“To accomplish great things, we must not only dream, but also act; not only plan, but also believe,” this is the guiding principle of Raffy C. Villantes, a native of Catamboan, Lazi, Siquijor who recently graduated Magna Cum Laude at Siquijor State College (SSC).
Villantes, 20, is no ordinary student in the campus because aside from completing his degree in Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education major in English and Mathematics with flying colors, he was also the editor-in-chief of Spotlight, SSC’s official student paper. He also represented SSC in various competitions like the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges Regional Festival for Culture and the Arts where he won first place in essay writing.
Raffy described himself as a humble challenger because he doesn’t give up on challenges easily.
“Poverty is no stranger to me because I had lived with it every day,” said Raffy while reminiscing how he was able to survive college life despite the many adversities.
He recalled that during his freshman year in college, his parents could not afford to buy him a new set of uniform so he wore an oversized hand me down set. “I had it fixed but still it looks big on me. I was like a scarecrow in the middle of a rice field, roaming around the campus.”
“I can still vividly remember the discriminating stares of my board mates and schoolmates, which were like needles pierced into my heart,” shared Raffy who became more determined to excel in school and in life.
He also recalled the days when he attended classes with an empty stomach as he ran out of allowance and his parents are still borrowing money from relatives to finance his studies.
“It was hard but I didn’t see myself giving up in fact those experiences made me stronger and more focused to achieve my goals,” disclosed Raffy, who sees himself as a successful public school teacher 10 years from now.
To lessen his daily expenses, Raffy would gather and bring firewoods (for cooking) from home to his boarding house in Siquijor proper.
His family had a hard time sending him to college because his sister at that time was also completing tertiary education while his younger siblings were enrolled in high school and elementary.
Despite their limited resources, Raffy’s parents Rebecca and Reynaldo made sure to send all their children to school. Reynaldo works as a habal-habal driver while Rebecca takes care of the children and the household. She also sells Avon products to augment the family’s income.
Raffy for his part made sure that he will have good grades as his way of giving back to the sacrifices of his parents and to prove that he deserves the government’s educational grant dubbed as the Expanded Student Grant in Aide Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA).
He became a grantee of ESGP-PA back in 2014 when he was in second year college.
“I considered ESGP-PA as a blessing because it paved the way for me to finish college and at the same time to lessen my family’s burden in sending me to school,” Raffy said.
Student-grantee of ESGPA-PA are entitled of P60, 000 maximum grant per year or Php 30,000 per semester. The grant is intended to cover the costs for tuition and other school fees, academic and extracurricular expenses, purchase of textbooks, board and lodging, transportation, clothing, admission/entrance fees, health and other valid related education expenses and support services to complete the degree program.
ESGP-PA is implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Budget and Management, Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Raffy is among the 18 ESGP-PA graduates in SSC whose families are also recipient of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the conditional cash transfer of the Philippine government that invests in the health and education of poor households with children 0-18 years old.
A consistent honor student since elementary up until college, Raffy is set to take the September licensure exam for teachers this year and while waiting he plans to work while having his review to help his family.