Negros Occidental

Negros Occidental IP scholar graduates magna cum laude

Marchel Espina, Inday Espina-Varona
Negros Occidental IP scholar graduates magna cum laude

IP PRIDE OF MURCIA. Nelly Ambrocio, a member of the Bukidnon indigenous tribe, prepares to receive a medal and cash gift from Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose "Bong" Lacson for graduating magna cum laude in BS Agriculture from Ming Yuan College in Murcia town.

Negros Occidental information office

Without a provincial government scholarship, higher education would be almost impossible for Nelly Ambrocio, whose parents earn a maximum of P2,000 weekly from their flower farm

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Nelly Ambrocio had spent weekends helping parents Nestor and Josefina in planting, harvesting, and packing flowers at their one-hectare Barangay Minoyan farm in Murcia town at the foothills of Mount Kanlaon.

Even with their hard work, the family from Negros Occidental’s indigenous Bukidnon community earns only between P1,500 and P2,000 per week, just enough to buy their basic needs. 

Nestor and Josefina, however, supported the dreams of their daughter, the second of three children. 

With the help of Murcia town’s Catholic Ming Yuan College and the provincial government’s full-tuition agriculture scholarship program, Pagkaon (the word for food in the local Hiligaynon language), they managed to send Nelly to college.

On May 31, Nelly repaid her parents’ belief in her by graduating magna cum laude in BS Agriculture, with a general weighted average of 92%. Nelly, one of her college’s 11 new graduates under the Negros Occidental scholarship program, also received a leadership award.

“Nelly is very humble and quiet,” Catholic Ming Yuan College registrar Ana Marie Saison told Rappler in a phone interview. “She really is very, very bright and spends most of her time reading and studying.”

While Nelly  is not your typical outgoing student leader, peers sought her for guidance and valued her calm, logical manner of sorting out problems.

Saison said Nelly stayed during the week in the environs of the college’s sprawling, lush fields in Hacienda Binitin, Barangay Blumentritt, near the Murcia town center. 

On Saturdays, she would go back to her family to help harvest chrysanthemums in their farm in their tribe’s ancestral domain. 

She would then stay overnight near the St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Bago City, getting up early Sunday morning to prepare her wares before the first mass. After entrusting the earnings to her parents, the scholar would return to school.

Helping her family and studying so she can help even more had always been Nelly’s focus, Saison told Rappler.

Women power

The Catholic Ming Yuan College is run by the missionary congregation of St. John the Baptist and has close links to Taiwan. It sends students yearly for exposure to the neighboring country’s agribusiness sector. With help from the province, it aids graduates to pursue post-graduate studies there.

Ming Yuan College campus in Murcia, Negros Occidental. (Ming Yuan College)

Governor Eugenio Jose “Bong” Lacson praised the dedication of Nelly and other graduates, including five who are set to take up their masteral studies at Taiwan’s Nanhua University. He said the provincial government would continue its support for poor but deserving students.

The 11 new graduates are scholars of the provincial government. There are more than 40 others in the lower college levels, Saison said.

Lacson gave Nelly a P12,000 cash gift in a simple ceremony at the provincial capitol in Bacolod City. Two other cum laude graduates, Suzith Jean Macasinag of Hinobaan and Sheila Marfil of Murcia, received P5,000 each.

Nelly thanked the provincial government for supporting her education and dedicated her academic honor to her parents. She also thanked CMYC professors and staff for taking good care of her.

The top three graduates of the college are women. Four of five students headed for their masteral studies in Taiwan are also women. 

The school’s pattern fits the Philippine general pattern in education of more women going into secondary, tertiary and post-graduate studies than their male counterparts. 

CONTINUING STUDIES. An agriculture graduate of Ming Yuan College during post-graduate studies in Taiwan’s Nanhua University. (Ming Yuan College Facebook page)

World Bank 2017 indicators also showed females comprise 53.37% of graduates in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary programs.

But a 2018 infographics published by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries noted that only 15.4% of women in agriculture have college education and only 0.5% have post-graduate degrees. The report shows 55.5% of women in the sector only completed elementary studies, and 21% finished high school. 

Nelly and her peers hope the incoming administration of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will make good on President Rodrigo Duterte’s pledge to boost food security by giving idle government lands to new agriculture graduates. 

Cherrie Atilano, a member of Asia 21 Young Leaders Class of 2017 noted that new farming models are needed to keep young people’s interest in agriculture in a country that has a population of 112.5 million to feed. 

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Women, who are increasingly filling the ranks of research and policy-making in Philippine agriculture, can play a major role in developing agri-business and tourism focused agriculture, said Atillano. 

“It is important for everyone to see that there is money in farming,” the young leader stressed. 

Unless new models flourish, “the outlook of people to agriculture is still a one-way ticket to poverty because even the farmers would tell their children not to follow their footsteps, better study hard and go abroad to get a better job then send money back home,” she pointed out. –