Ilocano teen in US receives award from Michelle Obama

Grace Alba , ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 28 2016 12:32 PM | Updated as of Dec 28 2016 02:42 PM

Ilocano teen Rafael Bitanga receives an award from First Lady Michelle Obama.

LAOAG CITY - An Ilocano teen in the United States met First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House after receiving an award for filmmaking.

Laoag City native Rafael Bitanga, 16, a grade 10 student of Kodiak High School in Alaska, received an award in behalf of Baranov Museum from the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program.

During the awarding, Bitanga got a special mention from the First Lady.

"We have a young man Rafael Bitanga who is here all the way from Kodiak, Alaska. A few years ago, Rafael and his family came to the United States from the Philippines and like so many young people who’ve immigrated to this country," Obama said.

"Rafael worked hard in school and quickly established himself as a leader and as a role model. And through the Baranov Museum and Film Intensive, he both became a filmmaker and a photographer and even established his photography business to help support his family," she added.

Bitanga said he feels honored to have met the First Lady.

"It’s just an honor to be up there. At noong nandoon ako, sabi ni Michelle Obama, go to school, finish college, and she pointed out her finger right at me," he said.

Bitanga, who is now planning to take a vacation soon in the Philippines, has a message to students like him.

“Don’t lose hope. Don’t feel fear. Just know that if you keep on working hard, you’ll get to places like the White House where I went to. You just really need to work hard, that’s the only way,” he said. 

Bitanga, accompanied by film instructor Maria Acemah, represented Baranov Museum’s Summer Intensive Film Class. Baranov Museum is a historical museum that offers film workshops for students.