IN THE past, someone who is old and forgetful, would often be described as “agkabkabaw” in Ilocano. Today, it has been given a scientific name, “Alzheimer”, or ALZ for short.

But the same sounding acronym describes a highly beneficial project, the Alternative Learning System, or ALS, for short.

I was privileged to have been invited as the guest speaker at the graduation ceremony for over 90 graduates of ALS under the Dept. of Education, last Monday. How could I possibly refuse the invitation, in spite of a hectic and crazy schedule, when it was going to be held at my parents’ alma mater!

Yes, my mother was always proud to say she had reached grade 4 only, but could speak better English and could add, subtract, multiply, and divide more accurately than many high school graduates. She was an alumna of the Baguio Central School, just like my dad.

I had a greater sense of fulfillment giving my sharing to the mixed crowd of graduates who came from different walks of life, than when I spoke at various college commencement exercises. Most had not gone to college and some may not have finished high school. However, their one common denominator was their desire to improve their livelihood skills even at a later stage in life.

They had each finished a 120 hour course in any of the following practical fields of endeavor: Baking, mushroom growing, cooking, food processing, driving, cosmetology, beauty and health care, massage therapy, welding, electrical wiring, etc.

I shared with them, that over 40 years ago, I also took a two month course in baking in an all women’s class, took up driving, and soon after, enrolled in mushroom growing, and noodle making. How I wish I had learned how to cook, process food, and learned something about electrical systems.

Yes, they were blessed to have been given the opportunity to enroll in said classes. Some must have even been sponsored by Lady Rotarians, as I saw several of them with their beneficiaries.

As in many fields, nowadays, the women outnumbered the men. I kidded the men about us needing to fight for gender equality, as the supposedly “weaker” sex have been “invading” and successfully standing out in almost all careers and fields of endeavor previously held only by men. One field among many, which was highly featured recently, is in the military. Eight out of ten of the topnotchers in the Philippine Military Academy were women. And the valedictorian was a woman.

Thus it was no wonder that several graduates of the welding courses were women!

My Dearest ALS Graduates,

As I have not spoken to the thousands of you, who have graduated from the ALS program nor will I have the opportunity to speak to those of you who will one day graduate from said ALS, I say:

Keep your Pangarap [dreams] alive!

And live the 5 P's:

1. Preparation (by continuing to master your field of endeavor.)

2. Passion (love what you do, and do what you love to do.)

3. Persist (do the right things consistently.)

4. Persevere (overcome obstacles by focusing on your Pangarap.)

5. Pray (Luke 1:37, “with God all things are possible.”)

Yes you can! Just do it!