At this moment, the Philippines are trudging in a forward direction. Business people, both Filipino and foreign, are innovating new opportunities and enterprises that promise increased job opportunities for our nation’s growing population. While the Philippines’ economy is based on agriculture, a growing tourist industry invites visitors to experience the amazing wonders of our archipelago of over 7, 100 islands.

A famous author once said, “The Republic of the Philippines is a rich country pretending to be poor.” Our country has an abundant natural resources which at times is incomparable to another country. However, these resources could never be enough to support the development of country without it being used and utilized properly. Sadly, just like an interesting movie, that is our plot twist.

Amidst the exotic and natural resources of our island nation, one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. Many lack even the life’s essentials – adequate food, clothing and shelter. Education, which serves as a foundation of quality life is too often out of reach. Despite the offer of free public education, educational opportunities in the country are still never enough. Some families cannot afford the extra costs it incurs, including school uniforms, transportation and food allowances. Furthermore, a lack of facilities and materials is commonly experienced, especially in the rural areas. Nearly 40% of students drop-out before completing secondary school. Many of them also lacks necessary job skills, fall prey to drug dealing, or become victims of human trafficking as a means of survival.

Most of the thirty Filipino students who are fortunate to be recipients of Youth Exchange and Study (YES) scholarships for this school year come from poor families who are unable to afford school uniforms, supplies, or even school allowances. Thus, it should be more likely for Filipino families to accept and take advantage of opportunities in order for them to rise up, succeed, and not blame their families for poverty,

Let me tell you a story. There is a man who tries so hard to work for many hours in order to provide for his son. He is frequently sick, but still forces himself to continue working. Despite his hard work, his son cannot even have a new pair of shoes, school supplies, clothes or even a single pen to use in class. That man is my father and I am his son. It often breaks my heart to see his situation. One time he told me,

“When I was younger as you are now, I had no parents to support my education. This is why am illiterate and until now I still want to be educated.”

Today, many of us often complains that they are too tired of going to school. Some are spending their allowances on nonsense endeavors without knowing that there are many people like me who appreciate and cherish the opportunity to attain an education, whom most people who has the means have taken for granted.

I grew up poor but rich in spirit because I am happy and blessed to have a caring family that continuously gives me strength and have even become the reason as to why I have the courage to write these words for you read.

With everything that I have learned in my life’s journey, I would like to share my life story for everyone to reflect upon. Always remember that money is only a tool. It may provide a means to take you where you wish to go, and yet it is still you who is the driver who leads the whole journey. It is you who determine the direction and time of your travel and yet, please do remember that the best time to start is now.

Contemplate further and one would realize that before, we dream of things that we are now in possession. Thus, to all young people of our generation: “ never stop dreaming, be responsible, make use of your learnings, and strive to be all that you can be”, for I know, somehow that you can go beyond your limitations. Always believe and never be afraid!