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Reaching the Top

Stories that will not just inspire you to excel at school but in life as well 


Compiled by Mary Angela Barlongay and Cessa Gatmaytan

  • Christian Jeanoe Losa

  • Joyce Dublin

  • Erwin Macua

  • Maria Julpha Villa

  • Meriam Nalo Libongcogon

  • Regine Villamor

  • Mabini “Marie” Nabor

    There are no limits to what a person can achieve, if one sets aside every weight that could slow one down or stop one on one’s tracks. Not poverty, not disability, only doubt can keep someone from crossing the finish line. Here are stories of affirmation that have inspired thousands online of students who did not only run with endurance but finished the race with the highest honor.

    Conquering her greatest battle 

    The word fearless best describes Meriam Nalo Libongcogon, a 25-year-old Philippine Military Academy student (PMA) who had to work as a housemaid to finance her studies. She overcame her challenges with courage. Last March 17, she was one of the graduates at PMA’s Salaknib class of 2017. A more promising journey lies ahead, as she is set to enter the Philippine Navy with the rank of junior commissioned officer.

    A farmer’s daughter, at a very young age Meriam and her siblings had to sell coconut shells, sand, and wood as construction supplies for P20 a week for extra income. She was valedictorian in grade school, which gave her the opportunity to be a full scholar at a Catholic high school in Cebu. When she entered college she had to work as a part-time housemaid and caretaker of children. She decided to stop after three years when it had affected her health. Meriam then moved to Baguio where she met her foster parent Nanay Rose who encouraged her to join PMA. Although being a cadet was tough, it never occured to her to  quit. Now, she aims to build a house for her family after earning from her rank.

    Sickness is not a problem

    Leukemia did not stop 20-year-old Maria Julpha Villa from obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education at Rizal Technological University (RTU). She could not make it to the commencement exercises, however, because she was undergoing medical treatment after being diagnosed with Stage 4 acute mylogenous leukemia last February. So a special ceremony prepared by her family, members of RTU, and hospital staff for her was held at the hospital in Cagayan de Oro. Friends and classmates attended the commencement exercise where Maria Julpha wore a toga, received her diploma, and was given a medal of excellence. Because of her exceptional skills in Filipino martial art of arnis, she was a scholar for four years. She hopes to someday defeat her disease and continue her dream of becoming a teacher.

    Journey to success

    He was a promising student in high school, which he finished as class valedictorian, but due to financial problems, Joyce Dublin had to quit school. To financially support his family and help his mom who sold bread, Joyce worked as a stockroom checker at a supermarket for five years. He admits that it was harder for him because he had to be away from his family who lived in Daanbantayan, Cebu. When he returned to his hometown, he worked as a habal-habal driver. One of his passengers admired his story and believed in his capability as a student. The kind passenger helped him land a job as a tutor and sponsored his education. Joyce entered college as Bachelor of Secondary Education-Mathematics major. With his hard work and perseverance, he was given a scholarship grant, but his biggest achievement is graduating as magna cum laude. To continue his dream to become a certified teacher, a review center has offred to give it to him for free.

    From school guard to cum laude

    Age did not stop 38-year-old Erwin Macua from finishing his studies. He has been working as a security guard at his school, St. Theresa’s College (STC), in Cebu City for 17 years. He would work from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and would attend classes at 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. He majored in General Education in pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Not only did he maintain a full load, he was also a consistent dean’s lister. His hard work soon paid off because he graduated cum laude. But the day before his graduation ceremony, Erwin was still on night duty as a security guard. His excuse for still working? He did not want his salary to be deducted as he was not the only one studying in the family. He has three children and one of them is in college taking up Bachelor of Science in Accountancy as a scholar. His second child is in grade 10 while the youngest is 10 months old. He is now preparing for the licensure exam while still guarding the gates of his school.

    Love and life

    After graduating from high school, Mabini “Marie” Nabor worked as a hairdresser and makeup artist in Boracay. She then became an entertainer in Japan and Germany, and got engaged with a foreigner, with whom her relationship did not last long. She went back to Boracay to continue her career as a makeup artist and hairdresser and managed some businesses on the island. She felt depressed along the way, so she decided to go back to school and focus on her studies. At the age of 45, she graduated magna cum laude at the Aklan State University, where she earned a Science Education degree and majored in Social Studies. While she was a student, Marie was class president and project leader. The former hairdresser now looks forward to begin her work as a teacher.

    Catching the bigger fish

    Regine Villamor’s father would wake up at two in the morning to catch fish, while his mother would sell them on the streets. The couple earned P700 per day, which still was not enough for the whole family as Regine has two younger brothers age 15 and 17. To help with the finances, she studied hard so she could get a scholarship. She majored in Liberal Arts and Commerce at the University of San Jose Recolectos. Since her university was two to three hours away from her hometown, she created an inspirational board in her dormitory filled with quotes and photos of her family to inspire her whenever she felt tired or homesick. Regine worked hard to make it to the dean’s list, which allowed her to get  50 to 70 percent off her tuition. Her parents became prouder when she graduated magna cum laude.

    Something borrowed

    “Nangutang, nagbayad, naka-graduate.”  These were some of the lines written in Christian Jeanoe Losa’s Facebook post. The new college graduate shared how he struggled to make ends meet just when he was about to finish college in a caption post with his graduation photo that went viral on  social media. Christian, who took up BS HRM Major in Cruise Management at Jose Rizal University, lost his mother at an early age and his father failed to send money for six months due to a crisis in Saudi Arabia. At 16, he managed to avail of loans ranging from P20,000 to P30,000. He thought of many ways to earn money to support his and his sisters’ studies and everyday needs. He even started a business and entered the buy and sell industry. He never lost courage in looking for ways to earn money.


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