64 y.o. single mom a high school grad after raising 8 kids 2
Conchita Sta. Maria on her graduation day last July 31
Culture

64 y.o. single mom graduates from high school after raising 8 kids: ‘Hindi pa huli ang lahat’

“Hindi hadlang ang edad, kasarian, at katayuan sa buhay para makatapos ka ng pag-aaral,” says Conchita Sta. Maria.
RHIA GRANA | Aug 17 2023

Early this month, Facebook followers of Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto and Vice Mayor Dodot Jaworski were introduced to Conchita Sta. Maria, one of the 765 Pasigueños who recently graduated via the city’s Alternative Learning System (ALS).

According to the DepEd website, ALS “is a parallel learning system in the Philippines that provides opportunities for out-of-school youth and adult (OSYA) learners to develop basic and functional literacy skills, and to access equivalent pathways to complete basic education.” The program was initiated by DepEd in 2004.

Conchita Sta. Maria
“Hindi hadlang ang edad, kasarian, at katayuan sa buhay para makatapos ka ng pag-aaral,” says Ochie, who's turning 65 in November. 

Sta. Maria, or Tita Ochie to her coworkers, is 64 years old and a single mother to eight children. Her husband passed away in 2013 when the youngest of her kids was still in kindergarten. Currently, she works as a staff member in the Office of the Vice Mayor, in charge of screening applicants for medical assistance. “Buti na lang very supportive sila sa akin. In-allow nila akong mag-take ng ALS habang nagtatrabaho,” the new graduate tells ANCX.

Ochie, born and raised in Pasig, also belongs to a family of eight siblings; she is the fifth child. Her late father was a fisherman while her mother took care of the household. “Dahil sa kahirapan, inuna ng mga magulang ko na mapagtapos ang mas nakakatandang kapatid ko nang sa gayon sila naman ang magpapaaral sa aming mas bata,” she says. 

But things didn’t go as planned because Ochie dove headfirst into love, got married, and had her first child at age 17. She only reached second year high school.

Conchita Sta. Maria
The mother of eight says one of her primary motivations for striving to finish the ALS program is to inspire her children to also continue their studies.

“Dito ko lang nalaman ang tungkol sa ALS program e,” she says. “Kung nalaman ko sana ito nang mas maaga, naipagpatuloy ko pa sana ang aking pag-aaral.” When she was younger, she dreamed of becoming a broadcast journalist. English was her favorite subject, she offers.

But her education had to take a backseat because she was busy raising her family by her lonesome. “Nag-labada ako, nagbabantay sa mga matatandang maysakit para kahit paano mairaos ko lang pagkain namin ng mga anak ko. Ang hirap kapag solo parent ka na.”

Nevertheless, she’s still proud of what she’s achieved, because she was able to prove something to herself. “Hindi hadlang ang edad, kasarian, at katayuan sa buhay para makatapos ka ng pag-aaral.”

Ochie says she learned many things thru ALS. “Natutunan ko ang tamang pagbasa ng Ingles, paggamit ng punctuation, paano makiharap at makitungo sa ibang tao, paghawak ng finances, karapatan ng mga kabataan at senior citizens,” she says. “Ngayon kaya ko nang magsalita ng basic English at may kompiyansa na ako sa aking sarili.”

Conchita Sta. Maria
Ochie currently works as a staff member in the Office of the Vice Mayor, in charge of screening applicants for medical assistance.

The mother of eight says one of her primary motivations for striving to finish the ALS program is to inspire her children to also continue their studies. Four of them finished vocational and college education, but the other four didn’t.

“Nais kong magsilbing ehemplo sa kanila na hindi pa huli ang lahat para maipagpatuloy nila ang pag-aaral nila,” she says, her voice breaking. “Kahit na may-asawa at anak na sila, puwede pa rin nilang matapos ang pag-aaral nila at makamit ang mga pangarap nila.”

Ochie held her high school diploma close to her heart, as tears trickle down her cheeks. “Isa itong kayamanan na hindi mananakaw sa akin ninuman,” she says.