From Tondo to SanFo: 'Ulingan' girls share their stories

Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Apr 07 2017 08:03 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, California - It was more than six years ago when Princess Soria, Catherine Orsal and Lilibeth Sushun were in a poor community called Ulingan in Tondo, Manila.

Like most of those in Ulingan, the girls were making charcoal and scavenging to make money for food.

Then Project PEARLS, a non-profit organization founded in 2011, came to the area to establish their scholarship and feeding program.

In partnership with Litworld, the three young Pinays have become committed students, and now confident mentors, who recently shared their stories during the Global Herstory Summit in New York City.

The girls are now in San Francisco visiting the Philippine Consul General before flying back home.

“The Global Herstory Summit is a meeting of 60 women and girls from around the world, from 10 different countries, including the Philippines,” said Project PEARLS’ education and literacy coordinator Peachy Abellon. 

“And we were so grateful to be chosen to be the ambassadors for this year.”

 Project PEARLS scholar Princess Soria said the most memorable moment in the trip was joining the summit "because there were a lot of people who helped us."

"I learned to be confident when I talk to other people, when I share my story, and when I express myself.”

These young Pinays say they are forever grateful to Project PEARLS for helping them transcend their lives, and many others like them, through education.

PEARLS stands for Peace, Education, Aspiration, Respect, Love, and Smiles.

“They were able to continue school. They weren’t having a hard time or wondering how they were going to do this,” said scholar Lillibeth Sucion. 

“They weren’t thinking about, maybe not having notebooks, pens, paper — the basic things you need for school.”

“For us, when they arrived they were our guide to continuing school,” said scholar Catherine Orsal. “We never lost hope in finishing school, even though life was hard. We didn’t let the opportunity they gave us go to waste.”

Project PEARLS helps more than 600 scholars from preschool to college, and benefits from donations from around the world.

“It costs less than $1 a day for the whole year to support a scholar for the whole year,” said Project Pearls founder Melissa Villa. “You can choose an elementary, high school, or college scholar.”

Consul General Henry Bensurto plans to work with Project Pearls, to bring more scholars from the Philippines to share their story with Fil-Ams in San Francisco.

The project hopes that even though the children may be in different countries — they can help each other overcome their struggles.

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