From SM scholars to beacons of hope

Filipinos like these dedicate their skills and abilities to pursue every possibility. Two young women and SM scholars from graduating batch 2022, Jessel Pineda and Angel Ferrer, represent just this—a new generation of Filipinos who aim to cease the perpetuating intergenerational cycle of poverty.


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SM scholar Angel Ferrer (second from left) helps her parents sell rice cakes and other goods. As she graduates from college, she hopes to have a fruitful career to give her parents a comfortable life.

A fight to build a new life

For 20 years, Jessel’s family made a living out of a small barbeque business. Her parents would load their goods onto a bicycle and peddle on the streets where most customers are. At times, their profit, which would have been spent for their meals, would be used to pay for their bicycle seized and impounded by enforcers.

“Naka bisikleta po kami kapag nagtitinda kasi kapag sa bahay lang, matumal po ang benta,” Mr. Edsel Pineda, her father, shared.  “Minsan po, may mga nanghuhuli. Kapag nahuli kami, ikinakarga nila sa mobile at tutubusin namin sa City Hall,” the family matriarch, Jennifer, continued.

“’Yung tutubuin po namin maghapon, nawala na po. Mangungutang na naman po ang mga magulang ko ng panibagong pang-puhunan,” Jessel added.

The pursuit for a stable source of income is just one of the many challenges of the Pinedas. And for Jessel, the most painful experience of their family was when their home was demolished – not once but twice.

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Despite the lack of resources, Ferrer (middle) finishes college with the help of her family and SM Foundation’s scholarship.

Doon pa rin po kami natulog at naligo kahit wala na pong bubong dahil wala pa po kaming lilipatan,” Jessel recalled. “Magka-college po ako noong na-demolish ang bahay namin. Noong panahon na ‘yon, pumasok sa isip ko na baka hindi na ako makapag-aral dahil sobrang hirap at magastos magpatuloy sa kolehiyo.”

But determined to give her family the life they deserve, Jessel took a shot at the SM college scholarship examination, knowing the power of education.

Using her scholarship and all that she’s been through as her source of strength, Jessel capped her academic journey as a summa cum laude and finished a Bachelor of Secondary Education as the Batch Valedictorian of the National University - Manila.

“Since SM Foundation changed my life, I have to be consistent. I will also share all my learnings with my siblings as well as the trainings that I have gained as an SM scholar,” she said.

But her journey to greatness doesn’t end just yet. Beyond putting a roof above their heads, she aims to pursue a law degree and hopes to help give justice to those who will walk in her shoes.

Kapag naging ganap po akong abogado, magi-give back po ako sa mga kagaya kong nangangailangan. Ipagtatanggol ko po ang mga tulad namin na basta-basta na lang pinaalis sa tirahan—dahil mayroon din po kaming mga karapatan kahit na informal settlers po kami,” she noted.

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Having experienced the pain of losing homes after two demolitions, SM scholar and summa cum laude graduate Jessel Pineda aims to become a lawyer to defend the rights of informal settlers.

A dream for a better tomorrow

Like the Pineda family, the family of SM scholar Angel Ferrer’s source of living is a small fish stall just outside their compound. Her father also worked as a janitor, but the combined family income wasn’t enough to sustain the family’s needs.

“Ang buhay po namin, minsan nasa taas, minsan nasa baba,” Mrs. Ana Liza Ferrer shared. “Okay naman po ang trabaho ko bilang janitor, pero ang sahod po ay mababa,” Mr. Zaldy Ferrer added.

Years before the pandemic, the family was challenged financially when other micro businesses opened up near their fish stall. And because of an ailment, Mrs. Ana Liza had difficulty standing and walking and struggled to go to the market to source goods to sell.

“Matutulog po kami sa gabi at kinabukasan, wala kaming maipambibili ng pagkain,” Mrs. Ferrer shared their struggle. “Pero nagtutulungan po kami dahil nakikita po namin ang kagustuhan at determinasyon ng anak namin pagdating sa pag-aaral. Nakikita naming kay Angel na kung ano man ang pangarap niya, aabutin niya.”

Together, the family decided to sell rice cakes and other street food despite the additional weight put on by the pandemic.

With the lack of finances and the looming possibility of not attending school, Angel found it difficult as she was truly determined to get a degree to help her parents.

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After seemingly endless trials, SM scholar Jessel (middle) graduates as the batch valedictorian and moves a step closer to taking her family out of poverty.

“Ayaw ko pong tumanda ang mga magulang ko na hindi sila nakaranas ng maginhawang buhay. Nahirapan na po sila sa pagtawid ng pang-araw araw ng pamilya namin kaya gusto ko pong makapag-give back sa kanila,” Angel said with determination.

To continue her education amidst poverty, she decided to apply for an SM scholarship. While in the middle of her first day in class, she received the news that she got in. Since then, she has utilized her scholarship benefits to sustain almost all her needs in college—from daily allowance to the payment for her dorm.

Now, Angel has finished a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy and is well on her way to achieving her dream of giving the life she hoped for her family.

“For now, I am planning to pass the CPA licensure exam, reach out to the job opportunities that have come my way, and in time, become a lawyer—my ultimate dream,” she hoped.

“Just like how SM was a beacon of hope to others, I also want to someday help other students who are struggling financially but are very determined to finish their studies and reach their dreams,” she said.

Jessel and Angel are two of the more than 300 SM scholar graduates of 2022. This year’s corps d’elite includes 146 with honors - 24 with academic distinction, six summa cum laude, 41 magna cum laude, and 75 cum laude graduates.

SMFI, through its Scholarship program, has provided deserving and qualified students with access to college education and technical-vocational studies since 1993. To date, SMFI has produced more than 8,000 scholar-graduates. The scholarship was anchored on the belief of SM Foundation founder Henry Sy Sr. that education is the greatest equalizer and that if he could help send one child to school, that child can then help his or her siblings finish schooling, and together, they can help uplift their family out of poverty.

Learn more about stories of scholar-graduates or SMFI’s education initiatives today. Visit or follow its social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube): @SMFoundationInc