The stories they tell

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Saturday, March 29, 2014


MARCH brings one important milestone in the lives of the students especially those who get the diploma of programs accomplished.

Everyone has done their best in varying degrees to reach that goal, but ultimately the freedom to choose the opportunities that abound once a student graduates is unmatched.

And every graduate has a story to tell.

The first to graduate in the clan

He has deep cheek bones. He has a curly hair. He wears simple clothes with baggy jeans and faded crocs. He talks fast as if he is timed; his mind tells him so. He has thin fingers; he gestures like a man delivering a speech. More than any of those surfaces, he has stories to tell.

Jason Jay Dalman
Jason Jay Dalman

Sitting on a white chair, he tells his story of how a 20-year old like him will change the world. How a student like him can inspire across communities. How a guy like him can give newer perspectives to others. Apparently, all of these are happening right before him.

Meet Jason Jay Dalman – this slope-shouldered man is an Environmental Science student and the outgoing treasurer of the Supreme Student Council (SSC) of Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST).

He is a city scholar.

He perfectly remembers 2011 as the best year in his life, as he traveled to Japan with 98 other youths all over the country who were chosen by the National Youth Commission to participate in the Japan East-Asia Network for Exchange of Students and Youths.

“I received a letter, but my parents got it. They were afraid of what it was about and quizzed me if I were in trouble. They were scared that I did something wrong. I explained it to them that I got chosen to represent the school in an Exchange program in Japan and they were so happy,” says Jason whelmed with his flashbacks.

“Dili nako ma-imagine na sa kapobre nako, makaabot ko diretso ug Japan,” he adds.

With his wit and humor, he easily befriended other delegates. “Everyone in that Exchange program said they would always remember me,” he says shyly.

“I remember, we took the ‘sikad’ going to the hotel. Then, my uncle gave me P20s of P2000. It was so embarrassing since my fellows from De La Salle, Ateneo de Manila Universtiy, among others were there [...] Sige lang. At least nakita nila nga naa sila’y kauban nga in-ani.”

“Then, I was asked ‘What I can contribute to the participants,’ and I told them: my poverty was what I could share. I could contribute my story. Perhaps, these privileged students who have all the resources should see that students like me from Mindanao should be helped,” he concludes.

Now, his fellow participants during the Exchange still keep in touch with him.

When he got back from Japan, “grabe kaayo ko ka-lipay kay nagpa-tarp ang school, daghan nag-congratulate. Privileged kaayo ko kay ako ra biya ang gikuha so ni-boost akong leadership skills ato.”

He became the vice president for the Environmental Science Society and in the following semester, he became the president of the SSC.

“I accepted the opportunity [being the president] since I could make use of what I have learned. Leadership is not only on serving, but it should be inspiring above all.”

During his term, there were a lot of things that had to be ironed out. “There were just enormous challenges at MUST at that time since it has just started its development [...] Problems with the ID, yearbook, enrolment, among others [...] There were too much criticisms that humbled me,” he cites.

However, criticisms were not something new to Jason as he ran in the next university elections and won as the treasurer. “I was more encouraged, instead of being discouraged. I continued serving the following semester. I helped Raven Duran (the current SSC president),” says Jason.

“I told Raven of the problems at the council and how I failed to address some of those, so that in his stint he could do something better where I failed,” he adds.

He emphasizes that he does not get insecure as what many has accused him of. “Although there were many who praised Raven, I am happy that he appreciated my help, and that to me is enough,” Jason smiles.

“Being financially challenged pushed me to study well. Sending me to school is what my parents can afford and so I have to strive hard.”

Dalman does not contemplate anymore on landing a job that can give him a good salary. “What I want to happen is help bring food on the table. Help my family. And that’s all that matter.”

He is an active student-leader both in the university and as a volunteer at the Ayala Foundation, Incorporated.

He is also going to work at the Research Center of the Department of Science and Technology.

“This is giving back to the community. Through this I know I can help a lot of students.”

