It may be cliché to say that education is the most powerful weapon to combat poverty, but it should be said over and over again to remind the youth that it truly is the best way to improve their quality of life. And millions of stories can attest to this.
Among those who believe in these ideals is the late Henry Sy Sr., founder of SM Group, who established the SM scholarship program in 1993 under the SM Foundation Inc (SMFI). The legacy of the business tycoon, known to many as Tatang, has already helped thousands of deserving poor Filipino students to reach their dreams of attaining a college degree and eventually uplift the lives of their families. This school year 2020-2021, 219 graduates nationwide were added to the list.
In a virtual program, with the theme “Stand with grit,” held Wednesday, May 26, 2021, SMFI celebrated the achievements of its scholars. The zoom gathering was attended by Sy family members namely Teresita Sy-Coson, Harley T. Sy, Mara Sy Coson, and Debbie Sy, the executive director of SM Foundation. Also present were the chairman and president of SM Foundation Jose T. Sio, assistant vice president of SM Foundation Education Eleanor “Lingling” P. Lansang, and board members Dr. Lydia Echauz, Dr. Paulino Tan, and Engr. Ramon Gil Macapagal. They all received overwhelming gratitude from all the graduates who flashed thank you cards throughout the virtual event.
Among the 219 grateful scholars, nine graduated magna cum laude, 25 were cum laudes, and four had academic distinctions from their respective colleges. Two of the magna cum laude awardees, Marc Jiro Raciles (BS Civil Engineer, University of the Philippines – Diliman), and Rosemarie Lacsamana (BS Accountancy, Holy Angel University, Pampanga) shared their testimonies on how SM became the answers to their prayers.
Marc Jiro, a native of Albay, whose father is a farmer and mother is a housewife, was almost on the verge of discontinuing his education due to the mounting debt of his family. Fortunately, he was chosen as one of the awardees at the “4th Kabayan 10 Outstanding Public Students” where SMFI was part of. “We really benefited well from the scholarship program of SMFI. It lessened my parents’ worries in terms of finances,” he said in Filipino.
On the other hand, Rosemarie, a daughter of an appliance technician and a housewife, helped her parents with their financial needs by selling yema and crops from their backyard. After being granted the scholarship, this senior high valedictorian used her allowances wisely. “I didn’t waste the opportunity and trust given to me by SM even though there were so many challenges in those five years… And perhaps, the word thank you is not enough to thank them,” expressed Rosemarie.
Apart from financial assistance, the scholars are also thankful for other privileges they received from SMFI such as part-time jobs during breaks, enrichment activities, and leisure perks like free cinema passes and gift certificates. Moreover, they are so grateful to SMFI for giving them an exclusive job offer in the SM group after graduation.
Speaking about how Tatang’s brainchild became instrumental in changing his life, Engr. Remson Marc Macawile, an SM scholar alumnus of 2014, also shared his own story—from getting an SM scholarship to attaining a BS Electronic Engineer degree in National University to landing a job in SM engineering and design development to achieving his current position as an assistant vice president focusing on production management in Citibank to improving his family’s quality of living.
According to Remson, who was also a magna cum laude, he owes half of his life to SM. That is why he promised to continue the legacy of helping others, which he strongly encourages the new graduates to do. “Act as professionals. You will bring the SM scholar badge for the rest of your life, so be a living example of how SM molded you by showing the right way of treating others and the company’s principles,” he advised the newly grads.
Living Tatang’s principle is also one of the takeaways of the graduates from the keynote speaker Mario A. Deriquito, president of BDO Foundation. Beyond expounding on the word grit, Mario stressed to follow Tatang’s advice that they should strive to be a leader in their chosen field. He ended his inspiring message with words that uphold Tatang‘s wisdom: “Find the seed of greatness within you and have the drive and determination to make something out of yourself.”
“I knew I had the drive and determination to make something of myself,” are the exact words of Henry Sy Sr. that inspired the theme of this year’s recognition, “Stand with grit,” which Debbie Sy hoped the graduates will take to heart.
“Keep in mind that being smart and talented are okay, but to do well and thrive in your chosen field, you need the ability to persevere. You need to have grit,” she said in her closing remarks.
Through witnessing how the scholars can’t contain their gratitude and happiness in the virtual recognition, it seems that these SM scholars already imbibe Tatang’s attitude in life, especially, standing with grit.