmones for being a constant presence as he competes in Palaro.
“Nagpapasalamt po ako sa’yo, Pa, na always kang nagsu-support sa amin. Kahit hindi ka nandito, pina-feel mo sa amin na parang nandiyan ka always para sa amin,” said Renz.
(Thank you, Pa, for always supporting us. Even if you’re not here, you’re still making an effort to make us feel you’re always with us.) – Rappler.com