Faces of Cebu Life! People and Ideas

FACES OF CEBU: Franceska Fanilag, 22, LET Elementary topnotcher

By: - December 17, 2023

CEBU, Philippines – Franceska Fanilag, a name now etched in the walls of academic excellence in Cebu, is a beacon of inspiration and achievement.

Her recent triumph as the 4th placer in the September 2023 Licensure Examination for Professional Teachers (LEPT) has not only brought laurels to the University of San Jose Recoletos (USJ-R) but has also illuminated the path for aspiring educators across the nation.

Most importantly, it has shed light on Franceska’s journey—from being bullied due to her parents’ condition, losing her motivation for studies, to courageously pursuing her education and clinching the fourth spot in the recent LET Elementary Category.

Franceska’s dedication and resilience stand as an unparalleled force in her journey.

Raised by deaf parents

Franceska was raised in a household of seven members, headed by their deaf parents, Mama Mylah and Papa Noel.

In an interview with CDN Digital, Franceska shared the struggles her parents experienced while growing up along with her four other siblings.

“A struggle I experienced growing up with deaf parents is witnessing their struggles to find a stable job. My mom used to be a barbecue vendor and my father used to be a construction worker,” Fanilag shared with CDN Digital.

Franceska with her Mama Mylah, and Papa Noel.

Undoubtedly, the Fanilag family faced their own share of difficulties. But despite the challenges they faced, Franceska praised her parents for raising her and her siblings on their own through their hard work. Together, they raised God-fearing and well-behaved children.

Despite facing communication barriers with their parents since childhood due to their disability, it didn’t impede them from fulfilling their responsibilities towards their children, especially with their education.

“They were able to guide us to the success that we have right now, they were able to aid us by instilling to us the values of being humble, being kind, and being resilient, in whatever we may encounter in our lives,” Franceska added.

Parents’ reaction

When asked about their reaction, according to Franceska’s parents, as translated by her, their initial reaction was to reminisce about how Franceska used to isolate herself in her room. They recalled she would only come downstairs briefly to grab some food, carrying a pile of notebooks under her arm.

“Sa akong papa, gi specify niya na 4 months kong wala jud koy gawas-gawas. Ma hibung pud sila kay naa daw koy lakaw na dugay daw mauli tungod kay akong friend duol man ang boarding house sa review center so mahibung sila nganong wala daw ko,” Franceska said.

(My father, he specified that I was not going out og my room for four months. They’d wonder why I’d go out at times and come back home late because I was with my friend who had a boarding house that was close to the review center. So they’d wonder why I wasn’t home)

Her parents added that they had not realized the extent of Franceska’s activities both inside and outside their home until the results were officially announced.

“Wala gyud sila ka realize nga nag unsa ko kay wala daw koy gi earn, nganong mu skwela pa daw kuno ko balik nga mana kuno ko og skwela,” Franceska said.

(They really didn’t realize what I was doing because they knew I wasn’t earning. And so they’d wonder why it seemed that I was going to school again when they knew I already graduated.)

At the end of the day, they are very thankful, especially to the Lord, because even though Franceska kept her plans from them, she still achieved her goal.

Silence speaks volumes

Franceska, raised in a household where silence speaks volumes, embodies resilience and determination, traits she learned from her parents.

Despite the communication barrier that existed between her, her siblings in relation to their parents, they still tried their best in instilling in the values of commitment and dedication in education and teaching, and the unwavering belief that barriers are meant to be surmounted.

Cebu LET topnotcher

(R-L) Franceska is surrounded by her loving family, including her sister Camille, mother Mylah, brother John Albert, father Noel, brother Michael, and sister Patricia.

“My parents, especially my mother, used to guide me closely in my academics in my early years of education. Whenever I got home from school, she would take out my activity sheets from my bag, get her pad of old receipts, and make an exact copy of the activity sheets by copying it into the back of the old receipt. Despite our communication barrier (also because I was too young to understand all basic sign languages), my mother was patient enough to let me redo my activities just to ensure that I mastered my lesson for the day. Only when I was already able to comprehend things from a deeper perspective, I realized how important education is for my parents despite their lack of it. Even with little resources and a lack of education, they managed to guide a young learner like me to a brighter path, just in their little ways,” Franceska shared with CDN Digital.

Franceska’s journey was defined by a profound understanding of inclusivity and the power of education. She witnessed firsthand the transformative impact of education in breaking down societal barriers, and this became her guiding light.

If a pair of deaf individuals managed to guide their daughter way up despite their limitations, then what else could be the reason for me to give up on this examination? Indeed, if there’s a will, there’s a way.


However, it’s undeniable that challenges and hurdles emerge during the most pivotal stages of our journey. For Franceska, the responsibility for her own future, along with her family’s, were gradually becoming heavy on her shoulders.

“The greatest challenge I encountered during my review days, is how to stay focused amidst the pressure. Even if they didn’t say it straight to my face, I really knew that a lot of people are expecting something great from me, and that expectation has weighed heavy on me since the day I got my degree.”

Franceska also confided in CDN Digital that upon observing her former classmates and friends already settling into their careers and embarking on their journey into the “adulting life”, she sometimes grappled with conflicting thoughts; whether focusing on her exam review was the right decision or if she should have commenced her career at that point in time. Now, upon learning the results, she is thankful of the choices she made that day.

“Nakaingon gyud ko na worth it ra jud ang paghuwat,” Fanilag shared with CDN Digital.

(I could now say that the wait was worth it.)

Graduating Magna Cum Laude

Throughout her academic pursuit, Franceska’s dedication was palpable. Her passion for Education, coupled with an unrelenting drive to excel and lead, set her on the path to greatness.

Fanilag excelled throughout her college tenure, graduating Magna Cum Laude and securing the top position in the School of Education at USJ-R. Her distinction was further highlighted by receiving the School Leadership Award during the graduation ceremony held in May 2023.

Additionally, she held the esteemed role of President during the 15th Congress of USJ-R’s School of Education.

Amidst rigorous studies and countless hours of preparation, she never lost sight of her ultimate goal – to become an educator who transcends boundaries and enriches the lives of her students.

Cebu LET topnotcher

Franceska during a mini farewell party for her internship in Mabolo Elementary School back in May 2023

Her achievement in being a topnotcher in the LET Examination is not merely a testament to her academic prowess but a triumph of the human spirit.

It symbolizes the culmination of her relentless efforts and unwavering determination for countless of day, solidifying the belief that “what is meant for me will indeed be for me.”

Her success isn’t solely hers. It’s a triumph for her family, especially for her Mama Mylah and Papa Noel. It just proves that despite their condition, they never wavered in raising and guiding their children toward successful careers.

As Franceska enters teaching, she carries more than certificates or licenses; she embodies a legacy of resilience, compassion, and an unwavering belief in the power of passion and perseverance. Her inspiring journey highlights education’s ability to break barriers and foster an inclusive future.



FACES OF CEBU: Paulo Batulan, lone Cebuano topnotcher in 2023 Bar exams

Latest Stories
Most Read