7 years after parents were murdered, son graduates cum laude

April Rafales, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2016 12:10 AM | Updated as of Oct 06 2016 06:20 PM

19-year-old Remnzar Salumbides graduates cum laude from Mariano Marcos State University.

ILOCOS NORTE - Seven years ago, Remnzar Salumbides was a diamond in the rough. With his lean physique and everyday sneakers, he was no different from the other boys and girls his age– carefree, playful and jolly. He was an 11-year-old boy who lived an ordinary life.

Little did he know that his life was about to completely change in the months to come.

On January 3, 2009, his parents were on their way home in the village of Bingao in the town of San Nicolas when a couple of strangers flagged them down in a dark and empty road. They were only a few meters away from their house. These men pretended to ask for directions until they pulled out guns and fired at the couple, killing them.

“Noong nawala yung parents ko, parang nawalan na din po ako ng pakpak,” Remnzar said.

His mother, Elvie, was a seller of multiple direct-selling brands, while his father Rolando helped his mother in the business.

They had a relatively comfortable life until the tragedy. It was a major turning point in his life. He did not only lose his parents, but also, for a time, a sense of direction as he dealt with trauma, grief and the indefiniteness of his future altogether.

Because he and his half-sister had no one to depend on anymore, they had to ask for financial assistance from their relatives. He said he was immediately disowned by his father’s kin, while his family from his mother’s side took it upon themselves to provide their basic needs.

But it came to a point where they could not send him to school anymore. Remnzar had to approach strangers and organizations to grant him scholarship just so he can continue with his studies, while his sister, on the other hand, dropped out of school even before their parents died.

After graduating valedictorian in high school, Remnzar knew he wanted to become an accountant. The organizations and private individuals continued supporting him, but it was during his four years in college that his patience and determination were tested to great extent.

With a P100 daily allowance, P60 went to jeepney and tricycle fare, while the rest had to be budgeted for meals and miscellaneous expenses.

“Kulang po yun ma’am, pero minsan I choose not to eat just so I can go to my next class without being late and so I can afford photocopied hand-outs.”

On the side, he did hosting stints in events for extra allowance.

Despite financial constraints, he knew he had to work extra hard to get that ambition—earning him a spot on the Dean’s list several times, and becoming an active officer of the Junior Philippine Institute of Accountants in his school and even in the region.

On April 5, on the grass-covered sunken garden lined with full-grown sunflowers, upon the admiration of thrilled spectators and under the blue skies, Remnzar sat among more than 2,000 others who were eager to finally hold the one true testimony of their hard work’s completion.

At nineteen, seven years after his parents’ death, he graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in accounting technology from Mariano Marcos State University in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

“Ang main po na source po ng strength ko is si God po… Sa kanya po nanggagaling lahat ng blessingsna ginagamit ko for me to achieve or to do what He plans for me to do. Next po talaga is yung inspiration is my parent po kasi alam ko po na kahit wala po sila physically, but I know in my heart na nandito sila at sila po yung nagiging source of my strength,” he says whenever asked what kept his eye on the prize and how he managed to even go beyond what was expected of him.

He doesn’t believe that there is such a thing as a self-made man. He holds no anger or pain in his heart, saying he has accepted a long time ago why tragedies happen.

And to those who believed in him and supported his vision, he said, “Maraming salamat po sa lahat ng taong tumulong sa akin..wala po sana ako dito alam ko po na hindi ko mararating yung mga achievements ko po ngayon, At ang regalo ko naman po sa inyo is ‘yung aking diploma na may nakasulat na cum laude.”

He received his medal and diploma on stage, without his parents to accompany him or bear witness to his first taste of success as a grown man.

But he basked in the moment, knowing that among the crowd lay the joy of his parents. He saw it in the fulfilled smiles of his professors and felt it in the warm embrace of friends. He saw it clearly in the sunflowers lined up in the grassy sunken garden.

After graduation, he is determined to continue his schooling for another year to qualify him to take the CPA board examination. He said some people have already pledged their financial assistance, but if these don’t push through, he can always apply for loan from their church or look for scholarships.

The next school year starts in August. He doesn’t plan to laze around, but instead, he will take this time to take the Certified Accounting Technician exam and find a summer job.

He is no different from all the boys and girls his age, except for perhaps, how painfully he was shaped and polished to face a bigger world ahead.