Twenty-seven-year Samson Illustrisimo would walk for a kilometer every day to reach his school and oftentimes would attend class with an empty stomach.
But the struggles he endured did not break his spirit from finishing Grade 12.
After graduation, his burning desire to attain a college diploma continued to glow. But the rabbit hole of poverty seemed to quell off slowly the flicker of his dream of earning a degree one day to help his family.
In 2016, everything changed. The Paglaum Scholarship Program was launched by the Provincial Government with its ray of hope illuminating even to the dark depth he was in.
“Dili gyud nako ni sayangan kay talag-saon rani nga oportunidad,” said Illustrismo. “Bisan dako nako’g edad mo eskuwela gyud gihapon ko aron makatabang ko sa akong pamilya.”
With his voice cracking, Illustrisimo, the second of seven siblings recalled how difficult life was in high school going to class without eating breakfast.
“Managat ra intawon akong pamilya. Usahay moadto ko sa eskuwelahan way kaon kay way bugas pa kay si mama naglibot-libot pag paninda og isda,” Illustrisimo said.
Since he did not have money for fare, he would walk from his house in Barangay Pook, Sta. Fe in Bantayan Island to the town center where the school is located.
With determination and hardwork, Illustrisimo believes he could end the cycle of poverty once he finished his study.
Illustrisimo, who is taking up Bachelor of Science in Education, was among the 80 students for the 8th batch of Paglaum scholars who underwent a leadership training at the Kool Adventure Camp of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. in Balamban town.
In his speech, Gov. Hilario P. Davide III said they incorporated the training in the scholarship program to help the youth harness and nurture their leadership potential, which is vital in their life’s journey, may it be in politics or in the other fields of work.
To illustrate one’s resolve in the face of adversity, Davide read the poem, Invictus, of William Ernest Henley and advised the scholars to remember it whenever they feel hope is beyond reach.
For her part, Vice Gov. Agnes A. Magpale emphasized the virtue of humility as an important character that defines a good leader.
She also talked about the reason behind the creation of the scholarship program, saying that poor students who are not among the academic achievers of their class and don’t have the means to study further should be given hope through this program.
“There are many poor students who are average in class yet they have the passion to study. We don’t want them to be left behind in our programs to provide inclusive growth. This program is for the poorest of the poor,” Magpale said.
“We also don’t want you to get hungry, that’s why we are also giving you allowance apart from paying your tuition,” the vice governor told the scholars.
Under the program, the scholars will not only receive full subsidy for their tuition fee but also a monthly allowance of P1,500.
Launched in September 2016, Paglaum accepts scholars even if they are not included in the top 10 of their class. It has 47 scholars in the first year and today the program grants subsidy to 1,375 students.
With the success of the program, the Provincial Government has allocated P20 million in next year’s budget for the scholarship grant.
Former Provincial Board member Griselda Sanchez, now Capitol consultant on Barangay Affairs, disclosed that the hardship of her father late former vice governor Greg Sanchez in going to college inspired her to raise the idea to Magpale to extend scholarship grants to students who are not the cream of the crop in school.