TWENTY years ago, high school student Rizaly Lim and her four siblings would watch in awe every time they pass by the construction of the first SM City in her hometown Sta. Rosa, Laguna. All five children, packed in the tricycle their father rides for a living, were all excitedly looking forward to happy family weekends they would be spending at the huge mall.

Today, after graduating Summa Cum Laude through a scholarship from SM Foundation, Rizaly is now a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) working as accounting manager for the head office of SM Prime Holdings, a leading property developer in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

From SM Foundation scholar to SM Prime accounting manager

At a young age, Rizaly was headstrong about getting her family out of poverty. She shares, “My father was the only one who worked for our family, and because we were a large family, his daily earnings as a tricycle driver were never enough.”

Rizaly finished high school at the Balibago National High School as class valedictorian in 2005 and was already sending applications for other college scholarships when her teacher asked the top 10 students to go to SM City Sta. Rosa for an interview with SM Foundation.

“Sa umpisa, hindi po ako naniwala kasi bago pa lang sa amin noon ang SM City Sta. Rosa,” she recalls. She proceeded of course, driven by the one goal of finishing college and helping her family. “Gusto ko rin po makapag-aral at makapagtapos noon. Maka-work at makatulong sa family.”

A few exams and interviews later, SM Foundation, Inc. (SMFI) went to visit her and her family at home to inform them that she will be receiving a full scholarship with monthly allowance until she finishes her course.

In 2010, Rizaly graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accountancy. She went on to pass the Philippine CPA Board Exams on first try in October 2010. The assistance of SMFI, she said, went beyond tuition and allowances. “With full scholarship grants and monthly allowances, as well as the opportunity to work at SM Store during our summer and Christmas vacations, the SMFI scholarship has enabled me to help my family financially.”

'I am the master of my fate'

While other parents were buying their college kids the latest Nokia phone back in the summers of 2000’s, Rizaly’s father gave her and her siblings weekly assignments to accomplish during the summer vacation. “Our late father instilled in us the love of reading and the value of studying,” she shared. “During summer, he would assign us English words and their meanings to memorize and asked us to recite these to him.“

Then there's the memorization of motivational poems and speeches, one of which stuck with her for life: “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” She shared that this last stanza of “Invictus” by W.E. Henley had kept her motivated to look past the limitations of her circumstances and focus on her personal goals.

Career at SM

SM Foundation was established in 1983 by Henry Sy, Sr. and Felicidad T. Sy as the heart of the SM group. It has established programs that are focused on nurturing and caring for underserved communities where SM is present. It supports and empowers host communities through education, healthcare, shelter, disaster response, sustainable agriculture, and care for persons with special needs.

To date, SM Foundation has assisted more than 8,000 college and technical/vocational students, and has donated over 100 school buildings with a total of 334 classrooms built across the country.

Nurturing the graduates extends beyond the classroom as SM Foundation also provides job opportunities across the different companies of the SM group. The foundation organizes a Career Fair specifically designed for its scholars.

From the Career Fair organized by SM Foundation, Rizaly was able to get job offers from three companies – among which was SM Prime Holdings, one of the largest integrated property developers in Southeast Asia that offers innovative and sustainable lifestyle cities with the development of malls, residences, offices, hotels and convention centers. It is also the largest, in terms of asset, in the Philippines.

I still want to level up

“I haven't accomplished much yet, but I value what I have already accomplished and received so far,” said Rizaly, referring to the highest honors she has received in high school and college, becoming a CPA, and being promoted to manager in within only a few years of her work at SM Prime. “These are just a few of the accomplishments for which I will be eternally grateful. I'm also proud of my daily achievements at work, such as fulfilling particular duties assigned to me. They make me happy and proud of myself, and they inspire me to do better.”

“Ang mga dating pinapangarap ko lang, nagagawa ko na ngayon,” Rizaly said as she related how she has been able to travel to Taiwan for vacation and do the tri-city tour of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. But her biggest dreams, she said, remain centered on her family: to provide better for her family by sharing with them what she has now. “Nothing is simple. Nothing is easy. Hindi ko naman to straight line lang na na-achieve. Life is full of challenges. Just stay strong, keep the faith and always give your best effort.” (PR)