Wearing my toga with pride.

“Cecilia R. Georfo. Magna Cum Laude. Bachelor of Secondary Education major in English.” These powerful words made me utterly exclaim inside, “That’s my name! That’s my crowning moment!” It was the recognition of my tireless, time-tested endeavor. It was my graduation day – the final milestone in my baccalaureate journey.

Who would have thought that a simple girl like me who used to sell swamp cabbage or kangkong at the public to earn a penny as additional allowance would graduate with high honors?

As I walked, hand in hand with my father, towards the stage to reap the sweet fruit of the seed I’d sown, I can’t help but feel the overwhelming feeling of pride and joy. I saw the sweetest and proudest smile from my mother and siblings; from my mentors and friends. The unending congratulatory words from them lifted me to the zenith of joy. Back then I felt a bottle of mixed emotions – gratefulness, pride, and everything in between.

Recounting the odds

I was born from an economically-challenged family. The sixth among the seven children of Mr. and Mrs. Nestor Georfo. My father Nestor, is a very hardworking Barangay Electrician at Cumawas, Bislig City where we presently reside. My mother Josephine, is an ordinary housewife who tended us with utmost care and love. Our family is also a responsible grantee of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program since 2012.

I can still remember during my elementary days when we lived in a half-structured nipa hut, with nipa as our roof, bamboo sticks as our wall, and the soil as our floor. In the morning, when the sun is up shining brightly, we’re like in a theatre stage full of lights from the top and sides.  When you look at our roof, it’s like star gazing in broad daylight. When the sun sets and the moon is up, it’s like having five air-conditioners. The temperature drops to a teeth-clattering point. When it rains outside, it’s harder for us inside because the rain also pours indoor. It’s more difficult because our floor which is the ground gets slippery and then eventually, the flood comes in to the point that it’s just few inches below our room’s floor. When we walk inside the house, there’s always accumulated mud in our feet. Way back, it made me wish to be outside than to be inside our home.

It hurt me seeing how my father and mother tried to do all the chores just to prevent our feet from getting dirty. It pained me knowing that the comfort that should be provided by our home is never there due to the situation we have. And that served as my wake-up call. All my aspirations of alleviating my family from poverty sprouted during those times. I swore to myself, I will never have the same life for my children soon.  I don’t blame my parents for being poor, but rather I’m thankful that I have experienced how hard life is. Back at those dark moments, I saw a lesson, I built a dream, and I intended on fulfilling it.

Striving for excellence

I became true to my words. I strived to excel in my studies. I used education as my weapon in battling the fangs of poverty and ignorance. I really adhered to the ideal that investing in education is never a loss, it’s a forever gain. And my efforts didn’t fail, I eventually became the Class Valedictorian of Balingan Elementary School in the year 2010. Having tasted that ounce of success, I yearned for more and was more determined to continue bringing stardom to my parents whom others belittle. I remained vigorous in my studies. I fought and conquered every challenge in high school making me the class Valedictorian of batch 2014 in Tabon Maximino Estrella National High School.

My parents and family were so proud. Seeing them proud made me happy since they are the reason why I’m working hard in my studies. I also wanted to show those people who continually belittle us that we’re worth their respect.

On the quest for college education

The awards given by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Caraga.

High school is over and I was about to enter college. Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamt of becoming a teacher. It is my passion to cure ignorance and touch someone’s life that attracts me like a magnet towards becoming a teacher. I wanted to be a teacher who confidently teaches with a heart.

Back then, it was very difficult for my parents to sustain my college education. That’s why we were so grateful when I was chosen as one of the grantee of Expanded Students Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Reduction (E/SGP-PA) or commonly labelled as “4Ps scholar”.

The ESGPPA is implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and State Colleges and Universities (SUCs). This program aims to contribute to the National Government’s thrusts in effectively addressing poverty alleviation by increasing the number of graduates in higher education among poor households and to get these graduates employed in high value added occupations in order to lift their families out of poverty and contribute to national development.

Reaping the joy of success

Last April 23, 2018, I conveyed my testimonial message during the special recognition rites of the ESGP-PA dubbed as “Parangal 2018” at Surigao del Sur State University. Among the 433 scholars from Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, I reached the highest honor as I finished my studies as Magna Cum Laude.

Receiving a plaque and certificate of recognition from Ramel Jamen, Chief Administrative Officer of DSWD Caraga.

Recounting the countless struggles, my journey towards this success is not lotto-drawn. It’s a roller-coaster ride full of challenges, of ups and downs. It’s a chapter of twists and turns that tested my character. I may live a life without luxury but I know it will only be for now because I know in the future I will be able to give a comfortable life for my family. I’m proud to be among those who say that poverty is not a hindrance to success and in my case, it served as my motivation to go forward in defeating every storm that tries to wreck my ship.

I am proud to be a 4Ps scholar. ### (Story by Cecilia R. Georfo/Social Marketing Unit/DSWD Field Office Caraga)

 

Photo Credits: Cecilia Georfo, Igmedio Intas Jr.