“What I have are stories. Mao ra gyud na,” says Jason.

“We don’t have money. There are millions out there who haven’t got a degree. And I won’t allow it that we will remain forever poor. Yeah, I envy those who have gadgets, and I won’t envy them, I will get there too,” Dalman says with conviction.

On April 2, he will march donning his gown and cap.

He will make his parents proud, even his clan.

“Ayha pa dayon ko ka-realize, both sa side sa akong mama ug papa, ako ang first mu-graduate ug college sa among pamilya. Sobra pa na sa naka-cum laude,” he ends.

The enthusiasm that fuels dream

Leon Labial II, a Business Economics student of Xavier University, has a story to tell too.

His retinitis pigmentosa resulted to his blindness when he was 12 years old, but it never hindered him to get his college degree.

For Leon, it was painful to lose something that he had – especially losing light to darkness. “It was painful at the start since I could see and suddenly I couldn’t,” Leon tells Sun.Star by phone.

But, what he lost has been compensated by his sensitivity to hearing. The sensitivity gives him protection from harsh environment and even from people.

Since he lost his sight, his shadow teacher has been there for him to do the reading and writing on his behalf.

“I am grateful with the schools that accommodated me despite my handicapping condition. At the start, some teachers didn’t accept me because there was nothing they could do to help and I understood them. But there were also teachers who didn’t give up on me and instead found strategies to help me cope with my studies. And I am forever grateful with them,” Leon shares.

Though, there were also times when some teachers doubted his capabilities and suspected that his shadow teacher has been doing things for him to pass the course. “They personally gave me the test and I made it.”

Leon and his shadow teacher worked together on the lessons.

“For example, my shadow teacher would describe to me the graph and want me to imagine it based on the image that I can remember. From there, I slowly understood it. After class, we also discussed our lessons to refresh me. My teacher would do her best that I could understand the lessons. The enthusiasm to learn has fueled me to graduate.”

He marched on March 28 and he couldn’t believe he did it. “Di ko kasabot, malipay o dili. I am amazed at myself that I made it.”

Although Leon is pessimistic on finding a job in the city since he finds it “unfriendly” to some persons with disability, he hopes do business.

“Davao is better compared to Cagayan de Oro. There, PWDs have opportunities. But I couldn’t leave my family here. Perhaps, I can do business, but it won’t be easy to trust people with money.”

When asked what his greatest dream, Leon says “become a business tycoon.” “Libre man ang magdamgo, Ma’am, dba? That’s what I want to be,” he chortles.

The shy computer buff

Jamel Adiong couldn’t walk since birth. His buddies are his wheelchair and someone who goes with him wherever he goes.

Being shy has always been his weakness, “a problem,” he says especially with his handicapping condition.

Jamel Adiong

Xavier University president Fr. Roberto Yap, SJ, hands Jamel Adiong's diploma on March 29, 2014. (Contributed photo by XU communications office)


“But now, I realized that it has never hindered me since I am now a college graduate with a Computer Science degree.”

Although he wasn’t a scholar, but there were times he found his name on the Dean’s list which also boosted his confidence.

Going to buildings that don’t have elevators always pose problem to him. At school, he says, there were times when elevators broke, but it didn’t stop him and he just kept moving on.

“It didn’t stop me to reach my goals especially getting this education which is a legacy I can hand down to the next generation and to myself.”

Jamel hails from Wao Lanao del Sur. He finished his elementary there and completed his high school at a Baptist school in Kalilangan town in Bukidnon. His parents are government employees and he is the youngest of the five siblings.

He finds his Computer Science degree challenging. Since childhood he already loves computers and programming. “When I finished my high school, Computer Science was my first choice because this makes me happy.”

“All my teachers were kind to me and they had been instrumental to my success. Our computer science department is a family. I am forever grateful to them.”

Jamel is optimistic he could get a job related to his degree. But he doesn’t discount the possibility that he couldn’t. “If it’s going to be difficult for me to land a job, perhaps doing business is an option.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 30, 2014.

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