2017 honor graduate gives back
THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
She arrived with three boxes of pizza and a Black Forest cake.
Regine Villamejor, University of San Jose Recoletos (USJR) 2017 Magna Cum Laude, visited Cebu Daily News in the afternoon of March 19 to express her gratitude to the newspaper which she said, gave her a platform to inspire others.
Clad in her business attire consisting of a peach-colored blouse and a black blazer paired with a black skirt and brown ballet flats, Villamejor updated the CDN news staff on how things had been in her life a year after a story about her was published by the daily.
“I promised myself that I will go back to CDN to personally say ‘thank you’ once I get a job and I have enough money to buy something for you,” she said.
Villamejor, 21, now works for a Cebu-based food manufacturing company as a food service and institution specialist, a job that involves opening key accounts and dealing with customers from all walks of life.
She has been with the company for eight months now.
“A professor once told me that ‘a customer is not always right but they should be treated the right way.’ I get to apply what I learned from my teachers in my job,” said Villamejor.
On March 19 last year, then USJR masscom intern Jheysel Ann Tangaro, wrote the inspiring story of Villamejor, the daughter of a fisherman and fish vendor.
The story has since generated 8,131 shares.
A follow-up story on Villamejor’s college graduation, written by CDN reporter Nestle Semilla published on March 26, featured her parents, Raul and Mary Jane. The story had 666 shares.
Villamejor’s inspiring narrative started in Barangay Taloot in Argao town, located 73.4 kilometers south of Cebu City.
A consistent honor student, she finished grade school at Taloot Central Elementary School and secondary education at Simala National High School.
In hopes to pursue a college education, Villamejor boarded a bus and traveled to Cebu City for two hours to take the USJR entrance examination. She later applied for an academic scholarship which gave her a 50% discount on tuition fees.
Almost a year ago today, on March 25, 2017, she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Commerce major in Communication and Marketing.
Villamejor is the first in her family to complete a college degree.
Her father, Raul, is a high school graduate; while her mother, Mary Jane, barely finished Grade 2.
Her brothers, Ramer and Jonard, are still studying at Simala National High School with Ramer almost graduating from Senior High School, and Jonard currently enrolled in Grade 10.
“My parents constantly reminded me to focus on my studies and to be responsible, and set a good example to my two younger brothers,” she said.
Even while life was difficult, especially when her family lived in a nipa hut and survived on less than P700 a day depending on her father’s catch, Villamejor said her parents still made sure that they would be sent to school.
“When there were school requirements, my parents never said that they cannot send money. My mother always found a way,” she said.
Her story was shared by several online publications which allowed her to interact with many individuals from all over the world.
“There were messages from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who told me that my story inspired them, that my story made all the hard work worth it. I received messages from students like me who thought of giving up but because of my story, they were inspired to move forward,” shared Villamejor.
Her life story was later also featured in the LSS segment of ABS-CBN’s noontime variety show, ASAP on April 2017 with Visayan actress Kim Chiu playing her part.
“It was a fun experience. They brought me and my father to the Navotas fish port where we shot the short film,” she said.
Despite the high honors and publicity, Villamejor admitted that she was undecided about what to do with her life after her college graduation.
It took her two months before she started to apply for a job.
“I did not know what to do specifically. I got a job offer in Manila to be a business development officer but I felt that it was too much for someone who did not have work experience,” a modest Villamejor shared to CDN.
Instead of accepting the offer, she decided to submit job applications to Cebu-based companies last June as she wanted to build her work experience here.
She got a call from the food manufacturing company and started working there in August 2017.
The job was everything that she had hoped for in her first work experience.
“I realized it is so hard to earn money. I called my mother and I told her about it. She reminded me to never forget to save up,” said Villamejor.
She still constantly visits the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño and the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral where she finds solace and peace of mind.
She considers these two churches as her refuge.
Paying it forward
As a college student, Villamejor used to go home to Argao every weekend to spend time with her family. Every time she left home for the city, her mother would hand her a weekly allowance ranging from P700 to P1,000.
These days, her professional obligation requires her to work from Monday to Saturday, which prevents her from going home every week.
But when she does go home, she makes sure to set aside an amount which she hands to her parents.
“It’s a nice feeling. I cannot describe it. I used to tell myself every time I asked money from my parents that someday in the future, I will be able to repay them. It is slowly happening now,” she said.
Villamejor is learning to unwind and treat herself with occasional trips.
Just last weekend, she visited Camotes Island with a colleague; but her family will always come first to her as she happily gives and shares her blessings.
“It’s a fulfilling feeling to be able to give back to my parents and help them out in sending my brothers to school. They worked so hard for me, for us. I am so thankful to them,” she said.
Adulting is a difficult phase, she added, as this involves letting go of the recklessness of one’s youth and maintaining humility.
That said, Villamejor has truly grown.
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