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Never Too Poor or Too Sick to Dream: 3 Remarkable Graduation Stories

One overcame a debilitating disease, one worked odd jobs, while another survived on a P20 baon
IMAGE Geocelle Dela Cruz, Tiffany Uy, Robin Lee Metiam
  1. This student worked eight jobs to finish college.

They say you could never put a good man (or woman) down, and this certainly holds true in the case of Geoselle Dela Cruz, who, despite not having much, managed to send herself to college and graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Tourism—and with honors. 

"There are a lot of things I tried just to keep this UP dream going. Lahat ng raket na pwedeng gawin, I did," she writes in an inspiring Facebook entry which has gone viral, and her statement is certainly not an exaggeration. Definitelyfilipino.net reports that from hosting events to being a back-up dancer to peddling "pizza rolls, donuts," etc, this girl has done it all.

It is this perseverance that earned her the moniker "Diskarte Queen," a title she had to live up to especially when, in her fourth year in college, her mom and brother both needed medical attention, which of course entailed expenses. 

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In her post, Geoselle recounted her struggles thoughout her five years at the University of the Philippines, and included a heartfelt thank-you to everyone who "helped my family, from daily baon to pambayad sa fieldtrips, to pambili ng school needs." She ended her post by addressing fellow students who may be experiencing similar challenges, "Whatever it takes, wag mong susukuan yan!!! And when battles come, when mountains arise, when hard times happen, please do not escape. Choose to endure, always."

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She signed it with a victorious "Sa wakas magmamartsa na, Geoselle Santiago Dela Cruz".

Read her post in full here:

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  1. This PWD is now a "person with a degree."

Judging from her appearance, Tiffany Uy would seem like a perfectly able and healthy lady, but in 2010 she was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, a condition where the body's immune system attacks even the healthy cells, causing the patient to become debilitated over time. 

After graduating from Manila Science High School, Tiffany was determined to finish her course, Public Administration, on time, but her frail condition prevented her from doing so. In 2013, she had to drop a few subjects because she could no longer walk to class. Tiffany missed more classes as her condition worsened. "I didn't tell one professor about my sickness and he said, 'Bakit ngayon ka lang pumasok?' I felt so embarrassed that I was letting so many people down and I was still too scared to tell them how bad my sickness was getting. I felt like people thought I was a lazy kid who didn't want to go to class and I always felt like tearing up when I wanted to explain so I almost wanted to take a leave of absence."

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But her desire to finish her degree persisted. "Although I was really embarrassed to ask for help, I got the courage to ask my friends to tutor me in subjects I missed out on. I asked for PowerPoints, seat works, and kindly begged for the time to be tutored," she said.

On days when her symptoms were really bad, instead of staying in bed, Tiffany would exercise at the gym. And, as if to tell her body who's boss, she even ran for a position in the student council and was chairperson in her graduating year. Last month, she finally saw the fruition of her dreams as she graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines. 

"I thought of other lupus patients who experience similar symptoms as me and they continue to live their lives to the best of their abilities. These stories serve as a daily reminder of how blessed I am," she added.

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Read her story in her own words below:

  1. "Isang basong palamig at isang pirasong kendi."

For many of us, P20 is not a lot of money. It's hard to imagine how newly-graduated student Robin Lee Metiam survived on a measly amount as baon every single day throughout his college life, but he had it all figured out:

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P7 jeepney fare going to school 
P7 jeepney fare going home
P6 for a piece of candy and a glass of 'samalamig'

Robin is the third of seven siblings and comes from a poor family. In his first year in college, his father lost his job so his older brother gave way and quit school so Robin could continue his education. Needless to say, there was very little financial resource to go around, so aside from stretching his daily baon, he also tutored on the side. When he started earning a few pesos from his part-time job, instead of adding to his baon, he gave what he had to his parents to augment their budget. 

After two attempts to apply for the DOST Scholarship Program (he failed the first time) and almost five years later, Robin has graduated from the Tarlac State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. His Facebook post has gotten over 64,000 Likes to date and has been shared more than 17,000 times.

