August 17, 2023
Bright futures ahead for these Tzu Chi scholars from Iloilo
By Joy Rojas
Twenty-two students from Iloilo make up the newest batch of Tzu Chi scholars after volunteers conducted home visits, extensive interviews, and deliberations in a trip that took them to 18 localities from August 11 to 13.
The scholarship covers tuition and other necessary school requirements. “Mama, they’re going to pay for our uniforms!” exclaimed a new scholar who owns a single uniform that she handwashes then air-dries overnight to wear the following morning.
With their access to quality education from the best schools in their areas, poor but deserving students can find jobs that will greatly improve their lives. Monthly Humanity classes balance their academics with universal values espoused by Dharma Master Cheng Yen. Like the knowledge and skills gained from their respective courses, the lessons from each Humanity class will stay with them for life.
Ultimately, everyone gains from the success of a Tzu Chi scholar. To family, a scholar is a source of pride and hope for a better future. Benefactors who support scholars’ education make it possible for them to do great things in their chosen field. Even communities can change with every show of kindness and help extended by a Tzu Chi scholar.
For this batch of scholars, a Tzu Chi scholarship is a chance to reciprocate the generosity of individuals who didn’t have much themselves, yet continue to love and support them unconditionally.
Since the death of her laundrywoman mother from a heart condition in 2009, 19-year-old Daniella Diane Simran has been looked after by her uncle, Grab delivery rider Joeward, and his wife. But the cost to support her and the needs of his own three children on his salary are not enough. In an effort to save her already meager allowance for school requirements, she skips meals and developed gastroesophageal acid reflux in the process.
“Sometimes my friends will share their food with me,” she says timidly. “Sometimes I get embarrassed.”
With her Tzu Chi scholarship, Daniella can fully focus on her studies—and her dreams. The BS in Business Administration (major in Operations Management) at West Visayas State University (WVSU) plans to graduate with honors, then pursue her MBA and a law degree.
But first things first. “My motivation is my family,” she says. “My uncle can’t afford our everyday expenses. So, it would be a huge help if I am granted a scholarship. If I excel academically, I can help my family and others.”
In his 18 years of existence, John Gabriel Zarceno has only known his grandmother, manicurist Rizalina, as family. His father passed away before he was born and his mother left right after giving birth to John. Still, there is no bitterness on his part.
“I think it’s a blessing,” he says. “Growing up without parents, I learned to live independently. My grandmother has also shown that you can be both mother and father for as long as you persevere and make it your goal. Because we lack finances, one of our main problems is where to get food. But my grandma is very resourceful. Every day, she puts food on the table. That inspires me to be a successful person.”
Her influence on him is evident. John, who is taking his BS Education (major in Social Studies) at WVSU, is as resourceful as she is, earning here and there as a manicurist, choreographer, and event host. But the parttime work doesn’t get in the way of his studies. Not only does he have the academic medals to prove it, John is a longtime student leader who advocates for children’s rights.
With his Tzu Chi scholarship, John’s dreams are finally within reach. “I just want to be successful,” he says. “I’m taking education, but in the near future, I could be a governor, engineer, or lawyer. We really don’t know. We can plan for it but we are not bound to know it.”
“But my own goal is to be the breadwinner of my family,” he adds, “to provide sufficiently for the needs of my family.”
Living in the rolling terrain of Tubingon municipality, where cellphone and wi-fi signals are weak and the roads are rough and muddy two weeks after it rains, Maximo Tahum Jr. offered to meet Tzu Chi volunteers at a more accessible location so he could accompany them to his home. He arrived at the location five hours earlier.
“I’ll wait for as long as it takes,” says the shy 20-year-old taking his Bachelor of Industrial Technology (major in Electronics Technology) at Iloilo Science and Technology University. “If they don’t come, it’s okay. I’ll accept that maybe it’s not for me. But if it’s for me, I’m blessed.”
For Maximo, education is the way to a better life. As the only sibling without a family to support, he is responsible for looking after himself and his single mother.
Free time and weekends are spent gardening to earn money. “Sometimes I have to ask my dormmates if they could give me work,” he says. When he comes home once a month, he’ll till the soil and plant rice so he and his mother can have food on the table.
A teacher suggested he apply for a Tzu Chi scholarship so he could focus more on his studies and less on odd jobs. Now that his education is take care of, Maximo can support his mother beyond her day-to-day needs.
“I just want to give her a good life,” he says. “Nothing fancy. For as long as she is healthy, that’s enough.”