San Isidro, Davao Del Norte -In my 26 years of existence, I have had enough adventures and misadventures to last me a lifetime. My name is Christy Marie Edaño. I am what others may deem as different – a non-conformist. They say that a person’s choices in life define one’s own character. I say, that this choice, however, is the deciding point that can either make or break you.

Living in the remote barangay of Kipalili, San isidro, Davao del Norte with my parents Saranie, 47; and Julito, 49; I thought that life would be plain and simple. I was mistaken.

Being the next to the eldest and one of the most responsible siblings, I had to work in a farm to help sustain the needs of my family and for me to afford going to high school. My parents were not able to finish elementary, thus, it does not matter to them if we finish or not.

After finishing high school, I had to stop schooling for three years so that my younger siblings can go to school. I took care of my other younger siblings. My mother had to take laundry services in our neighborhood and my father tended the farm so that we can put food on our table.

In 2010, I took up a two-year Computer Programming course at St. John Learning Center in Tagum City. To support my studies, I worked as a house help. I do other people’s laundry, I babysit and accepted tutorial services. I allotted my P 1,800 monthly salary for my school and family’s needs.

It was in November of 2012 when I got accepted as a Students’ Grant-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (SGP-PA) student grantee at Davao del Norte State College in Panabo City. I enrolled in Bachelor of Science in Fisheries majoring in Aquaculture.

I thought that being in college would change how other people view me. I was wrong. I struggled hard for acceptance and respect. I am scared being with people for fear of being judged.

I have always been different from as far as I can remember. I am a lesbian. I was used to being judged, discriminated and bullied. Even my own father once cannot accept the choice I have made. But it did not dampen my spirits. I worked hard. I want to prove them wrong. I want to show them that one’s personal choices can be his or her motivation to excel in life.

My hard work paid off when I was identified by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) as one of the top five SGP-PA National Academic Awardees with the Highest General Point Average in 2014.

It is amazing how people’s opinion of you changes when you have achieved something commendable. It amazes me and saddens me all at the same time. I hope people would just respect each other regardless of their decisions in life.

I am now a graduating student. I am one of the 526 SGP-PA grantees in Region XI who will graduate this April. I am forever grateful to Pantawid Pamilya and to SGP-PA for these programs paved the way for me to gradually achieve my dreams for my family. Others may have judged me but these programs served as my strength to pursue and push through.

Few years from now I will be looking back to all the adventures and misadventures and I will have a warm smile in my heart for I know I made the right choice. (DSWD)