Studying through struggles: Student life in the Philippines

Students from rural areas of the Philippines have a hard time when it comes to getting higher education.

Colleges and universities are in big cities, far from their villages. They face many obstacles along the way and many drop out. Our student ministry in the City of Tacloban on the island of Samar, home to over 200,000 people, seeks to support these students and share the good news of the certain hope they can have in Jesus – a hope that goes far beyond college and graduation, and enables them to persevere in life’s daily battles. 

Mary Jane Silvano shares how this ministry helped her:

I am 26 years old and I am an online English teacher. I am originally from San Antonio Basey, Samar and currently residing in Tacloban City. 

I graduated as a Bachelor of Science in Office Administration in 2018. 

I originally started college in 2012 studying Chemistry. I only finished the first semester and I stopped for about two years because I really didn’t like it. I have always wanted to be a Marine Engineer, but I wasn’t able to pass one of the necessary requirements.

My mother and father are farmers in a small town in Samar. Neither finished schooling. My older sister studied to be a teacher, but when I went back to college in 2014, she was not hired as a public teacher yet. 

First semester hardships

We have faced many struggles as a family. I know how it feels to have no food on the table, no electricity in the house, a small house that was about to collapse since we didn’t have money to have it fixed. When I decided to study again in 2014, more struggles came my way. My parents could hardly provide for my fare and food each day. A twenty-peso bill [around 30p] was already a blessing for me. I could travel to school by boat for fifteen pesos and by tricycle for 8 pesos. But since my money wasn’t enough, I’d walk 650 meters from downtown area to my school in order to save the 5 peso coin. I could barely eat lunch during the first semester. I didn’t have friends since I was a part-time student, travelling in from a province as I only had a few subjects to take since lots of my grades from my previous course were credited. 

I was alone and lonely. The culture was very different. I felt like my classmates didn’t like me because I am from Samar. I didn’t have someone to ask: ‘What’s the homework?’ ‘Which room is our English class?’ ‘What time is our PE class?’ and stuff like that. I had a failing grade during the first semester because I was unable to find the room for one of my classes. It was also my first time having a teacher who had different ways of teaching and who was sometimes inconsiderate. I was very down and no matter how I tried to ask for another chance, my teacher would only ignore me. I doubted myself and questioned, ‘Why did you decide to study again? You should’ve just stayed at home forever.’ This made me question my self-worth, and I told myself, ‘I am a failure and weak.’ I cried a lot during the first semester and I even thought of giving up. 

God provides

But at my lowest, I thank God for his encouragements in my life. I realised that God was there with me and he never left me. He gave me the perseverance needed not to quit. I prayed and found hope in him. God reminded me of his faithfulness and I instantly knew I had to fight the good fight of faith. I knew I had a long journey ahead and God told me I didn’t have to do any of it alone. He was with me. I have learned so much through the hardships. Beyond my circumstances, I chose to trust God in the process. I asked God to help me go through my struggles and help me see the bright blue sky behind those dark clouds. God never failed me. 

The second semester started and I made a lot of friends and really improved academically. God made me a strong woman, ready to face the challenges. I started eating and studying with my classmates. Now I had my circle of friends whom I did life with throughout my college years. I also became a scholar and my older sister got hired as a teacher. She helped me pay my tuition fees. I also met some missionaries and they helped me with my walk with the Lord and even discipled me, which helped me along the way until I graduated. They also offered a home for me while I was studying in Tacloban. God provided everything I needed. 

Looking back, I praise God, for he brought me this far. I thank Jesus for the strength he’s given me to continue. I have now been an online English teacher for almost three years and am teaching children all over the world. God enabled me to also provide for my family’s daily needs and buy things for myself too. God held it all together for me. He deserves all the praise and adoration. I was never alone and I will never be alone.

Find out more

Hear from two current students about their experiences in Tacloban at billions.omf.org