A high school valedictorian received a 14-karat real gold medal during their graduation rites recently in Compostela Valley.

Era Jean Rivera,16, topped the 105 students who graduated at the Barangay Diwata National High School, Compostela Valley. Rivera was a consistent topnotcher in her class since her elementary years. The recent gold medal she received, weighing 15 grams, was but part of the total six gold medals she received since she was in the elementary grades. She said four of the gold medals weighed 10 grams each while the two were 15 grams.

Barangay Diwata is the richest barangay in the Philippines in terms of gold stocks. It is a mining community but many of the people are still poor.

Barangay Chairman Pedro Baluarte Samillano Jr. said it is the only barangay in the country that rewards honor students with real gold medals. He said the tradition started in 2003 where all the 10 first honor students from elementary to high school were given gold medals weighing 10 grams each, from a total 100 grams gold donated by mining financiers,tunnel owners, gold traders, and even the lowly mines laborers. It started during the incumbency of Barangay Chairman Francisco “Franco” Tito, to encourage students to strive and excel in their studies.

But due to dwindling mining output, the barangay officials decided to just give two gold medals only but it weighed 15 grams instead of the usual 10 grams given to all top 10 graduates from elementary and high school.
But to poor families of honor students like Rivera, the gold medals were either sold or pawned to meet their basic needs. Rivera’s mother, Cornelia, 48, who was teary-eyed as he listened to her daughter delivered the valedictory speech, said her daughter’s gold medals had helped them financially. Cornelia said four of Rivera’s gold medals were melted and fashioned into earrings and rings so it could easily be pawned.
“She could use the money from pawned jewelry for her college studies,” Cornelia said.

Gold is being sold at P2,000 per gram, so to receive a 15 grams medal would amount to P30,000.
Wilson Son, Barangay Diwata High School principal said strict guidelines were implemented in choosing the honor students, adding that the gold medals became like some sort of educational plans for bright students which they can use to pursue education.

Ruchel Jane Magallanes, 12, who was the valedictorian for the elementary level, also received a 15 gram gold medal.

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