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"Pinagpatuloy ko itong lifestyle na ito hanggang sa makaabot ako ng 4th year at 5th year college at ngayon na grumaduate ako last June 15,2017…Grabe kase ang tinuro ng Panginoon sa akin gamit ang 20 pesos na yan...Tinuruan akong magtiyaga, mas lalong pahalagahan ang mga bagay bagay na meron ako, at higit sa lahat ay mas lalo akong naturuang mas Kumapit at mag tiwala sa Panginoon sa lahat ng Oras :)Ikaw…Hanggang saan kaya aabot ang 20 pesos mo?"

Read his touching story in the post below:

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This story originally appeared on Smartparenting.com.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Candymag.com editors.

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About the author
Lei Sison for SmartParenting.com.ph
Managing Editor of www.smartparenting.com.ph
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I was, but I am not. Desperately, I am trying to reach you – my hope. I am in this particular space in my own constructed world where doubts and frustrations recur. Emphasizing how scared I am being here, I never explored this area before. I was always in those places filled with benevolence, hope shining like the light the sun and the moon possess. And I didn’t have any plans to visit a ‘dark’ place, as how I described it then. But, as funny as how my world suddenly flipped, I am now here, completely lost with monsters persuading me to go insane.

How did I end up here? I can’t logically tell you the answer for that, but I guess, I know when. It started when I had to consider what college course do I want to pursue. Well, if you want to ask what ambition had occurred in my mind when I was young – which is usually the case in terms of life when you were like 7-year-old young - it was definitely being a doctor. I’d thought about wearing a medical coat with a stethoscope around my neck, ready to cure people from their illnesses. It was actually stuck in my mind for so long I almost thought that I was sure of it, yet, as a particular song yields, almost was never really enough and still, it is and will never be.

When I realized that such a perspective was slowly draining me, I tried my best to stand tough. I convinced myself that this was just temporary, that I could think of a way out of this. “There’s still plenty of time,” I once convinced myself. However, my environment demonstrated the contrary: I felt like I was completely out of time.

I was there when my classmates were happily talking about that ‘dream course’ they wish to take in their ‘dream university.’ I was there when my family was suggesting the thought of using my ‘suitable’ speaking voice for broadcasting and voice acting purposes. I was there when my teacher was convincing me that Education suited me the best. That ‘Stand tough!’ aura I used to own back then, suddenly transformed into ‘I give up!’ state, slowly destroying my being. And now, I am here in this space where doubts and frustrations are filling my former enthusiastic self. I need help.

I know, at this point, some of you may never consider me ‘fatal’ because, as you’re reading this, you may judge that I still have the ability to transform my thoughts into words that can be read, so that ‘automatically’ falls into the aspect of complete sanity. No, because I will never tell everything to you in the first place if I still have the urge to stand like I used to, relative to my belief that speaking up through writing is the best way to attract help.

When you look at the photo of mine above, you may say that I was okay. That I was successful. That I was never losing myself. Yes, I was. But, think about what happened days after that was taken and the message of this passage you started reading minutes before, do you think I am still the same girl smiling in the photo? I hope I will be or better yet, improve if the world will permit me. But, now I’m sure – I’m not the same.

LIFE ADVICE YOU NEED TO HEAR WHILE YOURE STILL YOUNG

This blog is dedicated to all teens out there struggling in determining what they really want in their life or if you simply want a glow up. And since were still facing a pandemic, I think this is also a season where everyone is re-thinking about their lives. So, I hope these advices might help you.

Tip #1. TAKE RISK - since most of you are still young, I advice you to take your biggest risk. Whether it may be taking the course you want, a skill you want to acquire or just simply taking the risk to throw away your emotional baggage from your childhood. While you're still young, you have very little to lose. You dont have that much commitments and responsibilities. Because the older you get, the more responsibilities and obligations came. So when they are still not piling up, take the risk! As for me, the biggest risk I took when I was still a teenager is to CUT OFF TOXIC FAMILY TIES.

