PEÑARANDA, Nueva Ecija — Their table may not be full of media noche food due to lack of money, but 19-year-old Mariel Tapadera is looking forward to the best ever New Year’s eve in her life.
This is because she will welcome 2017 with her two younger siblings and their mother, a househelp in Metro Manila, who was allowed by her employer to come home for the new year and to celebrate Tapadera’s success in the recent License Examination for Teachers (LET), where she placed eight.
Tapadera was awarded and sworn in last December 21 in Baguio City.
Born to a poor family in Barangay Sto. Tomas North here, Tapadera finished her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at the academic extension campus in this town of the Cabanatuan City-based Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology (NEUST) partly through a scholarship grant by the Peñaranda USA Association, a group of Penarandans living in the United States, and a little of government support.
A retired high school teacher, Sabina Bautista who believed in her since secondary level, helped Tapadera get the grant with the assistance of an association official, Armand Mendoza.
“I am very happy as I will celebrate this coming New Year’s eve with my mother and other members of the family,” Tapadera said, noting that her mother had to work as a househelp since she entered college.
She and her siblings had to live with their old grandparents in the village.
Their father died when she was still in high school so that enrolling her in college was a tough decision for the family.
In fact, an uncle had to shoulder her expenses for the last two years in high school. She got only one school uniform which she had to wash every day when she entered college.
“And that one and only uniform was just borrowed from the wife of my cousin,” Tapadera said as she held back tears.
Most of the time during her college days, Tapadera said she had to contend with a day’s allowance of only PHP20, from which she would also get incidental school expenses. She would borrow such amount from her uncle, other relatives or neighbors when the budget ran short.
“Well, it’s nice that there is an academic extension campus here through the efforts of Mayor Ferdinang Abesamis,” she said.
But on top of the financial problem, Tapadera also suffered from not having her mother take care of her and her siblings while they were growing up as she had to work in Metro Manila.
“It was painful for me because when I had a problem I did not know whom to approach then because my mother is not here. However, I have my uncles, aunts, and grandparents who are always supporting me,” she said.
Tapadera was the first student from an NEUST extension campus to graduate magna cum laude after having garnered a general weighted average of 1.3. She was also the first education graduate of the university to place in the top of LET.
After taking the LET in September this year, Tapadera went to at least 12 churches in this town, praying that she would pass the test that she believed would be the realization of her dream to give a better life to her mother and siblings.
But her grandfather, Rudy Ramos, 74, never doubted her ability to pass the board, considering her study habits.
Tapadera did her homework at a small wooden table at the terrace of her grandparents’ house which is open and close to neighbors. Marilyn Espiritu-Galang/PNA-northboundasia.com