They call us the lower class, the twerps, a burden to the government. They dub us dependents, supposedly merely after government doles. They call us the poorest of the poor, the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
Let me tell you people, we are less fortunate but we are not stupid. Yes, we are receiving a certain amount from the government, to alleviate our current situation, which is the program’s primary objective. But, is it really a basis for social discrimination and bullying?
I am a 4Ps scholar, one of the beneficiaries of the Expanded Students’ Grant-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA), to be particular about it. So, what do you think? I am giving you the freedom to say something about it. Are you one of those judgmental persons or among the rational ones?
When I first heard about the opportunity to avail myself of the ESGP-PA, I thought of my dreams becoming possible. It was as if chance had found a deserving student who desired to make a difference in her life, in her family, and in her society. Eventually, I became a lucky grantee. I consider that a significant gift that drew me closer to achieving my aspirations.
For me, tuition and other school fees, academic and extracurricular expenses, the purchase of textbooks, the lack of stipend and transportation fare ceased to be constant worries in the pursuit of a college degree. Each grantee is entitled to P30,000 per semester, and that has been making a difference.
But, the difference includes social discrimination and bullying. Some fellow students say something to this effect: “Those 4Ps scholars, they already have the scholarship, and they’re also given special treatment.” Those students who belong to well-off families look down on us when they learn that we are ESGP-PA grantees, as though we were unsightly.
The worst thing was when, in class, a professor presented his opinion on the program’s “dependency” on the government and how our expenses as grantees were being shouldered by taxpayers including himself, all because of irresponsible parenthood. His opinion just seemed so biased. It appeared that he did not realize: What could this mean, how could this affect, an ESGP-PA grantee in his class?
These have happened, not just to me, but also to my fellow 4Ps scholars. It’s like being a 4Ps scholar is a sin, that being less fortunate is a sin.
We are not the proponents of this program; we are merely the chosen recipients. I’ve come to think: What if everyone is a 4Ps beneficiary? Will their views still be the same? Will the treatment be just and fair? Why does social hierarchy matter a lot in building a community? Irrationality will never unite a country.
This is not all about irresponsible parenthood; this is reality. Poverty is present in the country. We are not building a poverty society. In fact, we strongly want to get out of that status. We strive to lift our families out of poverty and eventually give back to the economy.
I feel that I should just shut my mouth whenever they throw gibberish at us and degrade the ESGP-PA. Yet my open mind cannot fathom the fact that those words come from supposedly educated people who should know better than us. It is just a manifestation that someone can be educated but not learned.
Still, I extend my thanks to the government for providing a great opportunity for deserving students to complete tertiary-level education. I will focus on the positive goals. We’ll eradicate poverty; we don’t need irrationality. We are less fortunate, but we are not stupid.
Rose J. Bongon, 20, is a third-year IT student at Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges. She is associate editor of The Spark (the official CSPC school–community publication) and blogs at https://miraqrose.wordpress.com/.