UPLB student finally graduates 20 years after battling cancer, leprosy

UPLB student graduates cancer
Charles Edward Aguinaldo graduated with a degree in Wildlife Biology. Photo from UPLB graduation video via Charles Edward Rivera Aguinaldo FB.

University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) student Charles Edward Aguinaldo has finally graduated 20 years after he first enrolled in the state university and after overcoming many challenges, including leprosy and cancer.

The BS Biology student from 2002 finally donned the UP Sablay graduation sash during the commencement exercises in August 2022.

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Aguinaldo previously suffered from leprosy for five years and was later diagnosed with stage 4b tongue cancer. He also dealt with the loss of his father and had to put his studies on hold to focus on providing for his family.

After persevering in the face of adversity and having survived cancer, Aguinaldo appealed for re-admission to the university in 2021 so he could enroll and complete the nine units left for him to complete his college degree in Wildlife Biology.

In his letter of appeal for re-admission to UPLB, the new college graduate said he was unable to complete his degree due to the pain and discomfort he experienced from leprosy and the challenges he faced as a working student.

“I wasn’t able to finish my degree then because I had to work and provide for my family because of my father’s sudden passing in a car accident in 2008. I worked in a call center in Cubao while trying to continue my studies…As you would imagine, it really took a toll on my Academics, my Career, and my Health,” Charles Edward Aguinaldo wrote in the re-admission letter he submitted to the university which he shared in a Facebook post on his graduation day.

Aguinaldo also shared about overcoming leprosy and dealing with the stigma surrounding the condition. He was eventually cleared of the bacterial infection in 2009 with the help of consistent medication and his positive outlook in life.

“I am deciding to finish my degree now, because I have already achieved my goal of being able to provide for my family, and my brother is now working abroad and shouldering the household expenses. More importantly, I want to be able to spend the rest of my life without the regret of not being able to present a UP Diploma to my mother,” Aguinaldo adds.

Aguinaldo was diagnosed with stage 4b tongue cancer in 2019. After going through chemotherapy and radiation therapy, he says he now has a greater appreciation for life and wants to make sure he makes the best out of every moment.

“Now that I am in remission, I want to make sure that all the remaining time I have in this world is put to good use,” Aguinaldo said.

Students who overcame the odds to graduate from the Philippines’ premier state university include Carl Adrian “Ady” Castueras of UPLB Class of 2015 who suffered from a rare and debilitating disease and Gia Evangelista whose grit helped her overcome not passing UPCAT to eventually graduate in 2022 with top honors from UP Diliman.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to Charles Edward Aguinaldo for graduating from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) with a degree in biology after persevering in the face of adversity and overcoming many challenges, including leprosy and a cancer diagnosis.

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Margo is a voracious reader - some might even say she reads too much for her own good. She majored in BS Psychology and hopes to become a forensic psychologist one day. She’s also an aspiring writer, mental health advocate, and a staunch believer of equality.