Friday, 15 March 2013

Iskolar ng Bayan

"Sa Sta Cruz kami noon, bumili ang anak ko ng kendi sa halagang 20 pesos. Ang sabi ko, 'anak, bakit mo ginastos lahat iyan sa kendi?' Ang sagot niya sa akin, 'Tay, lunch ko na po ito.' Ganoon siya ka pursigido para lang makapasok sa school... Kahit pa siya magutom, makapasok lang. UP ang naging buhay niya..."

                                  -father of UP Manila student who committed suicide

    Several months ago, I read a news item about a poor student who passed the entrance exams to the country's most prestigious university but decided not to pursue her studies anymore there. The reason? Her family did not have the means to pay for the expenses she'll be incurring as a student of the University of the Philippines (UP).

    How many deserving students, the best among the best, are not able to realize their dream of becoming an iskolar ng bayan because they could not afford the "high cost" of studying at UP?  I  thought the university was established to open windows of  opportunity to many poor students in getting the  best education they could possibly have. 

     Yesterday, I learned that a very promising student of UP Manila took her own life. She was not officially enrolled at UP; school authorities decided she needed to pay the outstanding balance of her account  at the university before she can attend classes. She confided to one of her professors her parent's difficulty in raising funds to pay for her tuition fee. 

Letter of UP student, Photo Courtesy of Rafael Ligsay and


     My heart bled on learning about the difficult situation she and her family were in. Here was a bright and promising student, who was prepared to study and work hard in order to finish her studies. She wanted to help her family rise above their economic difficulties. Kaya lang hirap talaga ang sitwasyon ng kanyang mga magulang. Her father was the sole breadwinner, being a part-time taxi driver. They did everything they could, even pawning a title to a property just so that she could settle her account. 

     Her mother said in a television interview, 

 "Nagsangla kami ng titulo ng lupa para mabayaran ang tuition niya at kinausap namin yung Chancellor... kaya lang university rule raw ito na hindi pwedeng baliin ( "we pawned the title of a land we owned in order to pay for her tuition fee; we talked to the UP Manila Chancellor; however, he said that there is a university rule that cannot be broken")
Courtesy of AksyonTV.


St. Francis at Payatas

Photograph courtesy of Payatas Orione Foundation

     When I read that the former Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, lived a life of austerity in caring for the poor and marginalised,  I remember the Argentinian priests from the Sons of the Divine Providence  and the lay people  I was able to work with in Payatas. They have been  doing so much to uplift the lives of the poor while living in simplicity and humility. 

  Through the Payatas Orione Foundation (PAOFI), they have spearheaded several projects to help the poor in Payatas such as the establishment of feeding centers  in several areas of the barangay and clinics which provides medicine for patients with tuberculosis. I also had the opportunity to work with them in several cases involving families, couples and individuals needing psycho-spiritual intervention  since 2007.

     During their last year's anniversary, I remembered the poignant speech of one of their former scholars who narrated how she diligently finished her studies, found a work she was passionate of and where she was able to help her family in their economic needs. 

   The PAOFI shall be having their 6th year anniversary tomorrow, March 16. I learned that they shall also be launching a scholarship fund drive for the poor students tomorrow.  I pray for the success of this fund drive and for the continued support for their many projects for the poor.

     Patnubayan kayo parati ng Panginoon, mga kapatid ko.

From a Youtube Video : Ryan Cayabyab's Prayer of St. Francis
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