BUKIDNON'S PRIDE: Maramag HS student among PH’s top ten: “Let’s not waste opportunities”

DOLOGON, Maramag, Bukidnon – Since Grade 5, he has worked errands at someone else’s home. The future was not clear then if he could continue studying. His father, a sugar cane farm laborer, said he has no capacity to send his children to school.

But 19-year old Jeffrey Manhulad, one of his three children, held his ground. As a working student for an elementary school teacher’s family he has to do household chores for a living and study at the same time.

On graduation day on April 1, he will be honored as Dologon National High School’s class valedictorian and one of the Philippines’ Ten Outstanding Public School Students for 2011.

Jeffrey’s story is one out to prove that poverty is no match to a person with hard work.

The Kabayan Ten Outstanding Public School Students organizers, initiated by the former vice President Noli De Castro, choose him as the Mindanao awardee.  He received a plaque and a P20,000 cash prize. But aside from the honor and accolade, the award’s most important gift is a full scholarship for college education at a university in Northern Mindanao that he will choose.

Now, Jeffrey looks at a brighter future.

His teachers in DNHS said Jeffrey deserved the prize.  Despite his status as a working student, he has become a consistent honor student, Divina Quimba, his 4th year class adviser said.

The Manhulads is a family of farm laborers in Maramag. When Jeffrey was still four years old, his parents got separated.  The family faced hardships that took its toll in the children’s separation, too.

Jeffrey recalled that separation from family at an early age was a difficult and lonely ordeal.

But he said he was fortunate to have lived with the family of his elementary school teacher Mrs. Fe Jubay in Musuan. Mrs. Jubay took him in as a working student.

He credits his achievements to the family’s generosity. Even if they were not relatives, he added, the family dealt with him like family.

Jeffrey worked errands and did household chores like washing the dishes. But the Jubays made sure that he had study time after dinner. Unlike other working students, Jeffrey was allowed to join extra-curricular activities in school just like the regular students.

Mrs. Quimba said he was an honor student who also spent time attending leadership seminars.

“But he was very focused on his studies,” she added.

It was Edwin Gurrea, DepEd Bukidnon social studies supervisor who encouraged DNHS principal Yvonne Catli to submit a nomination for the Kabayan TOPS award. She hesitated at first, but she later nominated Jeffrey.

The rest is history. Jeffrey was selected among the nominees from Mindanao. He has earned his key to a college education.

When DepEd Bukidnon superintendent Dr. Ingrid Racoma received information of Jeffrey’s inclusion to the top 10, she got excited and did not hesitate to attend the awarding ceremonies in Manila.

She said Jeffrey’s academic excellence award is another feather to the cap of the schools’ division.

“It is a proof that poverty cannot be made an excuse for not being able to succeed in school,” she told a press conference with the Bukidnon Press Club on March 30.

Hernando Manhulad, the man who almost lost hope about sending his children to school now see certainty in Jeffrey’s future. He is thankful to the Jubay family for taking care of his son’s needs.

“It is my pride, even if we seldom see each other, to see my son in his situation now. I am also thankful to God for the courage he gave to face our difficulties in life,” he said in vernacular.

Jeffrey was also very grateful to his guardians, Mrs. Jubay and his father. “I will make sure I can finish schooling for all those who showed concern for me,” he said.

Jeffrey has appealed to students and children who come from poor families, like him.

“Let us not waste the opportunities that come our way. Let us help our family and all the people who help us secure a better future,” he said. (Walter I. Balane, with reporting by Melodina Molejon from Dologon, Maramag, Bukidnon)

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