MANILA — Miss Universe Philippines Rabiya Mateo, who is also the pageant organization’s education ambassador, shared on Monday an interview with a student from Cebu whose story of perseverance she identifies with.
Mateo traveled to Zaragoso Island, Badian in southern Cebu to visit Kimberly Quilestino, a Grade 9 student who also has the responsibility of taking care of her siblings.
Quilestino’s mother had been mostly absent due to her work as a household helper, while her father is a fisherman. Quilestino said she had to juggle tending to her younger siblings and her studies.
Due to their limited income, Quilestino has been unable to commute to school, and would instead walk for an hour and a half, with the 7-kilometer route including a steep cave. While the current distance-learning setup has eliminated that travel —Quilestino retrieves her modules once a week — the new challenge has become her access to connectivity.
Despite these roadblocks, Quilestino has remained an honor student, and is also a student leader.
“I am determined to finish my studies because I want to help my parents,” she said in Cebuano. “I have to endure everything and sacrifice for now. This is temporary. I can do it. I will be successful someday.”
“I will overcome my situation. Poverty is not a hindrance to success. If you want to finish your studies, you will do everything to succeed. You will succeed if you work hard,” she said.
Mateo encouraged Quilestino to persevere, saying she once experienced the situation she is grappling with now.
During her pageant bid, Mateo was open about poverty, as her mother raised her and her siblings as a single parent.
She juggled different jobs while studying to help her mother sustain their family.
“Ganiyan din ang naranasan ko,” Mateo said. “Nangutang din kami dati kasi kailangan namin ng pagkain, kailangan namin ng pambili ng projects. Naranasan ko ‘yung nararanasan mo: ‘yung naglalakad ako papunta sa school, pauwi, kasi walang pera.”
“Naniwala ako sa sarili ko. Naniwala ako na walang pangarap ang masyadong malaki para sa isang taong nag susumikap. Kaya iyon din ang sasabihin ko sa ‘yo.”
Referring to Quilestino’s dream job, Mateo added: “Sana, in the future, pag naging guro ka na, ikuwento mo ulit ang story na ‘to, kasi ‘yung story mo is a story of hope and inspiration to other people.”