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INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

Top UPLB grad rises from poverty

“There is nothing wrong with cooking. There is also nothing wrong with being a farmer.”

Iandycel C. Mijares, a tricycle driver’s daughter and a food technology graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in Laguna, kept her audience glued to what she had to say.

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Mijares, 18, was the lone summa cum laude among the 1,744 graduates during the UPLB’s 40th graduation rites held on April 28 at the D. L. Umali Freedom Park. She obtained a general weighted average of 1.19.

Harvey V. Baldovino, who completed a master of science in economics degree, major in quantitative economics, led his postgraduate peers with a general weighted average of flat 1.0, according to the UPLB souvenir program.

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Among those who attended were newly elected UPLB Chancellor Rex Victor Cruz, UP Diliman President Alfredo Pascual and former UPLB Chancellor Dr. Luis Rey Velasco.

In a speech she delivered in Filipino, Mijares said that contrary to public perception that her course is all about cooking, it was really about the more complex aspects of food processing.

She had wanted to become a doctor, but her family’s poverty made her choose food technology. She is happy nonetheless after her mother had told her that she was a “doctor of food.”

Her father, Teody, drives a tricycle while her mother, Diane, sold garments and accessories.

Being poor, Mijares said, should not be a hindrance to fulfilling one’s dreams. “Be critical and be careful in facing the challenges in life, even during confusions that arise from being poor and being young.”

“I am not ashamed of being a graduate of the College of Agriculture. There is nothing wrong with being called an agriculturist,” she said.

“If nobody plows the field and grow plants, could we still exist here? Agriculture is not a joke. This is not as simple as planting rice, spraying chemicals or milking cows.”

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The country needs “scholars of the people” who will develop agriculture and ensure the growth of a sick economy,” she said.

Mijares finished her high school education at the private Calamba Institute on a school scholarship. But the year after, it was clear that her parents could no longer support her through college.

In 2008, she obtained a scholarship grant at UPLB. For her allowance, she worked as a student assistant in one of the university’s offices. During summer, she would take tutorial jobs in Calamba to earn extra money.

Mijares said her family was “doing just fine” until about two years ago when her father almost lost a leg in an accident in Batangas and had to stop working for several months. “He was driving a motorcycle when he was hit by another tricycle,” she said.

Her mother and her elder sister Cecil had to borrow money, while she took a loan from a student association. “I saw how my family worked together. I saw how strong my mother was in that she never gave up,” she said.

In her graduation speech, Mijares thanked her parents for inspiring her in all her achievements.

Mijares said she would most likely work for a private firm. She has plans to pursue studies in medicine or to teach at UPLB.

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TAGS: farmer, Poverty, University of the Philippines-Los Baños, UPLB, UPLB 40th graduation rites
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