CEBU CITY -- Despite poverty, a shoe repairman's son will graduate from college on Saturday, March 25, with the highest award, Summa Cum Laude.

Jireh Bautista, 21-year-old Computer Science student at Cebu Institute of Technology University (CIT-U), is the fourth child of Pantaleon, cobbler for 38 years now, and Belinda, a homemaker.

On March 16, Jireh was recognized as Presidential Awardee for Academic Excellence during the 2017 Parangal, an annual tradition in CIT-U where student-achievers are acknowledged.

In his speech, Jireh said there is more to life than graduating with honors.

"Yes, graduating with honors may sound so overwhelming and is such a great achievement. But academics and school only take a portion of your entire life. It might give you an edge if you did well but there is more to life and you should not feel sad or less of yourself if you are not part of the honor list. What truly matters is your life story," he said.

"You might be struggling now with a number of things – school or even financial struggles or your relationships or problems within the family. But what make a great testimony are not literally the achievements but the amazing stories of integrity, of breakthroughs over your struggles and of victories over your hardships. So what then is your life story to tell? To your future children? To the next generations to come? We are all recipients of God’s tremendous blessings," he added.

Jireh told SunStar Philippines that he was blessed to have scholarships from the Department of Science and Technology (Dost), Cebu City Government, Real Life Foundation of Victory Christian Fellowship, and Cebu City National Science High School Batch 1977. He is also an academic scholar of CIT-U.

His four siblings are also scholars.

"Dili gyud mi maka-eskwela tanan if walay scholarships (We wouldn't be able to go to school if not for the scholarships)," he said.

"Sauna, samot na kato wala pa gyuy naka-graduate sa amoang mag-igsuon, lisud jud kaayu ang kinabuhi kay sapatero ra man si Papa. Pero, honestly kay wala jud kaayu ko feel ana pagkabata kay public school ra man pud ko and murag same ra mi sa akong classmates ba then happy ra pud ko and dili ko in-ana ka materialistic. Pero pagsulod og high school sa SciHigh like feel na jud kaayu nako ang difference," he said.

(Back then, when all of us were still in school, life was difficult because Papa is just a shoe repairman. But, honestly, I didn't feel it because I was in public school and I was in the same level as my classmates. I was happy then and I'm not materialistic. But when I went to high school in SciHigh, I already felt the difference.)

SciHigh is short for Cebu City National Science High School, the first science high school in Cebu.

Jireh recalled how his family once plunged into debt, forcing his older sister Mary Ann to stop her studies and give way to older brother Leobel Bryan.

Jireh, for his part, said he had to avoid joining school activities, which entailed additional costs. Besides, he was fully committed to his church, First Touch Ministry.

“I believe na whatever ako buhaton kay dili dapat mag-conflict sa church schedules. (I believe that whatever I do should not create conflict with church schedules),” he said.

Jireh’s father, Pantaleon, said his son’s achievements are all blessings.

“Sapatero ra man ko. Dugay na nga nihinay akong trabaho. Di sama kaniadto nga kusog kusog pa to gamay. Di na gani kaabot og P8,000 akong buwan. (I’m just a shoe repairman. My earnings have decreased. I hardly earn P8,000 a month)," he said.

Jireh's family is paying P5,000 as rent for the house they’re occupying in C. Padilla and more than P2,000 for utilities.

To parents who are also struggling to send their children to school, Pantaleon has this message:

"Maglaom lang gyud ta. Mosalig lang gyud ta sa Ginoo. Akong challenge sa mga ginikanan nga dili nato ba ibutang atong kaugalingon nga kita ra gyuy makahimo ba kay wa man gyud tay mahimo kung kita kita ra gud. Ug adto nato ihatag sa Ginoo ug isalig nato sa Ginoo, ang Ginoo na pod ang mangita'g paagi nga mogamit og mga tawo nga maluoy ug motabang."

(Let us not lose hope. Have faith in God. Let God carry your burden.)

As a graduation gift, Jireh will receive from his sponsor, CCNSHS Batch 1977, a well-maintained car.

"Of course, I'm happy. But wala man jud ko nag-dream nga magka-ingon ana since sauna. (I never dreamt of having one). His (God) ways are different from our ways," he said.

Asked where he will park his car, he said: “Pangitaa'g paagi, since ang Ginoo ang nag-bless ana, I know nga ang Ginoo ang mo-provide og somewhere nga asa siya mabutang. (We will find a way. Since it's a blessing from God, I know He will provide a place where I can park it),” he added.