MANILA - Old folks often say romance can get in the way of schooling. But that's not the case for a couple who recently graduated from the College of Nursing, University of the Philippines Manila.
Benedict Mark Bunal and Alex Dizon Santos, who graduated Magna Cum Laude and Cum Laude respectively, became the talk of the town after their "relationship goals" story went viral on social media sites.
"Matapos ang apat na taong pag-iyak, pagtawa, paghihirap, pagpupuyat, at pagtulong sa isa't isa, nakakatuwang isipin na sabay tayong sasablay nang magkasama at nakangiti," Alex wrote in her Facebook post.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Santos said she met Bunal during an orientation before they entered UP.
"Bloc mates po kasi kami and naging close friends po. Tapos matapos 'yung ilang study sessions nag-lead na rin sa pagde-date," she said.
They both came from the province -- Bunal from Tarlac, Santos from Occidental Mindoro -- and were staying in separate dormitories in Manila.
Study sessions turned into dates, and a serious relationship was born.
Santos said their parents were initially worried upon learning about their relationship, especially because both of them were away from their families.
"Nung una po nagwa-warn na baka makasama. Tapos parehas po kaming nag-a-adjust dahil pareho po kaming galing province," she said.
Santos said they pacified their parents' worries by showing them that their relationship won't interfere with their studies.
"Naging close po kasi on both sides kahit noong friends pa lang kami at nakita na nakakabuti naman po kami sa isa't isa kahit papano kaya ayun," she said.
Santos said graduating with honors was initially not the goal. What they want was just to be exempted from final exams so they can enjoy, celebrate, and go out on a date.
"Di po talaga namin goal to graduate with honors. Noong una po kasi sapat na exempted kami at di na nagfi-finals para makapag enjoy agad," she said.
"Usually ang nagiging goal namin ay mataasan yung exams, or maging university or college scholar every sem. Kasi po nagcecelebrate po kami pag exempted sa finals, aside du'n sa small dates from time to time," she added.
What they thought were simple accomplishments led to bigger surprises. Santos said they even got invites from two different honor societies.
"Nagulat na lang po kami nu'ng nagkakaroon na ng iba't ibang awards gaya ng pagiging university/college scholar every sem, and 'yung invites for induction ng Sigma Theta Tau and phi kappa phi honor societies," she shared.
Santos said they even got the chance to present a paper before the International Collaboration for Community Health Nursing Research (ICCHNR) in South Korea.
"Isa pong example kung pano po namin na-balance 'yung pagde-date at academics nu'ng nabigyan po kami ng chance na mag-present sa ICCHNR in Korea. Nag-present po kami ng paper namin, Tapos dun na din kami nakapagdate din," she said.
Now that they have both graduated from college, Santos said the next goal for them is to pass the board exams, probably pursue post-graduate studies, and ultimately "serve the people as nurses."
Asked for any tips for college couples, Santos said:
"Ang naging effective po sa 'min ay first mag-set ng short and long term goals na parehong gusto ng bawat isa.
"We should take our relationships seriously, na hindi lang po maging inspiration ang isa't isa, pero most importantly, maging motivation to achieve those mutually-set goals.
"Kasi Ben and I believe that having a sense of fulfillment made our relationship last and made us better individuals as well," she added.