Changing lives towards a #BetterWorld

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Changing lives towards a #BetterWorld
Education is a gift not many receive. Here are stories of those who were privileged to be given the chance of having one

MANILA, Philippines– For Claudine Alcala, getting through college meant much more than earning a degree and having a host of opportunities open up for her upon graduation. It meant being able to help her family, especially her widowed mother. “Palagi na lang iniisip ni Mama ‘yung mga problema,” she says. “Ayoko na siyang makitang ganun. Gusto ko lang palagi siyang nakangiti.”

Having lost her father when she was in her senior year of high school, finishing college seemed like a pipe dream.

Claudine’s story is not unique. Countless others are unable to finish their schooling, or even acquire quality education simply because they cannot afford it. Of the nearly 82 million Filipinos (aged 5 and above) surveyed by the National Statistics Office in 2010, a little over 4% have not been able to receive education1. For scores of our countrymen, education is a luxury, rather than a basic human right.

Helping alleviate this problem are various organizations that grant scholarships to underprivileged students. Among them is San Miguel Corporation, which, apart from a strong community scholarship program, has provided employment opportunities to its scholars.

“Education is the key to a better future,” says San Miguel Foundation Inc.’s (SMF) Executive Director Camille Buenaventura. “It unlocks a whole new world of opportunities for our students. Not only does it lift families out of poverty, it also empowers young people to contribute to society.”

Currently a third-year information technology student, Claudine is a beneficiary of SMC’s community scholarship program, and considers herself one of the lucky few.

“When I was in fourth-year high school, alam ko nang hindi ako makakapagaral ng college,” says Claudine. “But because I really wanted to pursue a tertiary education, pinaghirapan kong maghanap ng scholarship.”

When she was finally given the opportunity, Claudine was determined not to waste it. “I actually had a fever on the day of the final interview. But I said to myself, kailangan kong pilitin,” she shares.

She fondly recalls the day when she found out that she got the scholarship: “I was walking home. Mama was outside our house, talking to her friends. Malayo pa lang ako, sumigaw na ako at bigla ko siyang niyakap sa sobrang saya.”

She dreams of bringing her mother to tour Saudi Arabia someday. “She has always wanted to go there,” says Claudine. “It was where my dad worked, and I think she’s always wanted to see the places that he would always talk to us about before.”

Hope springs eternal

A Mechanical Engineering student at the Batangas State University, Persian Rayne Aquino knew that he had to work his fingers to the bone to help with the household expenses and fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer. His parents barely earned enough to make ends meet: His father is as a construction worker and his mother, a homemaker, had her hands full taking care of the needs of the family.

Determined to earn his degree, Persian Rayne, the eldest of three children, worked through his summers to augment the family’s income. At the end of every school cycle, he would hang up his school uniform and instead, put on an apron. His books would be replaced with plates, and in place of his pen would be a sponge, as he spent his summers working as a dishwasher at the local caterer. Whatever earnings left were apportioned to serve as his daily allowance for the following school year. 

DREAMS. Persian Rayne is just one of the scholars who was given a chance to work in the multi-national company.

But blessings do come to those who persevere. On his senior year, Persian Rayne received word that he had been awarded a scholarship from SMC Global Power Holdings Corp., a grant that covered the expenses for reviewing for, and taking the Mechanical Engineering licensure exam.

Soon, the potent combination of Aquino’s grit and determination, along with SMC Global Power’s much-needed assistance, resulted in him graduating as a licensed Mechanical Engineer in 2012. And just when things couldn’t get any better, he received a call from Petron Corp. soon after graduation informing him that he had just landed his first job as an engineer for the country’s biggest oil refiner. Persian Rayne has been working as a Mechanical Utilities Technician at the Petron Bataan Refinery ever since.

Malaki po ang pasasalamat ko sa San Miguel at sa Petron. Pangarap ko lang dati na maging engineer para matulungan ko ang pamilya ko. Ngayon, nakakatulong pa ako sa kumpanyang tumulong sa akin na makamit ang pangarap ko,” shares Persian Rayne.

And in 2013, his fellow engineering scholars, Jethro Yu and Mary Grace Fruto, were hired by SMC Global Power as Junior WESM (Wholesale Electricity Spot Market) Traders. Like Aquino, Yu and Fruto were also working students helping support their family and put their siblings through school, while they themselves pursued their dream of becoming engineers.

