PROUD TO BE MINDANAWON: Bukidnon househelp is among country’s Top 10 public school students

MALAYBALAY CITY  (MindaNews/02 April) —  Since Grade 5, Jeffrey Manhulad has been working as  househelp for a teacher’s family so he could continue going to school. His father, a sugarcane worker, could not afford to send him and his two siblings to school

On April 1, Jeffrey, now 19,  graduated as valedictorian of the Dologon National High School and is one of the recipients of the Philippines’ Ten Outstanding Public School Students (TOPS) for 2011 award.

The Department of Education’s  Kabayan TOPS, initiated by former vice President Noli De Castro, chose him as the Mindanao awardee for academic excellence. Another Mindanawon student, Shamah S. Bulangis, who is also among the Top 10,  is the Mindanawon awrdee for Exemplary Leadership.

Jeffrey received a plaque and a P20,000 cash prize. But the award’s more important gift is a full scholarship for college at a university of his choice in Northern Mindanao.

His teachers in DNHS are all praises for Jeffrey. Despite his status as a working student,  he was a consistent honor student, Divina Quimba, his 4th year class adviser said.

The Manhulads are a family of farm laborers in Maramag. When Jeffrey was four years old, his parents separated. The separation took its toll on the children, who ended up getting separated, too, to survive.

Jeffrey recalls that separation from his family at an early age was a difficult and lonely ordeal.

But he was fortunate to have lived with the family of his elementary school teacher,  Fe Jubay, in Musuan. The Jubays took him in as a working student. Jeffrey credits his achievements to their generosity. He says the Jubays treated him like family.

Jeffrey did errands and household chores like washing the dishes. But the Jubays made sure that he had study time after dinner. Unlike other working students, Jeffrey was allowed to join extra-curricular activities in school, like the regular students.

Quimba said Jeffrey also attended leadership seminars “but he was very focused on his studies.”

It was Edwin Gurrea, DepEd Bukidnon social studies supervisor who encouraged DNHS principal Yvonne Catli to submit a nomination for the Kabayan TOPS award. The rest is history.

When DepEd Bukidnon superintendent Dr. Ingrid Racoma received information on Jeffrey’s inclusion in the Top 10, she got excited and attended the awarding ceremonies in Manila on March 28.

She said Jeffrey’s academic excellence award is another feather to the cap of the school division.

“It is proof that poverty cannot be made an excuse for not being able to succeed in school,” she told a press conference here two days after the Manila awarding.

Hernando Manhulad, Jeffrey’s father,  thanked the Jubay family for taking care of his son’s needs.

“It is my pride, even if we seldom see each other, to see my son in his situation now. I am also thankful to God for the courage he gave us to face our difficulties in life,” he said in Cebuano.

Jeffrey’s appeal to students and children who come from poor families: “Let us not waste the opportunities that come our way. Let us help our family and all the people who help us secure a better future,” he said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)