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OFW’s mom earns high school diploma at 82

03 December 2018

Danica and her grandmother Nicanora Calsas at graduation. 

By Vir B. Lumicao

At 82, Nicanora Calsas has finally fulfilled a lifetime dream to obtain a high school diploma, proving it is never too late to study.

The widow surprised her daughter, Hong Kong-based OFW poet and baseball player Cecil Calsas, on Nov 17 when she proudly marched onstage, along with 837 younger high school and elementary graduates.

Lola Cano was the oldest secondary school graduate at ceremonies held at the Dr. Catalino G. Nava National High School in San Lorenzo, Guimaras. But the spotlight was shared by a 90-year-old man who finished his elementary education.

“I was surprised that she graduated. I’m happy for her,” said Calsas, who recounted to The SUN how her mother was teary-eyed at the special event, thinking that none of her two grandchildren by Calsas was around.

The kids who Lola Cano raised while their mother was scrubbing toilet floors or working the wok in Hong Kong were supposedly in Iloilo City pursuing their studies.

So, when her “apo” Danica Jelyn, 18, suddenly appeared at her side, the granny hugged her
tight as tears flowed down her wrinkled face.

Lola Cano, resplendent in her royal blue toga, was the star of the event as she was well known in the community. She had been a barangay official for about 40 years, assuming such roles as kagawad, secretary and, when someone in the village died, as prayer leader.

Calsas said her mom, who will be 83 on Jan 10, is the oldest barangay health worker in San Lorenzo and still very active in the community, mainly in senior citizen affairs.

Yet, she squeezed into her busy schedule her studies for the two-year abbreviated high school course offered by the government under the Alternative Learning System. ALS caters to those who could not continue their studies in their younger years.

Like any other student, the ALS enrollees went to public schools that offered the courses they wanted to pursue.

In the case of Lola Cano, who was on a home-study plan, it was the teachers who went to her house regularly to instruct her. Danica and her brother Filamer, 21, meanwhile, helped their grandmother with her homework.
Lola Cano reportedly resumed her studies about 70 years after her schooling was interrupted in the post-Second World War by the death of her father.     

“She finished Grade 6. At the time, that seemed to be the highest level of education,” Calsas said, fondly describing her mother as a very intelligent woman who spoke fluent English.
Lola Cano married years later, when destiny brought her and Felipe Calsas together. She bore six children – four girls, including Cecil who is second to the youngest, and two boys.

“But I was her favorite child,” Calsas said proudly.
Lola Cano and Felipe worked hard to give their children education. Four of the siblings, including Calsas, went through university while the other two did not finish their courses because their father died in 2000.

Like any typical mother of an OFW daughter, Lola Cano has raised Calsas’ children since September 2007, when the latter came to Hong Kong to join the army of domestic helpers here.
In return, Calsas has been supporting them financially.

“Siya ang nagpalaki sa mga anak ko. Kung wala siya, hindi ko ma-imagine ang buhay ko at baka mga walang galang ang mga anak ko. Sobrang mahal siya nila, lalo na ni Danica,” said Calsas.

That explains why Danica, a senior high school student at West Visayas State University in Iloilo City, sailed home on Nov 17 to surprise her Lola Cano on her graduation with her presence.


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