“My family and Tzu Chi helped shape me into a more positive person. I’m really happy, and because of that I want to highlight that with our blessings, we should build good relations with everyone, and take the initiative to pay others’ kindness forward and spread the love.”
These are the words of Rochelle Mae Ong, a BS Architecture magna cum laude graduate and Tzu Chi scholar from the University of Santo Tomas who took to the stage and shared her experiences to the assembled college-level scholars on June 3 at the Jing Si (Still Thoughts) Hall in Quezon City.
She goes on to share that despite the hardships that fell on her family while she was still studying, it is thanks to Tzu Chi that she has seen her real blessings in life. For her, it was all just a matter of perspective.
“The biggest change I noticed is my positivity towards life, because unlike most, my family went from riches to rags, and not the other way around. Ever since that happened, I always thought to myself, ‘What happened?’ and it felt like I got cheated in life,” she shares after giving her speech on-stage.
Having spent nine years as a Tzu Chi scholar, she is truly thankful for the opportunity that has been given to her to complete her education.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Tzu Chi. There are a lot of students who want to graduate (from college) like myself that’s why I am very thankful for all the blessings. It’s like God is always looking out for me, I was blessed to meet such wonderful people. Hopefully I will become a successful individual so that I can continue to help out Tzu Chi, as my way of paying it forward,” she adds.
This year, a total of 122 college-level scholars leave their respective halls of higher learning, along with receiving a Certificate of Excellence from the Tzu Chi Foundation. At the same time, 138 Grade 11 and Grade 12 scholars as well as 265 college-level scholars received their scholarship certificates during the awarding ceremony in the afternoon.
During the morning session, Marikina Science High School scholar Zhalia Emnas couldn’t help but become emotional while sharing on-stage. Her father, Edgar, has irregular income due to his job as a vendor. Her mother, Eva, serves as a Tzu Chi volunteer. She is the younger of two siblings, and wishes to give her family a better life.
“I want to extend my gratitude to the Tzu Chi Foundation because the help that they’ve given my family is immeasurable. The Foundation has given us a great help, especially with my education, that’s why I do my best to help my parents once I am finished with my studies,” she says.
Eva has nothing but praise for her daughter. “I’m very happy for my daughter, because I grew up without my parents’ guidance I always tell her to do her best so that she will not end up in our situation,” Eva shares.
“Tzu Chi has been a very big help to my family, so the help that we received in the form of my scholarship is a great help in itself. Without it I wouldn’t be able to finish my studies,” Zhaila adds.
Nangka High School student Elvin Sesbreño wishes to express his gratitude to Tzu Chi for giving him the chance to become a scholar. He is among the initial wave of scholars that the Foundation has sought out to accept into the ranks in the aftermath of typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) sweeping through Marikina City in the year 2009.
“I have been a Tzu Chi scholar for the past seven years now. Tzu Chi is an important part of my family’s lives, because without them I wouldn’t be here today, fulfilling our family’s dream. I also want to thank my parents for always being there for me,” he shares.
For Sauyo High School scholar Gerald Seciban, he wishes to extend his gratitude to Master Cheng Yen.
“Thank you to Dharma Master Cheng Yen for establishing Tzu Chi. Without her, there wouldn’t be a Tzu Chi Foundation, and we wouldn’t be here without her assistance,” says Gerald.
In the morning session, a total of 117 elementary and 204 high school scholars received their scholarship certificates in a simple but meaningful ceremony. Highlights from the past year’s Humanity classes were also shared to the attendees across both sessions.