I may sound rude here but, yeah. I decided to throw away my emotional baggage from my traumatic childhood and cut off some of my family ties and it is completely okay! You dont have to be bothered by whatever they will say. Because at your age, you are already investing on your growth as a person. If you really want to grow, THERE IS NO PERFECT TIME FOR YOU TO TAKE RISK BUT NOW. Because in taking risk you are actually giving yourself a reward of getting something amazing or beyond what you expect you can have. As they say, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. Keep in mind that the bigger the risk, the bigger possibility of FAILURE. But that is completely OKAY. Because just like what I said earlier, you are still young. You dont have so much to lose so, dont be afraid to take the risk and then fail. But after failing, learn from it and the more courage you have to take risk the greater the learning, reward or happiness. Ito na nga, how to take risk nga ba? And what are the risk that would actually help me to grow? #

2: VOICE LESSON - dont get me wrong, hindi ito vocalization para sa pagkanta. What I mean is, learn to listen to that VOICE INSIDE YOU. Listen to your heart, to your intuition and to your visions because it will be your GUIDE. Because I realize that as you go along your journey of your life and if you really want to be YOURSELF and be successful in achieving your goals, the only GUIDE that you should follow is your OWN VOICE.

It is okay to take and consider other people's advices but at the end of the day,you should never forget to listen to your own voice. Because that voice is what tells you what you truly want. How would you know that if it is your 'own' voice? Your own voice always comes from your HEART. The voice where YOU and GOD'S voice are one. Because I firmly believe that God knows your heart and that is where he reside. I like journaling because whenever I journal my thought every night and every morning, I feel a dual voice inside my head. Like, it contradicts what the other voice is telling. For example: If we have dreams or goals that puts us so much weight and pressure to the point that it makes you exhausted, STOP. Because it might be a dream or goal of someone else. I believe that your own dreams and goals may be frustrating most of the time, but that frustration has fueling feeling that will always tell you that 'This is the hard way to better so keep going'. Frustration in your own dreams will not make you feel exhausted because achieving a dream itself is a fulfilling feeling.

#3. TAKE ACTION - if you really want something to happen, take action. Dont just sit there and wait things to come your way. Make action or decisions that will take you to where you want to go in your life. Just like what I said in one of my novels that I am writing in wattpad, "There is no such thing as destiny or fate. Because YOU make your OWN life choices." For example, I cannot expect to be a published author if I dont write any novels right? The bottomline here is, if you are not moving forward you are actually moving backward. And it is a sad thing. Life is full of situations where you will be put in the line whether you take courage or just stay where you are. Because GROWING needs consistency in moving forward. So if you dont have to enough courage to take action, your life will always stay the same or worse you will continuously shrink down.

#4. EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS - this means stretching your comfort zone. I watched an anime entitled "Black Clover" there is a captain there where he always tell his subordinates to surpass their limits right, here right now. Going out of our comfort zones are surely scary and uncomfortable. But you have to accept the fact that you cannot stay on the coast forever. You have to change, because the only thing that is constant in this world is change right? Go out of your comfort zones because LIMITS are just in the MIND. There are disabled people who are successful in their own careers. Because the lesson here is, if you hold back there will be no growth. Because GROWTH blooms in DISCOMFORT.

Last, #5. INVEST IN YOURSELF - especially now that you are still young, you should focus on investing on yourself more. Time is your bestfriend at this point of your life. You have so much time to discover things about yourself. I never regret buying and reading books that I never knew will help me later on in dealing life's challenges. You can use that time to read books, gain wisdom, or pick a new skill, improve your talent and learn from your experiences. Keep learning outside your home or your school. Because the real battlefield is OUTSIDE. What you learn in school will only help you in your career but your wisdom and experiences will help you in life or as a person. People who doesnt embrace growth will never succeed in their life. (This is a reflection blog from my 21st birthday last week. I hope you can feature this on your page and I hope it can help others as well. )

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