Helping poor students, even after death

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Given Grace Cebanico

Saying it was what their daughter had always wanted, the parents of rape-slay victim Given Grace Cebanico is putting up a scholarship foundation in her name to help poor students through college.

“She had always wanted to help poor students. There were times when she gave her stipend to other students because they had to send theirs to their families back home,” said Marlene of her daughter, a computer science scholar of the Rizal provincial government and the Department of Science and Technology at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

In the evening of Oct. 11, 2011, Given Grace, who had just turned 19, was abducted as she was walking back to her dormitory from working on a group project. Her body was discovered the next day near a canal on the outskirts of the main UPLB campus. She was raped.

Given Grace’s death sparked public outrage in a close-knit university community that prompted UPLB and local authorities to review their security measures.

Her alleged attackers, tricycle driver Percival de Guzman and bank security guard Lester Ivan Lopez Rivera, were arrested a few days later and are under trial at the Calamba Regional Trial Court in Laguna.

The Given Grace Academic Excellence Foundation Inc. has been registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on June 3. “It’s a wish granted from our prayer list,” said Marlene, who followed up on the SEC papers in between attending court trials.

Given Grace’s father, Daniel, is the foundation’s president, with Marlene as secretary. Also listed as incorporators were her grade school and high school batch mates, Jocelyn Cervo and Gia Gatapia, and the family’s church mates in Life in Christ and His Word Ministries, where Daniel is also a Christian pastor.

Marlene said there were “confirmations” or signs that strengthened their will to put up a foundation through donations. First, she said, was the encouragement of Dr. Vladimir Mariano, director of UPLB’s Institute for Computer Science, who agreed to be one of the advisers.

She said the idea was also discussed in a counseling that she and her husband attended after their daughter’s death.

“Until now, there are still those moments we feel the pain. But we believe everything happens as willed,” she said.

Marlene has returned to teaching at the University of Rizal System and Daniel, to the church ministry. Given Grace’s younger brother became active in sports.

The foundation’s incorporators are still drawing up the scholarship policies for college freshmen, setting up the Cebanicos’ residence in Binangonan, Rizal, as temporary office address.

They plan to open the foundation by next school year, but “hopefully launch it before Given’s birthday on Sept. 23,” Marlene said.

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