Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has commended the daughter of a jeepney driver, Reycel Hyacenth Bendaña, for topping the Ateneo De Manila University’s Class of 2019 and serving as a source of inspiration for those who were also born poor.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, considered Bendaña’s success as proof that providing enough assistance and opportunities to the underprivileged could help them improve their plight and create a better future for them.
“I have read the thought-provoking essay of Ms. Reycel Hyacenth Bendaña, valedictorian of the Ateneo de Manila University’s Class of 2019,” she said in her remarks last June 1.
“Indeed, her story of success–being a daughter of a jeepney driver, a working student, and eventually becoming the top student of a prestigious university–does not only amaze many of us, but also serves as shining proof that providing opportunities to our fellow Filipinos, especially the underprivileged, could go a long way,” she said.
Bendaña, a scholar of Ateneo and president of Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, recently graduated cum laude with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Management Economics.
Before her graduation day, she wrote an essay “Prayer for Generosity” narrating her struggles and motivation before she topped her class. Published on Ateneo’s website, she submitted it as part of her application for the valedictorian selection.
Bendaña recalled being raised in poverty without enough food on their tables because her parents were not always regular employees, adding that she and her sister had childhoods filled with promissory notes for delayed tuition fee payments.
“I am an example of the underprivileged gaining the highest quality of education in one of the best universities in the country, and achieving their dreams. It is possible, but it will take more than good intentions,” Bendaña pointed out.
The Ateneo student added that due to poverty, she doubled her efforts to succeed in life, by working as jeepney barker for her father – whom she counted as her inspiration in life – and taking odd jobs in high school.
The lady Senator from Bicol said that like Ateneo which has given Reycel a scholarship and a fighting chance in life, she hopes for the proper implementation of the Magna Carta of the Poor and the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) Act to give the marginalized a chance to improve their lives.
“Through these laws which we principally authored, we persevere to equip others with the strength and means to live decently in a society which discriminates against the poor. But we won’t stop there. We shouldn’t,” said De Lima.
“Dahil gaya ng paniniwala ni Reycel, hindi sapat ang pagbubukas-palad lamang ng isang unibersidad sa mahihirap na gaya niya. Dapat itong maging pananaw ng bawat isa, na gawing patas ang timbangan ng katarungang panlipunan, para marami pang gaya niya ang magtagumpay at makapagtaguyod ng magandang kinabukasan para sa pamilya at sa bansa,” she added. The Magna Carta of the Poor mandates the government to establish a system of “progressive realization” or implementation to provide the requirements, conditions, and opportunities for the full enjoyment of the fundamental rights of the poor while the 4Ps Law institutionalizes the 4Ps as one of the government’s regular anti-poverty programs for qualified poor Filipino families.