Ateneo de Manila University is one of the most expensive, prestigious universities in the Philippines. But the batch valedictorian this year is the unlikeliest of all because she comes from a poor family who could barely make ends meet, with her jeepney driver dad not even able to bring food to the table at all times!
Proving that poverty is not a hindrance to success, Reycel Hyacenth N. Bendaña graduates from Ateneo de Manila University with flying colors. She completes her degree in Bachelor of Arts major in Management Economics, minor in Development as Program Awardee and Cum Laude.
Most importantly, though, she is hailed as Valedictorian of Batch 2019!
Bendaña’s story is one of hope and pride as she shares the hardships and challenges she had to face being the daughter of a poor jeepney driver.
In the pre-interview qualifying essay for Valedictorian Selection, the candidates were asked to answer the prompt, “What has Ateneo done for you?” Her essay was published on Ateneo’s website and it has become an inspiration to many.
She wrote, in part:
“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. I always worked harder than everyone else to get the same opportunities they had. It’s the least I can do to compensate for my lack of privilege. This is a reality of life I have long embraced: shouting as jeepney barker for my father to taking odd jobs in high school. I worked hard to be here.
Yet, I am aware that my full scholarship exists not because I simply earned it. All my work would have been for nothing if there was no slot on offer in the first place. I am here because someone, by the grace of their heart, gave generously to fund my education. I am here because a generous Ateneo exists, where someone like me who does not share the wealthier background of the common Atenean can be entrusted with the Presidency of the school’s Student Council.”
Indeed, she was chosen by the entire student body as the President of the University Student Council (Sanggunian).
She was awarded as the Most Outstanding Student Group for Leadership and Service, also receiving the St. Ignatius Award for Most Outstanding Scholar, Most Outstanding Individual for Leadership and Service, 2018 Most Outstanding Jose Rizal Model Student of the Philippines, and as Bridging Leader of the Asian Institute of Management.
“I was raised in poverty—there was never enough food on our table, my parents were not always regular employees, and as students, my sister and I had childhoods filled with promissory notes for delayed tuition fee payments. I was seven years old when I joined my first rally.
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.”
Despite being the daughter of a jeepney driver, Bendaña was able to become the valedictorian of this prestigious school! What an inspiration…