GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Marlito Soriano could not believe his dreams to go to the Land of the Free and Brave will come true.

The 17 year old valedictorian graduate of New Society National High School here, a self-confessed poor B’laan native, is flying to United States of America on September to study accountancy at the Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Soriano was among the two students recently chosen by the International Container Terminal Services for their full expenses paid scholarship program in the US.

“My parents are happy. They are proud. First and foremost, we are just poor and by getting such free education their burden now will be lessened,” Soriano said in an interview.

According to him, the initial plan after high school was to become a working student to get a degree in college.

“Last year, I remember I was chatting with my mother. I asked her when do you think I can go to the US? Maybe when I reach 34 years old. But weeks after that conversation on December last year, I got the notice of acceptance from Boston,” he said.

Life is not easy for the Sorianos. Soriano said his father, Marlito Sr., works as tricycle driver and freelance construction worker while his mother Jualina is a full time mother.

“Several times I experienced while I was in grade school going to school without taking my breakfast. There was a time also when we have no food in the house, we went to a newly-harvested cassava plantation and we look and dig for cassava,” he recalled.

“We make our trials in life as our source of motivation and seasoning to achieve a better life in the future,” he said.

According to him, Darryl Tynen, admission officer of Northeastern University in Boston, personally administered the examination during the final selection process in Manila last year.

The scholarship program will cover tuition fees, monthly stipend, board and lodging, office material supplies, and once a year roundtrip airfare to the Philippines.

“But under the contract with them, I have the choice of going home or my parents can visit me once a year,” he said.

At the same time, Soriano also said his contract with International Container Terminal Services cited he will work in the Philippines, in any organizations, for three years once he completed his degree in the US.

Aside from Northeastern University, Soriano also passed the entrance examination at the University of the Philippines, Ramon Magsaysay College in General Santos City, Mindanao State University and University of Immaculate Conception of Davao City.

Hope after college
Marlito said he will fight for the end of discrimination among his tribesmen.

“It must start within me in the school. I, along with my friends should be visible in school before in the society. I want a change and I want my tribesmen not to be ashamed of their origins,” he said.

“I can see my future employed in a private company after five years. My first thing I want to accomplish after school is to build a decent house for my family,” Soriano, the eldest among six siblings, added.

Happy to meet the President in person
Soriano said he was happy to meet in person President Benigno Aquino on April 23 at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City during the Pagdiriwang Para sa Pantawid Pamilya Graduates of 2015.

The Soriano’s were among the families covered by the Conditional Cash Transfer Program in Central Mindanao.

Under its conditions, the CCT allocates grants P500 to P1, 400 for each beneficiary households, depending on the number of eligible children. Each family is allowed a maximum of three children to receive the monthly benefits.

It calls children aged 3 to 18 to stay in school and maintain class attendance of at least 85 percent each month. Pregnant women are also required to avail pre- and post-natal care, and delivery must be assisted by skilled health personnel, while parents are mandatory to take “family development sessions” to enable them to become better parents. (End)