Dhonnabelle Cultivo, 19, graduated with high honor in Concepcion Pequena National High School, a beneficiary of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program

Born in a poor family in Barangay Concepcion Pequena, Naga City, graduating with high honor is the best payback she could give to her working parents who served as her inspiration and hope to continue achieving her dreams to have a good life for her family.

Nineteen-year old Dhonnabelle Cultivo, earns the top rating in her graduating class in Concepcion Pequena National High School. “Para sa inyo po ito Ma, Pa, sa mga kapatid ko, sa sakripisyo niyo para makagraduate ako sa High School [This is for you Mother, Father and my siblings, for your sacrifices just to let me finish High School],” she said.

Dhonna is the third child among the six siblings of her parents Mariel, 43, working in a canteen and Alvin, 45, a carpenter who gets paid of P200.00 per day whenever chances given for construction work.

Since almost all of her siblings are going to school, her parent’s earnings only went to pay all their loans, electric bills and for their daily food, she said she would go to school with almost P30.00 in her pocket only sufficient as fare for her transportation.

“Mahirap po mga pinagdaanan, pero sinikap ko po na mag-top para po may full scholarship po ako sa College [I went through hard times, but I persevere to be on top to have a full college scholarship],” Dhonna said.

She knew she would go through a lot even harder in college having less but she said it will not stop her to enter the course of Geology or Biology. “Yan po ang pangarap ko na kurso, [It is my dream course],” she said.

According to her Mother Mariel, if it needs to triple themselves (parents) to finance their children’s education she would do it. “Pangarap po namin na makapagtapos sila ng pag-aaral kaya po gagawin namin lahat para suportahan sila, [We dream to let them—children finish education that is why we will do everything to support them.],” she added.

Staying on Focus

Back when she is still going to class, Dhonna recalls that early in the morning she needed to carry a huge pail of water to get to school. The Cultivo’s only had water supply in their house last year.

Also, during her elementary years, she said she literally burns the midnight oil in order for her to study.

Her mother also said that buying uniforms may be simple for other’s but for them they consider it as a momentary luxury of giving her children their needs.

Na-alala ko dati narinig ko yung isang magulang, hindi daw mananalo anak ko sa school kompetisyon nila dahil sa gamit pa nga lang daw na uniform talo na. Ang sakit nun sa akin pero tiniis ko yun. [I remember before I overheard a parent says that my child will not won the competition due to the uniform that she is wearing. It was painful for me but I let it –my suffering pass], Mariel said with tears in her eyes.

Her Family’s difficult situation was even aggravated when her Father had a Pneumonia and at the same time her Mother’s job contract ended.

Lugaw na lang kinakain namin noon pero basta may laman ang tiyan makapasok lang [We only eat porridge that time, but it is ok so long as we have something on our stomach],” Dhonna said.

Moving Forward

Dhonnabelle with her Mother Mariel during her High School graduation

Despite all the suffering Dhonna had gone through, she transform all the pains and suffering into challenges that made her persevere to study more. “Kinaya ko lahat–trabaho sa bahay para makatulong kila Mama, tapos tutulungan ko mga kapatid ko sa homework nila. Tapos, mag-aaral ako kahit gabi na [I did everything—the household choirs to help my parents, then, help my siblings on their homework, then, I would study at night],” she said.

Also, being one of the 368,196 beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4ps) of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Bicol Region, the cash assistance that the family received had augmented their educational and health needs.

Maraming salamat po, nung dumating po ang programa dun po namin masasabi na nakakabangon na kami kahit paunti-unti. Thank you, when the program came to us, we can say that it is where our life is improving even a little bit],” her mother said.

In addition, Dhonna’s second sibling Alvin is a grantee of Student Grant-in-Aid for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA).

ESGP-PA is an educational grant which gives priority to the beneficiaries of 4Ps by providing them opportunity to get college education, increase their chance to get better employment in the future and ultimately uplift the lives of their family so that they become contributors to national development.

Sakin po, sobrang laki po ang tulong ng 4Ps, kasi yung totoo po, mayna-aabot na po si Mama na pera para sa projects ko, nabibilhan na niya kami ng sapatos, tapos bagong uniform pag recognition, nabawasan din ung pasan nila sa tuition fee namin [To me, 4Ps is a huge help, because the truth is, my Mother can lend money to us when we have school projects, she can buy us shoes, then, new uniforms during recognition, it lessen their burden where to get our tuition fee],” she said with conviction.

Her Dreams

The fire to learn is still very alive in Dhonnabelle as she takes another challenge in pursuing her college.

Kailangan ko na mag-aral ng kolehiyo para pagdating ng araw ay magkaroon ako ng magandang trabaho at ma-alis ko pamilya ko sa ganitong kalagayan [I have to study in college so I can find a decent job and help my family get out of poverty],” she said when she was asked about her plans.

Like any other young kids, with full of hope and dreams for her future and her family. Dhonnabelle is a fine example of how infinite the possibilities are for people who work hard to achieve their dreams saying “Not all people are given the opportunity to pursue college, but despite how hard the future awaits me, with determination and perseverance I will get my family out of poverty. I know we will not be in this situation for long.”GLindio-IO-4Ps