From Gensan to Boston: A Lumad's dream for his people
MANILA, Philippines - Marlito Soriano's only wish was to go to any college in order to help his family but fate had another plan for him.
This coming September 2015, the 17-year-old Lumad from the B'laan tribe from General Santos City, South Cotabato will be a freshman at the Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States (US).
Out of all the applicants across the Philippines, the private company International Container Terminal Services (ICTS) granted him a full scholarship to study BA Accountancy in one of the most prestigious schools in the US State. He will not spend a single cent.
"Sino nga po iyong makakaisip na isang simpleng tulad ko na galing sa mahirap na pamilya ay makakaapak sa US para mag-aral," Soriano told Rappler. "Hanggang ngayon hindi pa po ako makapaniwala."
(Who will think that a simple person like me who comes from a poor family will ever set foot in the US to study? Until now I cannot believe it.)
It wasn't an easy life for the Soriano family as they only have Marlito's father as the breadwinner. He used to be a driver before doing construction jobs in various places in the city.
In 2008, the family became part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). They received at least P1200 ($30)* a month for their needs.
However, there are days when their budget really isn't enough. The family would often fall short when it comes to household needs such as food and other expenses.
As the eldest of 6 children, the burden of easing the family's situation also relies on Marlito's shoulders. He would sometimes find odd jobs just to contribute for the day's budget.
Despite all of these, Marlito stayed positive.
"Iyong epekto ng poverty, very crippling siya at sobrang nakakalungkot," he said. "Pero kung gagawin natin itong inspiration at motivation, walang imposible."
(The effects of poverty are very crippling and very saddening. But if we see it as motivation and inspiration, nothing is impossible."
The valedictorian of New Society National High School never thought of giving up and just letting everything go according to what life dictates.
"Para sa akin, the best way to predict the future is to create it," Marlito said. "Kung alam mo kung anong gusto mong makamit, nasa kamay mo na kung anong gagawin mo para makamit ito."
(For me, the best way to predict the future is to create it. If you know what you want to achieve, it's up to you to do the things to achieve it.)
Marlito will be studying abroad for 4 years but he swears that once finished, he will go back to help his community of indigenous people.
"Babalikan ko ang mga kasama ko sa B'laan tribe kapag naging matagumpay na ako (I will definitely go back to my B'laan tribe when I become successful.)," he said.
He said that he noticed that there is still a wide gap between city dwellers and the Lumads who lived in rural settlements.
"May mga discrimination pa rin po sa aming mga Lumads kaya nakakalungkot," Marlito explained. "Gusto ko maging isa sa mga daan para matigil na ito at maging mas maayos ang buhay nila."
(There's still discrimination against us Lumads so it's saddening. I want to pave way for this to stop and for their lives to be better.)
He is the first one from his community to go to study in a foreign land and he will never waste the opportunity given to him.
"Madami akong inspirasyon sa pamilya ko, sa mga B'laan, kaya magpupursige ako (I have a lot of inspirations - my family, the B'laan - so I will persevere and do my best.)," Marlito said.
Marlito has made his IP community proud with what he has achieved and after at least 4 years - with his certified public accountant license and his goal to help the community - he will make them prouder than ever. - Rappler.com