‘Paglaum’ gives hope to the poor, oppressed
She had a dream that even the poverty of her family could not cripple.
Twenty one-year-old Amelita Gatdula had a burning desire to finish college.
Gatdula was among the beneficiaries of ‘Paglaum,’ a scholarship program of the Cebu Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC) that offers free education to less privileged individuals of Cebu province.
“Walay kabutangan akong kalipay ato kay makaswela na ko ug makab-ot na gyod ang akong dreams (I couldn’t explain the joy that I felt after I was offered to study because I could finally reach my dreams),” said Gatdula, the third of seven siblings.
Her father works as a security guard in a shipbuilding company in Balamban, while her mother is a farmer in the town of Asturias, northwest of Cebu.
Because of her determination and hardwork, Gatdula finished college, cum laude, with a degree in Agriculture major in Horticulture at the Visayas State University in Baybay, Leyte last 2017.
Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, who co-chairs PWC, explained that the program does not only accommodate academic achievers but also those from poor families who are very much willing to study.
“They are not the brightest but we were surprised that after two years we have graduates that are cum laude, magna cum laude. They were just waiting to be recognized kay lage wala ikaplete, way kaon, ug sige’g kaabsent (they had no money for fare, for food and so they were always absent from school before). The scholarship brought out the best in them,” Magpale said.
Magpale added that the scholarship program does not only give hope to people who could not afford college; but also to children of drug surrenderers, victims of violence or sexual abuse, and others who generally want to take their lives back into their own hands and take control of their future through free education.
“The term ‘paglaum’ (hope) is really fitting because it will give hope to those seemingly hopeless cases,” said former provincial board member and now Capitol consultant Grecilda “Gigi” Sanchez – Zaballero.
Gatdula was among the first batch of graduates that the Capitol has produced since 2016.
Paglaum was the second scholarship program that Gatdula availed of after she was unceremoniously dropped from her town’s list of scholars, allegedly due to politics, just as she was about to enter her final year in college.
Gatdula said that she refused to allow the setback to hinder her determination to earn a degree; and instead, immediately applied for Capitol’s scholarship program for the chance to finish college.
“Thankful kaayo ko. We are the chosen ones sa kadaghan namong ni apply, sa kadaghan namong giinterview (I am very thankful that I was among the chosen ones considering that there were many applicants who underwent interview),” she said.
After graduation, Gatdula landed a job at the Provincial Capitol Agriculture office.
“Nakatabangtabang na gyod ko ug makahatag na ko nila mama ug papa ineg sweldo (I can now help support our family and can afford to give to my mother and father each payday),” she said.
According to Magpale, even after the scholars have graduated, the provincial government will continue to guide them until they find suitable jobs.
“They may have their degrees but they still need our guidance,” said Magpale.
Around 1,400 students were accepted into the Paglaum scholarship program this year after undergoing a series of interviews to qualify for the grant.
According to Zaballero, the interviews are needed to determine if the applicants are really deserving and in need of the help.
“(To see) If they are part of those who cannot afford to pay their tuition or someone deprived,” she explained.
Aside from free tuition, scholars also receive a monthly allowance of P1,500.
The province allocated at least P11 million for the program; but Magpale promised to increase the budget next year to about P25 million to accommodate more beneficiaries.
The province has partnered with Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) to have the provincial scholars undergo leadership trainings.
The 1,400 scholars were divided into ten groups for a one-day leadership seminar, held in batches, since September 8.
Marie Sol Gonzalvo, camp director of RAFI’s Kool Adventure Camp (KAC), said that the training focused on building the students’ self-confidence, values, and leadership skills.
Gonzalvo explained that the various activities at the camp helped the scholars to break their inner barriers and self-limiting beliefs.
“But with this effort we can open their minds, let them dream big, see the entire world out there and they can be who they really set themselves out to be,” Gonzalvo said.
“We want to train them as leaders. Not just ordinary leaders but leaders who give back to the community og unsay nakuha nila sa gobyerno (what they received from government),” Magpale, for her part, said.
Now that she has accomplished her dream of graduating from college, Gatdula had this advice for other scholars who are still struggling to reach their goals: “Always stay focused. They need to create their plan and after creating their plan, they need to pursue it and move towards their plan. They should believe in themselves and they should always remember to call on God for help.”
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