Ateneo de Manila University Class of 2019 Valedictorian Reycel Hyacenth N. Bendaña wrote an insightful essay about her journey as a poor jeepney driver’s daughter.
The essay was written as part of her application to be considered for the highest academic honors.
Bendaña wrote about being educated alongside the privileged children of affluent families schooled in the Jesuit institution.
She paid tribute to her jeepney driver father who exemplified hard working Filipinos.
“My father is a jeepney driver, whose example taught me to work harder than everyone else—not only because hard work is high dignity but also, while it is no guarantee of success, anything less than that for us would mean complete failure.”
Bendaña wrote about her working as a jeepney barker and many odd jobs. She recalled why protesting in the streets meant survival for her family.
“I was seven years old when I joined my first rally. I stood with my father at the frontline of a jeepney strike that aimed to raise the minimum fare. For some, the rising price of fuel meant less profit. For my family, it meant skipping another meal; it meant more debt and more promissory notes.”
The Ateneo Student Council president said she personally experienced Philippine social realities that most of her schoolmates only learned about while studying at the Ateneo.
The Program Awardee for Management Economics pointed out that hard work was not enough to put her through school. She listed the requirements for someone with a poor background like herself to achieve what she did:
- Hard work by the student
- Hard work by the student’s family
- Generosity of Ateneo giving her access to Jesuit education
- Generosity of her scholarship donors
“I am here because someone, by the grace of their heart, gave generously to fund my education. I am here because a generous Ateneo exists, where someone like me who does not share the wealthier background of the common Atenean can be entrusted with the Presidency of the school’s Student Council.”
After acknowledging her supporters, the recipient of the 2019 Loyola Schools Awards for Leadership and Service then went on to say generosity is not enough.
She discussed social realities that regrettably make her achievement an exception. She decried unequal access to quality education. She lamented her now-jobless father whose jeepney was phased out by the Philippine government “in the name of hollow modernization.”
“A generous Ateneo alone cannot make up for a society that does not provide fair access to opportunity for all, and a decent path to success for those who are like me. I envision and hope for a nation where a success story like mine is not an exemption, but the rule.”
Bendaña referred to the nation’s heroes who were also educated at the Ateneo.
“The most famous heroes Ateneo produced in the past—Jose Rizal, Antonio Luna, Gregorio del Pilar, Ninoy Aquino, Evelio Javier—were all well-off men. Only in a generous Ateneo is it possible that the daughter of a jeepney driver from one of the most remote sitios in Bicol can aspire to their same education and heroism, too.”
The Ateneo posted Reycel Hyacenth N. Bendaña’s essay on their website. The class valedictorian plans to eventually take a Masters degree in Human Rights and a Doctorate degree in Peace and Conflict, while developing intervention programs for various humanitarian affairs.
SEND your congratulations in the comments below for Reycel Hyacenth N. Bendaña, Ateneo 2019 Class Valedictorian!
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