‘Ma, Iskolar ng Bayan na ako’: Fulfilling Mama’s dream after her death from cancer

‘Ma, Iskolar ng Bayan na ako’: Fulfilling Mama’s dream after her death from cancer
Even when she was battling cancer, Christopher Al Eugenio's mother saved money to ensure her son can get review classes to enter his dream university

MANILA, Philippines – My mom battled breast cancer twice for 3 years. For a simple family like ours, Mama getting cancer was earth-shattering.

My dad resigned from his job in 2017, so he could be with Mama throughout her recovery. But ever since then, the hospital bills for chemo, radiation, and medicines grew more and more expensive to the point where my dad’s savings, insurance policies, and my siblings’ salaries were hardly enough. 

My mom successfully beat cancer in early 2018, but little did we know that cancer would come back in a worse form. It now affected her lungs, her lymphatic system, to the point where one time, she woke up early in the morning unable to breathe. My family had to rush her to the hospital. At that time, I was resting for a school competition to take place that same day. I couldn’t help but break down in front of my teacher and classmates later on.

We had our last normal day in April 2019. We were out buying clothes for my recognition day. After that, she suddenly experienced heavy migraines which would continue until her death.

I couldn’t remember a time when I felt more helpless.

Ever since I was a child, my mother had been the most encouraging parent. She always found time to answer my questions, and support me in my school competitions. When I would stay up all night trying to complete a requirement, she would wake up at midnight and help me finish it, even until dawn.

Later on, I dreamed big and aimed for the University of the Philippines. UP had always been my dream university. I frequented it whenever I had competitions such as the Patalasanlahi Debate competition. I fell in love with it, as well as my mom who was an academic achiever herself when she was young. I realized then that her love for studies was one of the traits she wanted to impart to me.

My mom had convinced my dad that review classes would help me in my college entrance tests. Even in her state, she helped us save money for the classes. (READ: How a low-performing student passed the UPCAT)

It struck me how much she wanted to invest in my future despite the many bills we were already paying. I like to think that this was something she wanted to leave me with: a great future ahead where I can fulfill both of our dreams.

It was really difficult because I would leave home every day for review classes knowing she’s in pain at home.

My dad told me to try not to worry about my mom and focus on my review. It was difficult but I had to do my best for us.

When she passed away, I kept asking my mom to guide me in every competition I joined and every school activity I did. Even minutes before I took the UP College Admission Test, I prayed that she would help me. (READ: For UP hopefuls, the struggle starts with UPCAT)

Seeing the results, I know she was there with me through and through. She did not leave my side so she could see me fulfill our dream for me to be an Iskolar ng Bayan. 

It’s hard not to see her face and be with her in the future but I know she is happy and proud of what I had accomplished.

I want to offer everything I would do to her. That’s why I plan to become a doctor who will specialize in cancer treatment. I got admitted to BS Statistics in UP Diliman, which I hope will help give me a great foundation for research when I become a doctor.

It will take me a long time, but I want to help other families who have gone through the same horrors as we did and enable me to empathize with them. 

I am so grateful for having such a great support group of teachers, students, family, relatives, and friends. I owe everything to everyone I love.

Ma, Iskolar na ako ng Bayan. – Rappler.com

Christopher Al Eugenio is a graduate from Don Bosco Technical Institute of Tarlac and an incoming University of the Philippines Diliman student. He hopes to become a doctor-researcher on cancer in honor of his mother.