Jeepney driver’s daughter is Ateneo 2019 class valedictorian, inspires with essay
MANILA, Philippines — A daughter of a jeepney driver not only beat the odds of poverty, but also inspired everyone as she is set to graduate as Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) class of 2019 valedictorian.
Reycel Hyacenth Bendaña is set to obtain her B.A. in Management Economics degree and will graduate Cum Laude on Friday, May 31.
Bendaña is also ADMU Student Council president.
A day before her graduation, Ateneo released Bendaña’s essay titled “Prayer for Generosity,” where she narrated the struggles she had faced and how she managed to achieve success.
In her essay, Bendaña shared her experience with poverty — from never having enough food on the table, to the promissory notes she and her siblings had to send because of delayed tuition fee payments.
“My father is a jeepney driver, whose example taught me to work harder than everyone else—not only because hard work is high dignity but also, while it is no guarantee of success, anything less than that for us would mean complete failure,” she wrote about her father.
“I was seven years old when I joined my first rally,” Bendaña penned. “I stood with my father at the frontline of a jeepney strike that aimed to raise the minimum fare.”
“For some, the rising price of fuel meant less profit. For my family, it meant skipping another meal; it meant more debt and more promissory notes.”
Generosity not enough
Despite earning a scholarship from ADMU, Bendaña knew that she had to work hard to return the generosity that was given to her.
“The success of one person should not depend on the virtue of another,” she wrote. “I may have exceeded expectations, but, let’s face it, people do not expect much from children of poor families. We are condemned by the soft bigotry of low expectations and impeded by the hard barrier of unequal opportunity.”
Bendaña noted that while she wrote her essay not only filled with gratitude, but also with “a discomforting sense of contradiction.”
“I am fueled by my dreams, dreams which Ateneo’s generosity nourished, in a country whose problems are partly caused by the same inequalities that created the Ateneo,” she explained.
However, she said that beyond the discomfort, she said that there is hope.
“As a victim of inequalities, I have always seen things from down the hill,” she wrote. “A generous Ateneo has allowed me to see the view from up the hill.”
“Because of this, my vision is more complete; my understanding of issues more complex; and my appreciation of the world more compassionate. Ateneo educates the children of those who hold the keys to wealth and power in this country,” she added.
She then ended her essay saying: “We need a more generous Ateneo, but that is not the solution to this nation’s problems. What we need is a country that resembles a generous Ateneo.”
“Inequality in the Philippines means that there is a hill, and the rest is down from the hill. We must dream of something better than this.” (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)
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