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The best Christmas gift: Education


By Benel P. Lagua

By Benel P. Lagua

By Benel P. Lagua

The coming of our saviour on Christmas inspires a season of gift giving. The best present we can give is to provide opportunities for the less privileged to uplift their living standards so that they can contribute to making the world a better place. And what better way to achieve this than through education.

 At the Development Bank of the Philippines, we have a 10-year scholarship program called DEEP, or DBP Endowment for Education, which provides support to poor but deserving high school students ready for college but lacking the resources support. DEEP has supported 3,567 scholars with tuition as well as board and lodging allowances to allow them to finish their tertiary education.

 I wish to share the story of DEEP through excerpts from the valedictory address of a cadet graduate from NYK-TDG Maritime Academy Class of 2016.

“I am OIC-EW Jaymar B. Baguidudol. I come from very humble beginnings, my father, Dionisio, a government employee and my mother, a plain housewife. I am a mountain boy from the province of Hingyon, Ifugao. Life in the mountains was challenging. I had to wake up early morning to catch the earliest jeep that can bring me to my elementary school. If I missed the jeep, which happened most of the time, I would miss the first subject. Despite the difficulties, my childhood was full of adventure.

I loved traversing the mountains and crossing the rivers and streams of Ifugao.”

“These adventures made me tough and helped me hurdle life’s challenges. Studying in Ifugao Provincial Science High School made me even tougher. I was forced to live away from my parents and stay in a transient house as the school is located in another town about 23 kilometers away jeep from my home. Even at a very young age, I wanted to excel in anything I do, be it in my studies or in the sports activities I joined, even representing my province in the Regional Sports Competition of Sepak Takraw.”

“My zest for knowledge and adventure was intensified when I passed NTMA’s entrance exams. The Academy was a whole different world. Here I was in a sea of new faces of different ages, provinces, and dialects. Slowly these faces became familiar, then later on, family. Together with my new-found brothers, we survived each obstacle that came our way. I learned to manage my time between my academics and extra-curricular activities such as being a member of the NTMA Dragon Boat Team and being the Vice Chairman of the Honor Committee. We, Class 2016, went by the name HUMILIS, from the Latin word meaning humble…”

“After three years in the Academy, I boarded NYK Theseus, a container ship, for three months, and then MT Tokitsu Maru, a very large crude carrier or VLCC, for the remaining nine months of my shipboard training. Life at sea was beyond what I imagined. The mountains from my childhood now became ports, the trees and animals, became the ship’s machinery and equipment, and the rivers of my hometown, became oceans. The realization that this was my destiny came on the 20th of April, 2016. Our vessel was in dry dock the entire day. We assisted in the engine room trying to get our crane working. Coming up to the crew mess after work, tired and hungry, I saw there was a half-eaten cake. I suddenly realized it was actually my birthday. Night time fell and our crane was again damaged. I started to think about what this meant for me. I finally understood that this was in fact the universe’s birthday present — a welcome into the world of seafaring. I then felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the great learning opportunity I was given.”

“Yes, I have had many an adventure… Today is about giving thanks to those who have travelled and supported us in our voyage so far.”

“First and above all, thank you to our God almighty for all the blessings He has bestowed on all of us…”

“To NYK Line and TDG…, thank you very much for your generosity; for building this honorable institution for poor boys like us; and, for charting a destiny towards a better tomorrow for us and our families.”

“To the Development Bank of the Philippines, thank you for selecting me and 50 of my batch mates as your DEEP scholars. With your help, Sirs, I was able to study in the best maritime school in the country. ”

“To the faculty and staff of NTMA, we are grateful for your patience, hardwork, and dedication in molding us from mere boys to the young men that we have now become…”

“To our seniors from the NTMA Alumni Societas, thank you for paving the way for us…”

“To our juniors, …Remember to prioritize your lessons over grades, for wisdom cannot be quantified in numbers, but rather in your ability to make use of what you have learned, your uniqueness, and the humility you display through it all.”

“For all your sacrifices and hardships, for all the challenges that you faced, for continuing to work even when you were sick , for all the sleepless nights, for you are the two people I love the most, Mom, Dad, thank you very much… These awards are for you, for without you, I would not be standing where I am today…”

“Today, is indeed a commencement… We are no longer cadets but officers; No longer boys but men; No longer the dependents but dependables. The seas are calling, brothers. Wherever the great winds take us, may we never forget the identity that we have chosen ourselves. HUMILIS. Humility. To be humble means to always give thanks; to never forget our roots; and to always, always come home.”

 (Benel D. Lagua is EVP at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He is an active FINEX member and a long time advocate of risk-based lending for SMEs. The views expressed herein are his own and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of his office as well as FINEX.)

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