“My goal is to have a successful career, to be able to provide for a better life for my family, and hopefully also sponsor other scholars in the future,” says Jethro.

FOR THE FUTURE. Despite the challenges the scholars face, they persevered to finish school, pass the boards and build a career for a better future for themselves and their family.

Mary Grace shares that the scholarship has helped her family immensely. “Kung hindi po dahil sa kanila wala po ako at ang pamilya ko na kakayahan na matustusan ang lahat ng gastos para makapagreview at makapag-board exam ako.” Now that she is also employed, she is also able to give money to her family and support them in their day-to-day expenses.

“SMC Global Power recognizes the transformative power of education. More than providing our scholars the chance to improve their lives, we’re equipping them with skills that will actually have a lasting impact on their future,” says Ellen Go, General Manager of SMC Global Power Holdings Corp., the conglomerate’s power subsidiary.

“And once they’re employed with us, they’re continuously honed to become instrumental to the company’s growth. The company’s success, in turn, allows better services to be provided and more scholarships to be granted, contributing further to our nation’s development,” adds Go.

And there are many more of these inspiring stories. In 2011, one of Ginebra San Miguel Inc.’s technical education scholars was given the opportunity to work at the GSMI Sta. Barbara Plant in Pangasinan. A few years back, four Animal Sciences scholars were hired by San Miguel Pure Foods Company, Inc. to help improve local farm production in Mindanao.

Jenny Rodriguez, San Miguel Foundation Inc.’s (SMF) admin and services head, beams with pride whenever she talks about her San Miguel scholars. She recalls interviewing each one of them, and hearing their “heartbreaking, yet inspiring stories.” Her commitment to her ‘brood’ continues long after they have graduated, as she remains in contact with them to this day.

“What makes me feel most fulfilled after all these years is seeing our scholars, who have gone through the toughest of life’s hurdles, now wearing the shirt jack. They used to be our San Miguel scholars, now they are our San Miguel colleagues,” she says.

Many scholars have also been successful in pursuing careers outside of San Miguel, demonstrating how the educational support given by the company has helped develop capable and industry-competitive professionals. One of their former beneficiaries is now a farm manager of a large food company, several IT scholars have become managers of different ICT-based businesses, while still others have flourishing careers overseas.

Education is indeed at the heart of San Miguel’s Corporate Social Responsibility commitment. To date, nearly 13,000 students have benefited from the SMF’s educational development projects. The group’s program on education is holistic, including not just scholarships, but also the construction of classrooms and feeding undernourished school kids; and extends support to students from the primary to tertiary levels. 

New beginnings

 In 2012, Typhoon Pablo hit the island of Mindanao and was considered the most destructive storm at the time, until Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Philippines in 2013.

Shortly after Pablo hit Mindanao, SMC Global Power, through the San Miguel Foundation, screened applicants (fifth-year mechanical and electrical engineering students) from different provinces for the company’s scholarship program, which covers full matriculation fees, daily allowances and all expenses during board review and examination.

More than a hundred students applied for the scholarships—each one struggling to make ends meet. Some students needed help with their board review expenses, while others also dreamed to be employed by San Miguel after passing the board exams.

Last September 2014, when the board examination results were released, all nine of Global Power’s electrical engineering scholars passed. The following month, as the board results for mechanical engineering were released, all eleven scholars passed as well.

Today, most of them are employed in San Miguel companies while others are scheduled for on-the-job training at SMC Global Power.

Ellen Go, general manager of SMC Global Power, shares, “It’s about helping them achieve their dreams and achieving a better quality of life through employment.”

A bright future ahead

Vincent Jugado is the second child of an airport porter and a housewife. He was born and raised in Davao Oriental. He worked as a storekeeper at his uncle’s canteen to support his studies, as well as his family’s needs. Despite being a working student, Vincent managed to keep his grades up and qualified for the scholarship.

His father had always wanted to have an engineer in the family. “Hindi ako nagdalawang-isip na mag-apply dahil alam kong malaking tulong ito para sa pamilya namin,” Vincent says. The scholarship covered expenses while studying for the boards, the rent in Manila where the review center was located, as well as his daily allowance.“Nung natanggap ako, tuwang-tuwa ang mga magulang ko, lalung-lalo na ang tatay ko. Sabi niya sa wakas magkakaroon na ng engineer sa pamilya,” he says.

