AT THE young age of 16, Meriam Libongcogon toiled in the households of families as a maid for five years to support her studies and her family.
Now, she is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Salaknib Class of 2017, with the rank of junior commissioned officer, as an ensign in the Philippine Navy.
“Ang akong kakabos, wala nako gitan-aw nga torture but ako siyang gihimo nga akong inspiration (I did not see my being poor as a torture but I made it my inspiration),” she said in an interview with SunStar Cebu.
Meriam, now 25, said that she already wanted to study when she was 3.
“At that age, I already promised my parents that I would help them because I was aware of our situation,” she said.
She learned about the PMA when she worked as a housemaid to the family of Rosita Villareal, whose son was an instructor in the academy in Baguio City.
Florida, 46, Meriam’s mother, laughed while she reminisced the time when the teacher told her that her younger daughter’s handwriting (Meriam) was better than her elder sister’s.
“She was a fast learner. She has so many medals in our house in Balamban because she was a consistent honor student. I always thank the Lord that He gave me a daughter who is responsible and good to us, her parents,” Meriam said.
It was on April 1, 2013 that Meriam became a cadet in the academy, despite earlier protests from her parents and relatives of the danger of joining.
During Meriam’s graduation, Florida said that she cried out of pride for her daughter.
“I couldn’t believe it. After so many hardships, she finally fulfilled her dream,” she added.
Mario, 48, Meriam’s father, said that he will continue to support his daughter.
“Just because she graduated doesn’t mean that we’ll depend on her alone. As long as our bodies will allow it, we will help her,” Mario said. He is a farmer and a carpenter.
Meriam promised her parents a new house in Balamban, Cebu. Mario said that he will be the one overseeing its construction.
He said that he was overflowing with happiness when he saw his daughter in the graduation ceremony.
Meriam said that she often sold wood and coconut shells to earn P20, and it was an experience that she couldn’t forget.
“It taught me determination and perseverance. This is my advice to aspiring cadets: Always ask for God’s guidance because you cannot do it alone without Him,” she said.