Cobbler’s son graduates at top of Science High
At 17, high school scholar Jireh Bautista made it to the top of his graduating class.
For four years, he walked daily to school in Labangon, Cebu City and sometimes had to make do with meals of rice and soy sauce.
“I trust that the Lord will provide,” he told the audience.
The cobbler’s son delivered the valedictory address of the Cebu City National Science High School (CCNSHS), a state-run school known for its tough standards and intense academic training.
Jireh, son of a shoe repairman and a homemaker, outperformed 169 other students and reaped 10 medals in all, including one for proficiency in physics and another for research.
Tuition is free at the government-run science school but students have to undertake research, mount projects and join extracurricular activities on top of their regular academic load that entails large costs.
With no regular income, Jireh’s parents, struggled to fund school requirements while trying to meet the family’s daily needs. Determined to get an education, Jireh persevered. His positive outlook clearly showed in his commencement speech on March 22, when he opened with Bible passages.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths,” said quoting Proverbs 3:5 and 6.
Jireh said little about his financial hardships and spent time thanking parents, teachers, and the alumni association for their support. His speech was met with thunderous applause and left many in the audience in tears.
Jireh was one of 27 scholars for the academic year 2012-2013 under the CC CCNSHS Alumni Foundation, Inc. through its scholarship program started in 2005.
With a stipend from the foundation and somebenevolent parents, including one who gave him a weekly allowance in the past two years, Jireh emerged on top.
“The scholarship program provided Jireh a big opportunity to pursue his gifts and develop the gifts that God has given him.It will be the bridge that will take him to a brighter future,” said Wilfredo T. Sa-a, Jr., foundation president.
DAILY WALK Each school day, Jireh walked most of the way to school in Labangon to save on jeepney fare. His family lives in a modest two-bedroom house near the former Jai-alai complex in Duljo-Fatima.
At first he didn’t want to enroll in the state-run school. His mother, Belinda, said Jireh worried about the daily cost of transportation and heard that students had many requirements for research and projects.
“He worried that we don’t have a computer at home. And it’s a bit far. We don’t have money for jeepney fare. His four brothers and sister just walk to school,” Belinda said in Cebuano. To keep up with school work, Jireh frequented an Internet cafe, staying there up to three hours after school at P10 anhour excluding printing costs. Belinda worried a lot about his safety. “Our neighborhood is not safe. My biggest fear was that he would be waylaid and hurt walking at night from the Internet cafe,” she said.
Belinda helps her husband, Pantaleon, a cobbler, look for customers. Still, there are times when there are no shoes to repair and dinner would either have to wait or be simple fare of rice with soy sauce. “Jireh and his brothers and sister don’t complain. We’re blessed to have such good children,” Belinda said. The family also struggles with rent and had to move out twice in the past four years. “We couldn’t pay the rent. Once, we had a landlady who cut off our water supply and threatened to padlock the house if we didn’t move out,” Belinda said.
The hardship, however, didn’t deter Jireh and his parents.
“My parents want us to finish school so wewon’t be like them,” Jireh said. His father finished grade school while his mother dropped out of high school.
Jireh was also a valedictorian when he graduated from San Nicolas Elementary School in 2009.
At the CCNSHS, he excelled in Mathematics with a perfect grade of 100% in Algebra by the end of his second year. He was recognized for getting a perfect score in Math in theNational Achievement Test that year.
When he graduated he received medals as class valedictorian, for Proficiency in Physics, Proficiencyin Research, the Vice President’s Award, Philippine Senate Academic Excellence, 1st place in Regional Intel Science Fair and medals from ABS-CBN, Siliman University, Southwestern University and AMA University. Last year, Jireh’s team won first place in the Regional Intel Science Fair for their project, “Microalgae as Feedstockfor Biodiesel. Jireh also topped the Science Quiz Bowl in Physicsin the district level and came up fourth in the division level.
His achievements show the triumph of the humanspirit, said Elisa Estenzo-Torres of CCNSHS Batch 1977. “Topping the graduating class of 170 studentsfrom CCNSHS is no mean feat. How much more if one had noresources whatsoever to back him up for projects, food, transportation and daily needs,” said Estenzo-Torres, also vice president of the Alumni Foundation.
Batch 1977 was Jireh’s sponsor for the past fouracademic years. The group has also committed to grant Jireh P20,000 financial assistance in his first year in college under their Good Samaritan college scholarship fund. Jireh said he looks forward to college as he tries to decide between engineering and accounting as a course. He recently passed the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) scholarship examination.
As he confidently declared in his graduation speech: “Thebest is yet to come.” – Marites S. Villamor