'Dahon Girl' from Bohol continues education despite poverty, scores high grades

Annie Perez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2019 06:14 PM

MANILA -- Three years after showing the plight of poor students during the final presidential debates for the 2016 elections, Jhesa Balbastro, 14, continues to get high grades as she pursues her studies.

Back in 2016, the living conditions of their family were hard with no money even to buy paper, thus her decision to use a banana leaf. 

Today, her parents now have jobs as household helpers of a lawyer in Buenavista town in Bohol. 

They already have their own house made of concrete but still they are struggling to make ends meet. 

With 6 other children to feed and no budget for electricity and water, mother Mary Jane admits that life is still hard. Yet, Jhesa makes her proud.

Jhesa proudly showed off her perfect scores in her tests from previous years.

"I like school, I like Filipino because it's not so hard," she said in the local dialect. 

'Dahon Girl' from Bohol continues education despite poverty, scores high grades 1
Jhesa Balbastro, now 14 years old, proudly shows off her test papers with perfect scores. Annie Perez, ABS-CBN News

Jhesa will be in Grade 9 this coming school year.

Despite their situation, she continues to strive to finish her studies by making sure she gets high grades. She dreams of being a teacher some day.

Mary Ann Doroy, the teacher who took a photo of Jhesa writing on a leaf, showed to ABS-CBN News the actual leaf which she used back in 2016.

"This is a symbol of reality, that there are students who are willing to learn but could not afford it," Doroy said in Cebuano. 

She hopes that Jhesa's story will inspire many to continue their studies and that no student would have to go to the extent of using leaves as paper just to comply with school requirements.

"Padayon lang, padayon sa pag-eskwela (Just carry on, keep on going to school)" is Jhesa's advice to students who are having a hard time finishing their studies because of financial constraints. 

She wants to go to college hopefully with the help of a kindhearted sponsor.