GRADUATION DAY. Elementary pupils watch the first batch of graduating classes in Pagatpat Elementary School in Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday (June 29, 2022). For the first time since the pandemic declaration two years ago, the Department of Education has allowed face-to-face graduation ceremonies in the city. (PNA photo by Nef Luczon)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – More than a hundred excited pupils of the Pagatpat Elementary School here have gathered together with their parents at the school gymnasium Wednesday for the first face-to-face (F2F) graduation in two years.

By 8 a.m., the graduation ceremonies started.

It took less than an hour for the whole program, with messages from the school principal, Mel Tuba, and a representative from the Department of Education's (DepEd) City Division Office, delivered shortly like clockwork.

Unlike the previous years when the ceremony is done in one setting, this time it was done in batches to avoid crowding, in keeping with existing coronavirus disease-2019 (Covid-19) guidelines.

After the graduation of the first batch, 100 more graduates were allowed into the venue, flowing in togas and their standard white attire as the first group exited the gymnasium.

The parents were noticeably present, huddled in an area where they are expected not to loiter around. Everyone wore face masks.

This is the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic that parents here witnessed their children finishing elementary level.

“It was a mixed emotion; you're happy that finally you see your son graduate, and at the same time reminded how hard it was,” said Jazelle Joy Abragan, mother of Jaden Edric.

Abragan, 37, said she was delighted that his son was able to walk on stage physically, while remembering how challenging it was in the past two years motivating him to answer his modules.

“I had to drop by here (in school) regularly just to submit his modules. Sometimes it's a challenge for working parents,” Abragan said.

Meanwhile, Tuba said they have complied with the requirements set by the city-level Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and have been visited by inspectors before the graduation rites were approved.

“The schools’ division superintendent also told us to strengthen health protocols during the program,” he said.

For the upcoming school year, Tuba said schools are preparing for physical classes on August 24.

“But then again, it will still depend on what classification (Alert Level) will be given to us by the IATF, if the level is low, then we will have F2F classes,” he said.

However, Tuba said new policies may take effect especially with the new administration and with  Vice President Sara Duterte at the helm of the DepEd.

For Abragan though, it would be another chapter for his son's education, admitting that she, too, is uncertain of the “new normal.”

What's clear for her, she said, is that she will be there to help her son finish his schooling. (PNA)