The daughter of kwek-kwek vendors graduated on top of her high school class in the upscale Miriam College in Quezon City.
The parents of Meriza Mamaril — who sell a street food delicacy called kwek-kwek for a living — could not afford to send her to a private school, but their daughter managed to get into Miriam College through a scholarship.
“Alam ko na kaya ko naman po basta’t pagsusumikapan ko lang po,” Mamaril told GMA News reporter Victoria Tulad.
One of the challenges she faced while in school was fitting in.
Miriam College is an exclusive Catholic college for girls established by the Maryknoll sisters in 1926 and is one of the more popular schools in Metro Manila. It counts Miss Universe 1973 Margie Moran, former senator Nikki Coseteng, broadcaster Korina Sanchez, among many others as its alumnae.
In 2015, the Commission on Higher Education ranked Miriam College as the 18th in the list of most expensive colleges, universities in the Philippines with its annual tuition ranging from P110,000 to P120,000.
Crowd-sourced data from a 2010 special report by GMA News Online said that tuition for a third year high school student at Miriam College was P91,000.
Although Miriam — formerly known as Maryknoll College — caters to the upscale market, it also offers various scholarships “to deserving students, in recognition of their hard work, perseverance, and passion for learning”.
Mamaril was among those who managed to take a scholarship grant from the college.
“Noong una po, tingin ko po hindi ako nagfi-fit in. Siyempre, normal naman po siguro iyon. Noong una, nalulungkot ako kasi iniisip ko na wala akong kausap,” she said.
But hard work prevailed in the end.
“Masarap po sa pakiramdam na pinaghirapan mo iyong nakamit mo,” Mamaril said.
“Walang imposible po, basta may pagsisikap at determinasyon at paniniwala sa Panginoon,” her mother Leveriza added.
Source of inspiration
Another high school graduate in Miriam College also became a source of inspiration to her fellow students.
Despite her rare health condition, Karla Bautista managed to finish high school.
Bautista has hypermanganesemia with dystonia polycythemia and hepatic dysfunction that limit her movements and make it difficult for her to speak.
She was only in sixth grade when she acquired the disease, when excessive amounts of manganese were accumulates in the body.
“It was very difficult because there were some things that I wasn’t able to do such as PE [Physical Education], dancing. Like sometimes, I couldn’t go to field trips and there were projects that I had a hard time doing,” she said.
In the end, Bautista was able to go up on stage and receive her diploma.