By Mike Crismundo
Even at the age of 79, Leodegario Balhinon continues to dream big.
Last June 15, he enrolled as a first year student at the Agusan del Sur State College of Agriculture and Technology (ASSCAT) in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, to take up Technology and Livelihood Education, major in Home Economics.
“Gusto daw po niyang maging manager ng kooperatibang dati niyang pinagta-trabahuan (He dreamed of becoming a manager of a cooperative where he used to work),” said Angelica Talaugon, an 18-year-old college student who helped Balhinon fill out his enrollment form.
Balhinon’s highest formal educational attainment was completing first year high school. He had to stop schooling due to economic reasons.
Despite this, he would not stop dreaming.
He would later secure a job at a local cooperative.
And after his stint with the local cooperative, he continued to aim high.
So when he learned about the Alternative Learning System (ALS) in his hometown of Trento, Agusan del Sur, he immediately grabbed the opportunity to further his education.
ALS is a parallel learning system in the country that provides a practical option to the existing formal instruction. ALS includes both the non-formal and informal sources of knowledge and skills.
In early 2019, Balhinon completed his ALS to qualify him for college education.
So in June, 2019, he tried to enroll in college but he missed the enrollment deadline.
Missing the opportunity, he patiently waited for the coming school year.
But, alas, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) struck.
And without vaccine, the government only allows online classes.
Talaugon said that when Balhinon, who admits having no mobile phone or a computer, learned that schools will only offer online classes because of COVID-19, he decided to make an inquiry.
He travelled all the way from his hometown to ASSCAT in Bunawan, which is some 20 to 30 minutes ride, just to inquire if it offers a module or any other alternative to online class.
“Nakadungog man gud ko nga online ang tanan mao nga mianhijud ko aron ako klarohon, kon nay module sa module ko mag-agi (I heard that everything is online that’s why I personally went to the school to personally know if it is through module that I can get in),” Lolo Leodegario said in vernacular when interviewed by TV Patrol North Mindanao last week.
Soon after, Balhinon was allowed to enroll.
During enrollment, school officials and students – Talaugon included – thought Balhinon was only enrolling his children for the coming semester.
Talaugon, a Bachelor of Science in Education student at ASSCAT, and the other students soon realized that Balhinon was enrolling himself as a first year student.
“I was so inspired that I decided to have my picture taken with him and posted it on Facebook to inspire younger students,” Talaugon, who is majoring in English, told Manila Bulletin.