San Isidro, Davao Oriental (DSWD XI) – “For me, to graduate from college is just a stepping stone in reaching much bigger dreams,” 19 year-old Expanded Students’ Grant-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA) grantee Dachel April Ladera said.

Dachel believes this scholarship grant has paved the way for her to finish and achieve her dreams.

Dachel is graduating from Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology (DOSCST) in Mati City, Davao Oriental, taking up Bachelor of Science Major in Elementary Education. She has been a top achiever in her class since grade school and now, she will graduate Cum Laude.

Dachel is the oldest of three siblings. Her family resides in Barangay Bato-bato. Her father Daniel, works as motorcycle driver. Her mother Rachel, is a Pantawid Pamilya parent leader, volunteer, and a midwife in the town.  The hardship her family is experiencing has been her driving force to finish her studies.

Sauna damgo lang nako mahimong scholar since elementary. Na grant siya college nako. Abi nako ang skolar kay prebelihiyo lang pero usa pud diay ni ka responsibilidad ug angay nga ampingan. Bonus na ang maging topnotcher ka. Dako nga pride sa imohang parents nga bisan sa kalisod sa kinabuhi nakahuman ko with flying colors pa (It was my dream to be a scholar since grade school but I got my wish when I was already in college. Back then I thought a scholarship is a mere privilege but I realized it is also a responsibility which must be valued. Being a topnotcher is already a bonus. It a great pride of my parents that despite the hardships in life, I graduated and with flying colors at that),” Dachel proudly beamed.

Dachel’s family enrolled in Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in 2011 and she became a grantee of ESGP-PA in 2014.

To the tops

“Dili sayon ang muskwela pero giisip nako na dili tanan natagaan ani nga oportunidad. Dako kaayo ang kabag-ohan kay wala na naglisod akoang ginikanan. Dili sila mabalaka sa bayrunon sa eskwelahan. Sauna, lisod kaayo, ang sweldo ni mama wala pa nadawat amoa nang gikaon. Si papa, and iyahang kita sa tricycle igo lang sa tangkong para sa baboy ug amoang gamay nga panginahanglan. Ang pantawid gyud ang dakog tabang sa amoang pamilya” (It is not easy to attend school but I reminded myself not all are given this kind of opportunity. There was a remarkable change since my parents weren’t anymore that stressed out. No more worries on school fees. But it was really so tough before that even the salary of my mother would have already been used up even before she received it. My father’s meager earnings would just be enough to purchase water spinach (kangkong) to feed our hogs and buy some basic family needs. It was Pantawid that really pulled us through),” Dachel recounted.

“Ang paghuman nako importante ni sa akoang pamilya bilang isa ka panganay kay ako ang modelo sa akoang mga igsuon, ginatan-aw ko nila nga inpirasyon. Importante sad kini sa akoang ginikanan kay tanan pawis kay bayad tanan” (My graduation is important to my family, to me who is the eldest, being a model and inspiration. This too is important to my parents since all their sacrifices paid off).”

“I have bigger dreams and to be able to graduate is just a start of my journey to a bigger opportunity. I believe that the world has much to offer and I just need to strive hard to reach all the things I desire for me and my family. A great burden was lifted from me as this scholarship grant has paved the way for me to finish and achieve my college degree.”

When asked what her dreams are for her family, the ever optimistic Dachel replied, “Makapa-eskwela sa akong mga igsuon ug maging topnatcher sa board exam.  Ang mangandoy kay libre so dakuon nalang nimo sabayan ug paningkamot (I want to help my younger siblings finish their studies and be a board exam topnatcher. It is free to dream so I will dream big coupled with hardwork).”

Aside from passing the board exam, Dachel plans to teach children in San Isidro so she can impart her knowledge. She also wanted to teach in other remote areas in Davao Oriental to serve as inspiration to other children.

‘Don’t stop dreaming and never say die.’ “This one says it all. We may have different stories of overcoming poverty. What’s important in this life’s journey is to be positive and have faith always, strong spiritual life, and a belief that God will never forsake you especially amidst hardships and trials. If you have faith and determination, you can make your goal come true,” Dachel added.

Pantawid scholars

A student-grantee receives a maximum of P 60,000.00 scholarship grant per school year or P 30,000.00 per semester. This is broken down to P20, 000/year Tuition Fee Cost, P 5,000/year Textbook Fees and other learning materials, and P 35,000 (that is, P 3,500/month x 10 months) stipend (for board and lodging, transportation, clothing, health/medical needs, basic school supplies and other related costs).

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) implemented the program in 2012. ESGP-PA ensures that grantees are 1) enrolled in selected state universities and colleges (SUCs) duly recognized by CHED, 2) channelled to CHED priority courses, and 3) be extended the needed support that will guarantee completion of studies thus qualify them for a high-value added jobs in the future.

More than 30,000 Pantawid Pamilya student-grantees all over the country will graduate this year.

Davao Region currently has 1,959 college scholars in five SUCs –University of Southeastern Philippines (USEP) Obrero Campus, Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology (DOSCST), Davao del Norte State College Panabo (DNSC), Southern Philippines Agri-Business, Marine and Aquatic School of Technology Digos City Campus (SPAMAST), and SPAMAST Malita Campus. (DSWD)