What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about the year 2000? Millennium? Love bug virus? Year of the Dragon? Whatever you think about, isn’t it like yesterday, where in fact it’s nearly two decades ago? Time flies, I cannot forget how this year started changing my life, when I was 10 years old and still in fourth grade at Garita Elementary School.
It’s all the beginning of hope in every girl’s dream. I have a dream and I wanted to be a student. It was a very special day in school, I wasn’t sure if it is because there were tall and white Dutch men coming to visit our school that day. They asked our teachers who were present to help them in the search for 50 students who couldn’t afford the school fees, transport and food. In short unfortunate students, financially incapable but who have the potential to continue their studies and change their lives.
The contract for this foundation was until March 2010 when all the 50 students graduated in High School. Luckily, I was chosen to be one of them, the organisation called JOANA Foundation.
As I recall, the name of the foundation was derived from the name of the first student who was supported and who finished her entire studies up to college level and she became successful. From the 50 students, my control number was 26; this became a lucky number for me as well. Being a scholar from this foundation was a gift from heaven. Of course when it comes from heaven, it is all good. We had supply of shoes, school supplies and set of uniforms every June, which is the opening of the school year, and a monthly allowance. Our Dutch sponsors were updated regarding our progress in school on a quarterly basis. I finished my elementary education as Salutatorian (second best among 300 students in batch 2002) which made my family, my sponsors and me proud.
After that, I continued my High School for four years in Cavite National High School and graduated as First Honorable Mention among 1,500 students. I was still in the foundation at that time. I am always sincerely thankful that I was part of it. However, this was also the moment when I almost lost hope to pursue higher studies in college because of the contract. The JOANA Foundation will only support until High School.
I wanted to study, but my parents and I couldn’t afford to pay the high fees in college because of the lack of financial means. I was born and brought up from a squatter neighbourhood, I had no bed, but I slept on the tiny carton sheet, covering the floor from its coldness, in a very smelly and one of the dirtiest places on earth, where the blood and waste from the slaughter house is going through our drainage where the floor of our house is attached.
Imagine, when there’s a high tide, which is more or less 5 times per month, all the blood and waste are floating inside our house. Where the life is always about the question: “do we have some food to eat for today?” No future vision, no big dream. With that 18-year experience, I started to think : “this place is too small for me”. I strongly believe that education is the key to change someone’s life, specifically, My Life.