2016-04-24-21-27-48-630She talks fast. A petite girl wearing a shirt and jeans emerged from the doors of the office looking fresh despite the scorching heat from the sun on a late morning and greeted everyone with a timid smile.

Lyka Jane Ruiz, 21, is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education last April 2016. Fourth among 10 siblings, Lyka says that their family get by with what they have.

From the island barangay of Bangkal in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, her father, Tatay Roy, works by ferrying people from their island to the proper of the municipality. Lyka’s mother, Nanay Nancy, helps their father in selling whatever product is in season like uling, sinegwelas, etc. Her mother is also a barangay councilor.

Lyka grew up with reluctant parents. She remembers that since elementary, she and most of her siblings were honor students and their parents were not so enthusiastic going up the stage during awardings. Lyka attributed this attitude to the thought that perhaps because they just lived in an island. “Pero super thankful po ako kasi kahit hindi kami ganun kasayang pamilya, buo kami, kumpleto at nandyan pa rin po ang pamilya ko. Hindi nila ako pinapabayaan, sumusuporta, gumagabay sila sa amin at nararamdaman ko na po yung pagbabago sa ugali nila. Ngayon nakapagtapos na kami, parang proud na sila,” said Lyka.

The Ruiz family became part of the Pantawid Pamilya program in 2013. It helped the family in its expenses as well as their family relationship. The change in the outlook in life can be attributed to the constant attendance of the couple in Family Development Sessions. Discussions on family relationships were tackled and talked among community members with the help of the staff.

It was how the people in their island look at things that need to be changed. Lyka also recalls that their neighbors used to say negative things to them like they might just get pregnant or will marry at an early age since most of them are girls. But Lyka did not let these negativities put her down.

Instead, she proved not only to the people around them but also to herself that she can make her way and achieve her dreams. She used this as a determination to push further and study hard. “Na-motivate ako na i-continue po yung pag-aaral ko. Everytime na may bagsak ako sa exam ko, napu-push po akong mag-aral, yun po yung pinagtutuunan ko ng pansin,” recalled Lyka.

And she did. She graduated with honor in college. But to graduate in college with honor is not an easy task. With “sipag, tiyaga at detreminasyon” when asked of what she has why she graduated with honor, Lyka told these three things.

Not an easy road

After high school, Lyka wasn’t able to pursue college right away. She stopped for a year. At that time, her second eldest sister is studying in college while the next is taking midwifery. Her father could not provide for them at the same time.

Instead of staying at home when she stopped, Lyka used her time to help and earn at the same time. She worked as a part-time preschool teacher in Bangkal Elementary School. She was able to receive Php1,500/month for the four months that she worked there.

Before the start of her school year as freshman in college, after working as part-time preschool teacher, she went to the proper of San Jose and worked as a waitress in an eatery. She worked at night for four months. But since she can’t balance her work and studies, she stopped working. Lyka’s tuition fee during her first year was free where she received a scholarship from the local government. However, during her second year, her father paid the tuition in full.

She was in sophomore year when they became part of Pantawid Pamilya. It assisted them greatly in terms of her younger siblings’ needs in school. Lyka narrated that her father is strict in their expenses. There were times that she becomes stressed just thinking where to get the money for her school expenses. Fortunately, another blessing came to them.

An answered prayer

Lyka was a junior when she became a beneficiary of the Students’ Grant-In-Aid for Poverty Alleviation Program of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) allotted to the children of Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries.

Noong una po talaga, hindi ako makapaniwala kasi libre tuition tapos may allowance pa. Parang di po ako makapaniwala na may ganito palang programa sa gobyerno pero noong natanggap ko na po, ayun naniwala na po ako. Totoo pala,” told Lyka when she received the grant.

Beneficiaries of the now Expanded Students’ Grant-In-Aid for Poverty Alleviation Program (ESGPPA) will receive a maximum of Php60,000 for tuition fee, textbooks/learning materials and allowance (transportation, board and lodging and other school supplies).

Lyka said, “Super blessed po talaga yung mga scholar ng SGPPA. Kasi sa laki po niyan, pag sinayang po nila, sila rin po magiging kawawa noon.” She never thought that they will be part of another government program after becoming a Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary.

Now that she graduated, even their neighbors in their island also believe and are now also hoping that their children can be part of the program. “Hindi mawawala yung pasasalamat at pagtanaw ng utang na loob kasi po kami po yung nabigyan ng scholarship. Super thankful, super blessed, thank you po kay God binigay niya po saken yung blessing na ganito,” narrated Lyka.

She is currently reviewing for the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET). She hopes she will be able to find a job soon to be able to give back to her parents and help in house expenses.

She hopes that the young ones today will believe in the seemingly impossible things that the world has to offer. She hopes they will believe that good things will happen to them. “Huwag pong susuko. Kahit everytime po na madadapa, push lang ng push. Kasi kahit isipin mong gusto mong mag-give up wala naman pong mangyayari. Yung ipagpatuloy lang po yung pangarap,” ended Lyka. Just like what she did when she turned negativity to success. ###

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