Two Filipinos have made the Philippines proud by graduating with exemplary achievements from Ivy League universities last month.
Janelle Micaela S. Panganiban, 20, graduated from the New York University with three majors: global public health,
public policy and sociology.
Lara Andrea Montales, 21, graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics, major in finance and business analytics from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Both finished summa cum laude, the highest distinction awarded to outstanding students.
NYU and Wharton are tough to get into, with the latter listed by Forbes as the best business school in the United States in 2017.
The fact that Panganiban and Montales excelled in their chosen fields, and were consistently on the dean’s list in their respective schools, is a testament to Filipino talent and competitiveness on the global stage.
Panganiban and Montales are just two of more than 16,000 Filipinos enrolled in degree programs overseas, still quite a small number when compared to those of neighboring countries.
But that number has tripled from nearly two decades ago — 5,087 students in 1999 to 16,308 in 2017, according to data from the Unesco Institute for Statistics. Still, the Philippines only accounts for 0.3 percent of international students worldwide.
For many, studying abroad remains only a lofty dream, since it costs a lot of money — at least P1.5 million for tuition and about P700,000 for living expenses annually.
But there are opportunities for poor but deserving students through scholarships and grants from foundations and private institutions in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Italy and Japan, among others.
To be sure, Philippine universities have excellent academic programs that also attract foreign students, but an education overseas exposes one to different cultures and perspectives, an invaluable experience in the era of globalization.
Hopefully, this experience would equip young Filipinos with new ways of thinking and doing things that they then could bring home and use for the betterment of the country.
Panganiban and Montales, both homegrown talents who went to local high schools, got into the universities of their choice abroad through the help of the College Admissions Mentors for Peers.
CAMP was founded six years ago by former Filipino scholars at the International School Manila to bridge the resource gap among local students who want to pursue education opportunities abroad.
CAMP also offers a support system for Filipino students overseas and helps create a core of graduates eager to return to the Philippines and effect social change.
Panganiban, who is from the Gaddang indigenous group in Isabela, is one of them.
“As a Filipino, I feel … I have the obligation to bring all these back to the Philippines, and at the same time, as a descendant of the Gaddangs, I find myself impassioned for indigenous resurgence as a step to combat the long and embedded history of colonization,” she said.
Her message is a timely reminder about the challenges that continue to threaten Filipino identity and sovereignty.
It also acquires extra relevance at a time when young leaders are needed to rally their peers, work for the marginalized, and serve as fresh voices in the work of nationhood and self-determination.
Panganiban, the daughter of Rep. Jose T. Panganiban Jr. of Anac-IP party-list and Mayor Lourdes S. Panganiban of Angadangan, Isabela, also advised Filipino students to “remain curious, step out of your comfort zone, and engage in conversation. In our world that’s growing more and more divided, I still have hope that we can find ways to transcend our differences.”
“Never forget that you are Filipino—huwag kalilimutan ang pinanggalingan,” she added. “Saan mang bahagi ng mundo tayo makarating, ang Pilipinas pa rin sana ang ating balikan. Mangarap nang hindi lang para sa sarili, kung hindi na rin para sa bayan (Don’t forget your roots. Whichever part of the world we go, hopefully we come back to the Philippines. Let’s dream not only for ourselves but for our country, too).”
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