Someone who was once bullied and socially discriminated has finally earned college degree and led the North Luzon Philippines State College (NLPSC) Batch 2020 as Magna Cum Laude.

“4Ps dayta, bibiagen lang ti gobyerno! Sayang ta mait-ited kadakuada. (He is a 4Ps [beneficiary], just being aided by the government! Their grants are just wasted).”

These harsh words are commonly heard by the family of Giovani V. Valdez, a Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary and Expanded Student’s Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Allevation (ESGP-PA) graduate from Brgy. Bagar, Candon City, Ilocos Sur. ESGP-PA aims to produce a degree holder in every poor family and gradually produce a domino effect to other families by encouraging the beneficiaries to help their family members earn a college degree.

Giovani said, “When I was chosen as one of the ESGP-PA recipients,my college journey has changed. This great opportunity gave me more time to focus on my studies and have peace of mind because I am secured with my educational needs. I had no more reasons to fail and not to graduate. Also, it changed my negative perception on how the government works in combatting poverty because it is investing in a timely and relevant program just like the Pantawid Pamilya.”

Giovani’s parents as well as his elder siblings reached high school only, which limited them to look for good paying jobs. This heartbreaking and frustrating experience is one of Giovani’s motivations to enter college.

In 2017, he enrolled at NLPSC and took up Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. College life was never easy. He needed to study and juggle several jobs to finance his studies.

But a long time unanswered prayer was granted. During the first year of the second semester, Giovani was selected as one of the ESGP-PA grantees which is a big support to meet his school requirements, as well as his family’s needs.

He was also elected as the President of the Student Government of NLPSC. He was the voice of the studentry during board meetings — which he passionately does without expecting anything in return.

Despite his busy schedules in school and as an officer of the Student Government, Giovani never failed to attend the Pantawid Pamilya monthly Family Development Sessions. Moreover, he has always shared his experiences and knowledge on Pantawid Pamilya during his speaking engagements. He uses this platform to educate the objectives of the program and how it helped the beneficiaries uplift their level of well-being. He never failed to remind others to never stop dreaming and work hard to achieve their dreams.

His sheer determination and commitment to finish college education has paid off. Graduation has arrived. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to stay at home and deviate from the usual routine including graduation ceremonies.

As he watched the NLPSC’s online graduation, he cannot help but shed tears as he looked back on his hardships and challenges in his four years in college.

When asked on his message to his fellow Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries, Giovani proudly expressed, “I have experienced emotional lumps and bumps, financial problems, unfriendly environment, academic problems, among others but as long as our faith and our dreams are intact; distractions will just strengthen our desire to finish the battle successfully. We may finish the race late but what is important is that, we successfully finished it. Let us not thwart from dreaming and believing that we can reach our goals because we are the sole driver of our destiny.” (by: Arlem Kenneth R. Areola- PDO II,NGA Focal/Pantawid Pamilya)