Tale of Two Scholars

In a world with a population of seven billion, what are the chances of changing the life of a person leading the same life as you? For Engr. Francis Gubangco, an SM scholar alumnus, never thought he’d one day become a mentor of a fellow scholar from SM.

Working as a professor at the University of the East (UE), he asked about the enrollment status of one of his students, Gabriel Ignacio, as he was not on the official class list. Gubangaco was pleasantly surprised when he learned that SM Foundation was processing Ignacio’s enrollment.

“I didn’t expect a professor, who like me, was also an SM Scholar,” Ignacio recalled his first encounter with his fellow scholar. “We both had a long talk and shared our common bond. While I was pleasantly surprised to meet another scholar. This made me put more effort into my subjects, particularly his. I felt that I needed to be more responsible and live up to the responsibility that came with being a scholar of Tatang Sy.”

This was the foundation of the two’s meaningful mentorship. Aside from being SM scholars, they share the same vigor in life amidst challenges.

The mentor

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Engr. Francis Gubangco, an SM scholar alumnus and an engineering professor at the University of the East Caloocan

His professor and thesis adviser Engr. Gubangco became an SM scholar in 1993, one of the first 100 pioneering scholars of the SM Foundation. He first matriculated at Adamson University and later transferred to New Era University, where he completed BS in Electronics and Communications Engineering.

But he once thought he’d never stand where he is today. Back then, his father had told him that he needed to stop schooling after high school to give way to his older siblings, who were both college students at that time.

“But that didn’t stop me from pursuing my dreams. I took part-time jobs in the summer while waiting for the start of the school year. I needed to earn more money for my tuition fee,” he said.

Thankfully, his father saw an announcement in a tabloid about a scholarship offered by SM.

“We rushed to SM Carriedo and filled out the application form. After a few days, I received a letter from SM that I would have an interview with the Project Director, Sister Nilda Bernaldes,” he recalled.

“My family used to live below the poverty line, I would say. We had no regular income to sustain the daily needs of our family. I grew up in the slum area along 10th avenue in Caloocan City, and this became my inspiration to study hard to uplift my family. SM Foundation helped me to achieve this aspiration in life through a better education,” he added. 

After graduating in 1998, he worked at DVS Systems Corp. as a Design Engineer. While working there, he underwent a training program for Science Research Specialists sponsored by DOST-Advance Science and Technology Institute at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. He also worked as a part-time professor at AMATel Caloocan and later applied at NAPOCOR Biñan Power Plant. Hoping to earn more for his family, he applied for another part-time teaching job at UE Caloocan.

“After a semester in UE, the program chair asked me if I wanted to work as a full-time professor. I immediately accepted the position, and the rest is history.”

With a full-time job as a professor at the UE, he managed to help his other siblings obtain their college education.

“I never dreamt of becoming a professor, but I think this is my destiny since I started to join the ECE Department on October 24, 1999. My Ultimate goal now is to help other people achieve their dreams and to become professionals in the future like me. I never stopped helping other people. Inspired by SM Foundation, since 2000, I have been the Chairperson for the Committee on Outreach Program for the College of Engineering.

The mentee

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SM Scholar Gabriel Ignacio (after obtaining his college diploma in engineering through his SM scholarship, now provides a comfortable life for his family)

Much like Gubangco, his student, Ignacio, was determined to obtain a diploma amidst poverty.

At the age of 14, his mother died, giving his father the sole responsibility of providing for the family. Despite financial difficulties, he took to heart the lesson his mother had taught him: the importance of education.

Thus, he applied for the SM scholarship with his classmates. Only three of them made it, and he was the only one who chose to avail of the scholarship.

“The scholarship offered by SM Foundation is very important for me because I knew that my family was not capable of enrolling me at a private university, more so in an engineering course,” he said.

As a scholar, he availed himself of the opportunity to work during school break and recalled how he could make friends with co-scholars at SM Fairview Department Store. His scholarship also led to a lifetime of mentorship and friendship with Gubangco.

“At first, I was nervous because of his reputation as an experienced engineer not only in academia but also in the engineering field. After a series of consultations with our lessons and our thesis papers, I discovered even more of his kindness and dedication as a teacher. He was so hands-on with our thesis giving advice applicable not only at work but also in real life. He was very understanding of my numerous mistakes but very encouraging with my output,” he said when Gubangco became his thesis adviser.

“He is the best professor and thesis adviser I have ever encountered. And now, I wish to be more like him,” he added.

Ignacio finished Electronics and Communications Engineering this year. Passing on the kindness shared by SM Foundation and his life mentor, he plans to become an educator with a great passion for knowledge to others.