CEBU CITY, Philippines – At 65, Pascuala Almonicar continues to pursue her dreams of becoming a licensed midwife. And on July 13, 2023, she inched closer to her goal.
Nanay Pascuala was among the dozens of students from Kinatarcan National High School who marched for their commencement exercises in Kinatarcan Island in Santa Fe town, Bantayan Island, Cebu last July 13.
As she finally got a hold of her senior high school diploma, Nanay Pascuala cannot help but feel ecstatic and excited – ecstatic that she finally graduated high school, and excited as she looked forward to getting formal training and education as a midwife soon.
“Puerte gyud nakong lipaya nga nakahuman ko,” she told CDN Digital in an interview. (I am so happy I was able to finish.)
The 65-year-old assistant midwife in Brgy. Hagdan, Santa Fe town resumed her studies in 2021, through the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Department of Education.
Before enrolling through the ALS, Nanay Pascuala, who is now a grandmother to 17 grandkids, only managed to complete elementary school.
Years ago, due to poverty, she had to stop her studies. A few years later, she got married and had a family of her own.
“Ug sa unang panahon, di (prioridad) ang pagpaeskwela,” she added. (During those days, education wasn’t a priority.)
But her ambition of becoming a midwife to help her community in Kinatarcan Island did not go away, she said.
“Mao gyud na akong pangandoy, nga mahimong lisensyadong midwife,” said Nanay Pascuala. (That’s really my dream, to become a licensed midwife.)
For decades, she earned a living as a ‘paltera’, the term used to describe women who assist in childbirth with no formal training, in her village. She and her husband, a farmer, did their best to raise their six children.
In 2007, she became an assistant midwife in Santa Fe’s local health center on Kinatarcan Island. There, she realized that she wanted to help their community by becoming a licensed midwife herself.
Need for a midwife
Kinatarcan Island is situated between Bantayan Island and Daanbantayan town of mainland Cebu. To get there, visitors will have to take a one-hour boat ride, from either Santa Fe or Daanbantayan.
The island only has one licensed midwife who serves three barangays there, and having another would greatly support residents, said Nanay Pascuala.
“Kay sa amoa dire, ang centro (health center) ra among paanakan kay nia ra ang midwife. Kay tabokon baya ang isla (Kinatarcan) mao nga priority nila nga ang midwife ngari (Kinatarcan). Ug usa pa, kung naay dakong bawod, di kalabang. Papaano nalang kung way midwife dire?” she said.
(In our place, the health center was the only birthing place because it was where the midwife is. Because people need a boat ride to get to the island, they prioritized putting a midwife here. And one more thing, if the weather is bad, boats can’t leave. So what would happen if there’s no midwife here?)
It was in 2021 when Nanay Pascuala decided to continue her studies, and ultimately reach her dream of becoming a licensed midwife.
Nanay Pascuala was proud that all of her six children completed their studies, with two of them becoming licensed teachers.
“Nakakita ko sa akong mga anak nga nahuman ug skwela. Na-challenge sad ko (nila) mao to ni kuha ko sa ALS. Nakapasar ko ug mao na to ni (skwela ko) sa senior high,” she said while also eliciting a laugh.
(I saw my children finish their studies. I was challenged so that’s why I enrolled for the ALS. I passed so I went to senior high.)
While going back to school as a senior citizen can be daunting, Nanay Pascuala persevered and even described her two years in Kinatarcan High School as one of the best memories she recently had.
Every weekday, at 4 a.m., Nanay Pascuala wakes up to cook breakfast for her grandchildren who, like her, will be going to their respective schools.
After meals have been served and eaten, she would then dress in her school uniform then get out of their house to walk to Kinatarcan High School at 6 a.m.
On her first day in school, the elderly admitted she became nervous and worried. But her classmates and teachers, all of whom were generations younger than her, helped her.
“Sadya kaayo kay akong mga classmate mga batan-on… Okay ra gyud ko kay akong mga classmates ug maestra kasabot man sila. Mga buutan kaayo sila, kasabot sila sa akong pangedaron,” she described.
(It was funny because all my classmates were young… But it was okay because my classmates and teachers understood. They’re very kind and understand my age.)
Words of wisdom
One of the most unforgettable times she shared with her younger classmates was the life lessons she always imparted to them.
Nanay Pascuala would constantly encourage her classmates to pursue their studies to fulfill their dreams.
“Magpadayun kamo sa pag eskwela. Ako gani nga tiguwang, nagpadayun gyud. Kamo pa kaha mga batan-on.”
(Continue studying. Look at me, I am old but I still continue to study. What more for you who are younger.)
When returning home from school, her children and grandchildren would then help her prepare dinner.
“Kay ako naman sad ang estudyante, sila nasad mutabang sa pagpanihapon sa gabii,” said Nanay Pascuala in jest. (Because I am the student, it’s them now who helps in preparing dinner.)
Nanay Pascuala also continued to work as an assistant midwife at Kinatarcan’s lone health center while studying.
On weekends, she would go to the island’s health center for work. Sometimes, she would take her school books and homeworks there.
Finally, last June, she received news that she will be graduating from senior high school. When graduation day came last July 13, Nanay Pascuala’s whole family went with her to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Nanay Pascuala graduated not only with her classmates in Kinatarcan High School but also with her grandchildren that day.
It was a joyous and memorable event, said Nanay Pascuala. The family even decided to bring food so they can celebrate right after the ceremony.
Not giving up
At this point, Nanay Pascuala only has a couple of things to tick off on her journey to becoming a licensed midwife – enroll in a two-year program, and then pass the licensure examinations.
She had her eyes set on Bogo City in mainland Cebu, where courses on midwifery are being offered. However, she still needs more funds to sustain her studies in a different place, and away from her family.
Nevertheless, she will not give up on it. As she continued to work as an assistant midwife in Kinatarcan Island’s health center, Nanay Pascuala’s hopes of becoming a licensed midwife remain unwavering.
“Puhon, kaluy-an sa Ginoo, maka-tiwas ko sa akong skwela ug mahimo na akong isa ka licensed midwife ug makatabang nako sa among isla,” said Nanay Pascuala.
(Hopefully, with God’s grace, I can finish my studies and become a licensed midwife and be able to help people on our island.)