Keeping the faith: Finding hope through education

When Aljon Laborte’s father boarded the MV Princess of the Stars en route to Cebu in 2008, he didn’t think that this will set off a chain of events that will change his life drastically.

“I was still in high school when my dad died,” Aljon said. “He was one of the victims of the MV Princess of the Stars.”

On June 21, at the middle of its voyage, the MV Princess of the Stars capsized due to the strong winds and rough waters caused by Typhoon Frank (international name: Fengshen). Aljon’s father was one of the 800 passengers who died onboard.

“It became very hard for our entire family to survive after that,” Aljon recounted. The incident heavily affected his family as their father was the main breadwinner of the family.

Aljon’s father was a banana vendor and made just enough to support the needs of the family.

With his father gone, Aljon’s mother took up odd jobs just to make ends meet. There were instances when their electricity was cut off because they couldn’t afford to pay the bills. They also experienced being evicted from their home when they can’t pay the rent. With so many problems, Aljon felt that his dream of going to college will just remain a dream.

“I used to always pray back then--Please Lord, let me be able to go to college because I really want to finish my studies and help my family.”

Despite the hardships, Aljon remained hopeful. He believed that he will one day be able to look back on these days in a more positive light.

“I never lost hope in moving forward,” he said. “I wake up every morning telling myself that I will get through this.”

And he did.

Now, twenty-one-year old Aljon looks back on his experiences with pride. He attributed the beginning of his new life to his scholarship grant under the SM Foundation College Scholarship Program.

Earlier this year, Aljon graduated from National University with a degree in Accounting, finishing cum laude in his batch. He was also presented with the Leadership Award and became the recipient of National University’s Don Mariano Fortunato Memorial Award.

Aljon now faces the future full of determination and armed with the same faith he had carried over the years--ready to face the next challenges that life has to offer.

“I want to thank SM Foundation and the Sy family for their generosity and efforts in reaching out to people like us who continue to dream of creating a better future for ourselves,” he said in gratitude. “Without their hard work, our dreams would have just simply remained dreams.”

To date, the SM Foundation College Scholarship Program has helped 2,160 scholar-graduates to go to college. The program continues to support over 1,500 scholars in its 84 partner schools nationwide.