Today, Vincent is a cadet engineer in SMC Global Power’s facility in Bataan together with 6 other scholars. He dreams of becoming a control systems engineer, and design engineer one day.

Bataan scholar Gary Reyes is the youngest among three boys. The 21-year-old is currently employed as a Junior WESM Trader in Angat Dam, a job he secured with the help of SMEC (San Miguel Electrical Corporation).

He shares that he never expected to be one of the chosen ones among all the applicants. “Kasabay ko po nung interview ay mas matalino sa akin kaya kinabahan talaga ako. Pero mas stable yung financial life nila compared sa akin,” he says. “Noon, kung saan-saan nangungutang ang nanay ko para mapagkasya ang mga gastusin sa bahay at pambayad ng tuition fee ko. Ang tatay ko naman, tuwing malapit na ang enrollment, inaabot ng madaling araw sa pamamasada ng tricycle. Minsan kahit may sakit na siya, namamasada pa rin siya.”

He adds that his older brothers were going to help him pay for his expenses for the board exam review and additional fees to be able to take the boards. But when he got the scholarship, his family didn’t need to borrow money anymore as San Miguel shouldered all the expenses.

Tulong Aral ng Petron

TULONG ARAL. Scholars of the Petron Foundation are given the scholarship from elementary up until college and are supported every step of the way.

Another initiative that continues to change lives is Petron Foundation’s “Tulong Aral,” a program that begins with sending children to primary or elementary school up until tertiary or college. Once they finish, they will find employment opportunities waiting for them in the company.

For school year 2013-2014, the program enrolled more than 3,000 scholars in elementary, high school, college and technical-vocational programs. Tulong Aral ng Petron, which started in 2002 as the company’s strategic contribution to the alleviation of poverty, has since shared the gift of education to nearly 9,000 scholars, over 6,300 of which have completed their elementary and high school studies. 

“We see Tulong Aral as a vehicle to a better future not only for our scholars, but also their families,” shares Charmaine Canillas, Petron Corporation’s AVP for Corporate Affairs, and General Manager of the Petron Foundation. “Even as we ensure that the children are able to receive formal education, we also empower their parents through skills and values formation, financial literacy, and supplemental livelihood.”

Complementing the Tulong Aral scholarships are the Petron Schools.  Petron Foundation has also been putting up these 1- to 2-classroom buildings throughout the country to provide additional venues for learning in existing public schools that severely lack them. A total of 80 Petron Schools equivalent to 214 classrooms have been built since 2002, benefitting nearly 11,000 students. Along with Tulong Aral, this initiative supports the Department of Education’s Adopt-A-School program.

But it is in Tulong Aral that the lives of Petron’s scholars are being transformed for the better.  

Queenie Vargas has been a scholar since she was in third grade and is now studying business economics in college. She dreams of working for Petron someday to be able to provide a brighter future for her family.

Edelyn Adriano, a scholar since she was in first grade, shares that if it were not for the scholarship, she would not have had the resources at all to go to school. The accountancy major has hopes of becoming a lawyer someday. “Gusto kong mapabilang sa kumpanyang tumulong sa akin makapagaral, ang Petron Foundation,” she says.

Nathaniel Barbasena, a mechanical engineering student, says, “Gusto ko talaga dito sa Petron kasi sobrang laki ng utang na loob ko sa kanila. Ang laki talaga ng binago nila sa buhay namin ng pamilya ko,” he says.

Cherry Mae Pineda, on the other hand, has taken on the responsibility of supporting her family after her father passed away earlier this year. “Gustung-gusto kong makatulong sa pamilya ko. Kahit wala nang mapunta sa’kin basta sa kanila, mabigay ko lahat,” the accountancy freshman says. Cherry has been a Petron scholar since Grade One, too.

But these challenges serve only to motivate them further. Queenie, who also recently lost her father (a former security personnel in Petron) to a heart ailment, says, “Instead of seeing it as a difficulty, I use their expectations to push me to work harder. Instead of dwelling on our personal tragedies, I am more determined to finish my schooling.”

Natutunan ko dito sa Petron, at isinasabuhay namin dito: Be the best that you can be, and do the best that you can do. Ayun na rin siguro ‘yung maibibigay namin bilang pasasalamat sa kumpanyang nagbigay tulong sa amin.” –


[1] National Statistics Office (2014). Philippines in Figures 2014. Education and Literacy. Retrieved from

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