LAMUT, Ifugao – ”Life, indeed, is colorless when it sprouted into the world, but it could be turned into a rainbow splash by the power of the beholder – by the power of his dreams and set goals” Bulkman Smith Manzano as he opens his speech in their Moving Up Ceremony in Junior High School at Caba National High School on March 20, 2016. Bulkman Smith is one of the children of a Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program household that became beneficiaries in 2011 from Lagawe, Ifugao.
The Pantawid exemplary child of Lagawe has surely grown up to be a model citizen, not only to the youth but also in and out of their community.
Being on cloud nine as Bulkman closed the school year with honors, he thought that the hardest part of his educational life was already over, but he was wrong.
Enrollment for Senior High School was fast approaching, but Bulkman didn’t know what strand to take. What he did know was he wants to be of service to his fellowmen and continue his journey as a youth advocate. He dreams of becoming a social worker or a teacher, thus, he took the Humanities and Social Sciences (HumSS) Strand at Lawig National High School – Main in Lamut, Ifugao.
Starting the track in Senior High School, Bulkman learned that it was very different from what he has faced during Junior High School. “Being a Senior High student means there are new subjects, new schedules, new projects and new curriculum so, there is a need to work harder than before. “I was really shocked when things seem to be getting worse; projects, requirements, and outputs were overloading and turning heavier. There were times when I don’t rest at night just to finish my projects. Since most of our outputs were encoded and printed and for me who can’t afford a laptop, I had to borrow other’s laptop or else I had to do overtime in our ICT lab. Sometimes, I get embarrassed when I borrow laptops. Some even say, “Nape tuwali ta adi ah gumatang hi sarilim an laptop?(Why don’t you buy your own laptop?). It hurts me but I had to swallow the pain for the sake of completing my requirements” he shared.
Amidst these challenges, he sees these experiences as a part of the journey and these makes him stronger and more determined to reach his goals.
Moving up to a different place and environment was all new and hard for Bulkman, and this has become harder by being away from his family. Going to a school far from home was hard especially for someone who struggles financially. “Usually, my average weekly allowance is P300.00. From that I had to put aside P200.00 for my fare going to Lawig and back home (Lagawe) since one-way fare is already P100.00. I also have to pay monthly boarding fee of P400.00 on top of that. And the rest, I had to budget for all my school expenses and other necessities. Every week, I had to do my best in budgeting my allowance. The cash grants we receive from the program is what makes our life a little easier, but still sometimes, doesn’t suffice.
It was hard but indeed I learned another skill” he continues. As a student, he had to spend money in doing researches and completing school projects. There were times when he even had to borrow money from his classmates to cover his needs.
To lessen his expenses, he always packs vegetables from their home for his weekly consumption.
“It is really tough to be poor, but I never consider this as a factor for me to be dismayed and to stop fighting in reaching my dreams instead, I thought that someday I should not be like this anymore. But you know what’s the hardest part for me? It was being away from my family. Although my parents always text and call me over the phone, iba padin pag duon ako uuwi, iba padin pag nandun sila na karamay ko (It’s feels different to come home to your family, knowing that they always got your back)” says Bulkman.
He always eagerly waited for weekends so that he could go home and see his family. He even caught fevers and sleepless nights from being homesick. However, he helped himself by making friends and he tried to make himself busy by doing his requirements to forget his homesickness.
However, his Senior High School experience was not all suffering and melancholy, it was also a meaningful and colorful one. His active engagement in school activities and even in the community made it worthy.
“Though I was crazy-busy in my study, I still managed to be involved in social and community works. I joined outreaches wherein we conduct Information and Education Campaign on Drug Prevention, Teenage Pregnancy Prevention, Personality Development, and Self-awareness. I also joined the theater group of the school where in we went to other places to perform and showcase our advocacies. By those recreational activities, the burdens of studying in Senior High School were lightened. He also shared that he was able to develop skills such as facilitating, communicating and engaging with other people” he proudly shared.
All his efforts and sacrifices were all worth it when he finally graduated on April 3, 2018. He finished with flying colors with a grade of 95.57% (with high honors). He also received the following awards: Leadership Award, Best in Social Sciences, Best in Communication Arts, Best in Immersion and Best in Performing Arts and more than 10 certificates of appreciation and recognition from all the organizations and activities he has joined.
There were myriad of challenges in Senior High School and also in life, but it all depends on how you would face and overcome these challenges. Bulkman Smith embodies that being poor is not an obstacle to be able to help others and reach your dreams.
“Being a Pantawid beneficiary and exemplary child has mold me to become an active citizen of change. To be able to share my learning and experiences to my community has been a very rewarding experience. With this, I have decided that I will continue this journey as I go to college in Ifugao State University – Lamut Campus and take up Bachelor of Secondary in Education, Major in English. I have learned so much from the FDS and YDS and I will use these skills in my studies. I would also take this opportunity to thank the DSWD and the government for making this program possible. Me and my family are forever grateful, not only for the grants but most importantly for the change that has happened to our family, we became better people. This is one step closer to our dreams to getting out of poverty and living life to the fullest” he shared.
By Phylein Maria Rosette U. Callangan with Bulkman Smith Manzano