Against all odds

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Saturday, March 29, 2014


“I WISH my dad is here, watching and saying proudly, ‘That’s my daughter and she is the Valedictorian’,” a statement that melted the hearts of the graduates, parents, administration, staff, teachers and guests, including this writer, during the 8th Joint Commencement Exercises of New Ilang Achievers Academy (NIAA) on March 28, this year.

Zahirah N. Bayron, 16, just graduated from her elementary education after revealing that in her five years of stay in Malaysia, she did not have the opportunity to continue her studies due to some country policy.

Determined to succeed no matter what, she came back here in the Philippines with her grandmother. She was teased, discriminated, and criticized by classmates and playmates at home because she was too old to be in elementary school. These things did not affect her, instead, she considered them as her sources of strength and courage.

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“So now, I am so proud to tell the world, this is the crowning glory, the fruits of hardship and dedication in burning the candle midnights,” she told the audience who were awed by her dedication and determination to succeed even if her situation is difficult to bear as a young child who longed for the love of his parents who were divorced since she was 8 years old.

This was what brought her to Malaysia. She went with her mother, who already had a new family there. Her mother married a Malaysian national.

Those, she said, were the longest years of her life, as she was restricted from doing a lot of things, confined in the four corners of their house for what she considered as the longest years of her life.
Her being class valedictorian starts a renewed journey through life amidst the new sets of trials and challenges that await her as she is determined to realize her dreams – either to be a nurse or a lawyer someday.

Despite having not seen her father for almost a decade now, she still hangs on to the hope that she will get to see him again. He’s Said Estomagulang, she said, who was formerly married to her mother, Sahara Narawi. Through this article, she hopes that his father or those who know him can read this and send him her message of reaching out.

Zahirah thanked all her teachers especially her adviser, Ms. Glacy Jean Palmera, Mr. Cesar Cole, the school principal, Atty. Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling, the school president, her classmates and friends and family and most of all her grandmother whom she considered as her daily source of inspiration, her strength. And to all of them, she could not help but always praise and thank Allah that she reached the said momentous day in her life.

One thing is sure, she will remain in school to pursue her dreams but she is not closing her doors to opportunities to race against time by either taking an acceleration test through Philippine Educational Placement Test (PEPT) or take another short route to finish high school which she is also qualified because of her age, the Alternative Learning System (ALS) where the popular Pambansang Kamao Manny Pacquiao is a proud graduate.

She might be saddled with trials and suffering in her younger years but this young and brilliant girl will surely shine in whatever endeavour she will pursue if she will continue to dream and reach for it no matter what.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 30, 2014.

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