She was a Grade 5 pupil when the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) met her a decade ago. She was small, she had long, black hair, and eyes full of hopes and dreams. Like many poor families, Angel Marie Orong Banatanto, dreams to be an instrument that would take her family out of the cycle of poverty.
Born in a family of 4 in a rural municipality called Titay in Zamboanga Sibugay Province, farming was the main source of living of Banatanto Family. To sustain the needs of the children and the adult members of the family, they depended on the bounty of nature by cultivating the land that was entrusted to them. At an early age, Angel understood the unfortunate and financially deprived life that they lived. Her father endured the scorching heat of the sun while her mother knocks at every door to sell their produce. Sometimes, when not in school, she would tag along with her mother to help her in any way possible. With her tiny hands, she would take care and assist her little brother because she knows that her parents are tired from plowing the vegetable farm.
In times of sickness, getting professional medical help was not even an option just because they cannot afford to pay for any extra expenses, even more so expenditures from the hospital which cost a lot. So more often, they would resort to herbal medicines and traditional massages or hilot. She is also known in her school for almost always bringing promissory note during exam period just so she can take an exam on time. Those and many other stories of struggles are experiences that shaped the perseverance and strong willpower of young Angel.
“Aware ako sa mga struggles nila, iyon ang eye opener ko para mas lalo pang magsikap para maibalik sa kanila ang lahat ng sakripisyo nila (I am aware of the struggles of my parents, it was an eye opener for me to strive even more to give back to them for their sacrifices,” Angel said in a testimony.
In 2011, Angel became a monitored child of the Banatanto Family under the 4Ps program of the DSWD. This meant that she (and her brother) received cash grants from the Department as a support to their education. Each of them was receiving 300 pesos per month to cover the expenses in school such as projects, daily transportation expenses, food (baon), and others. With this support, Angel became more active in school especially in joining activities that would help her stay on top of her class. The effect of this support on her education was very evident because in 2013, she was awarded as one of the Exemplary Children in their municipality. This support continued until she finished Senior High School.
One of the difficulties facing the 4Ps beneficiaries is how to sustain the education of children until college since the program only provides for children until 18 years old age or until they finish Senior High School. It was a challenge that Angel plans to never back out nor surrender.
Despite the hesitations and worry of her parents primarily because they do not think they can sustain her in college, Angel pushed through with taking Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. She did everything she could to make it work, unbothered by the circumstances that may hinder her from acquiring the diploma for her family.
Seeing her determination and being a responsible student, she was entrusted with some of the most important positions in their college such as the Vice Presidency of the Junior Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (JPICE) – St. Peter’s College and Mindanao State University chapter. She then began to explore more opportunities by joining conferences, school competitions, sports, and other extra-curricular activities. Angel made sure to use her knowledge and skills to achieve her goals in life.
Strategy to Reaching Your Goal
Much like the construction of a building, Angel built her dreams in a solid foundation. For her, a good building starts with a good plan. And so, she knew that she needed to strategize for her goals to become a reality. Her main plan is to build her character by expanding her knowledge on things. She stayed actively in school and was always in the lookout for opportunities that would help her make it through without being a burden to her parents.
One of the things that facilitated the fruition of her dreams was when she joined the National Mega Challenge as a quizzer. This event was hosted by the Mega Review Tutorial and Review Center. With this, she was able to get a 50% discount from the review centre as she prepared for the Civil Engineers Licensure Exam.
Angel recounts that another of her strategy was to borrow books and not buy them. For her, she would be anxious if she had to buy her own books for the review and it would take a toll on her focus in studying. She cannot afford to be bothered by financial worries on top of her preparation for the exam.
Indeed, her strategies and sacrifices paid off because last November 2023, she passed the Civil Engineers Licensure Exam and is now called, Licensed Civil Engineer Angel Marie Orong Banatanto.
“Sa mga mag-aaral, alam kong di madali ang pressure na nafi-feel ninyo ngayon. (To the students, I know that it is not easy to handle the pressure that you feel right now.) No matter what, continue to pray and be positive in life, trust the process, and everything will fall into place.”