A letter from Eriel Myka E. Peña
“In all honesty, words can never equate the gratitude and appreciation I have for the scholarship. I always drafted an essay on how my journey has been; however, it always ended on an open note. This may be dramatic but I have grown together with the scholarship, supported my studies since I was child and raised me to be the adult that I am and is becoming now. I can tell my stories as a student but I think that retelling my stories in the scholarship is a better way of showing my appreciation with BBEF.
As an introduction, I am Eriel Myka E. Peña, 21 years of age, BS Accountancy graduate from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. I passed the Certified Public Accountant Licensure Exam and I am currently working as an Audit Associate in KPMG Philippines. This is my story as a Bagong Barrio Education Fund scholar for 13 years.
I joined the program when I was about Grade 2 or 3, I was probably 7 or 8 years old at that time. I remembered being mentored on writing letters monthly for my sponsor, recounting how I’ve been in school and how my family was doing. I loved writing letters even when I was a kid which helped me develop my English writing skills a lot. Writing this letter made me reminisce the times when Teacher Placid or Teacher Elma and other seniors in the program would always call me to rewrite my letters due to wrong grammar and chaotic handwriting. Being in the program as a child, my mother constantly reminds me to do my best in school because my letters are being sent to the person who helps me financially in my studies. As a kid, the scholarship motivated me to be focused on my studies, produce good grades as a way of showing my appreciation to my sponsor. As a student, I was probably one of the nerds in my class; I loved the thrill of competition as a kid.
Years into the program, I remembered that we had to prepare for a program because two visitors will come from Australia – Brother Doug and Kuya James. This is one of the most memorable moments in the program for me because I enjoyed the practices where singing and dancing is involved. On the actual day of the program, I remembered Kuya Miles Gravidez grabbing me, thrusting the microphone in my hands, asking me to utter a small speech for our visitors. I remembered stuttering “thank you’s” and “Mabuhay” in my speech at that time but Kuya James greatly appreciated the gesture. As the years pass by, Kuya James became the head organizer of the scholarship and he developed the Very Young Leader’s Group where I was included in the team.
Moving forward, the Australian and the Philippines Leadership team grew larger in numbers. In my high school days and as an active student in the scholarship, I and my fellows were tasked to handle letter editing, facilitating the Australian visits, assistance in coordinating an open communication with our co-students and providing an update on the monthly assemblies to the Australian Leadership Team. There were too many stories to mention, a lot of them involves having a nosebleed (figuratively) after a series of English conversations with the visitors. On that note, this experience made me develop my leadership and interaction skills and helped me build up my confidence in socializing with different people even if I was young at that time. Being part of the leadership team gave me the sense of responsibility of being in the organization and the great feeling of satisfaction when we resolve difficult problems in the program. Interacting with the different visitors of the scholarship provided me an understanding of the diversities and as well as the similarities of their culture and the Filipino culture.
Entering college, I was faced with the reality and awareness of how hard it is to finish our studies due to the expensive college tuition fees in our universities in the Philippines. For practicality, I choose to enter a state university which has the cheapest tuition fee in the Philippines. I entered BS Accountancy due to my interest in the “financial language” and fought hard for the next four succeeding years to finish my studies. I remembered thinking that being a college student is like being thrown at sea without any life vest. This is probably an exaggeration but college life taught me the sense of independence and firm decision making as a young adult. College also made me realize that, even if I had awards in my elementary and high school, this does not mean that it would be the same. I tried shifting my course but the scholarship is one of the reasons that motivated me to keep moving forward.
After 12 years of blood sweat and tears in studying, I passed the CPA Licensure Examination and am now working as an External Auditor. Being in this line of work, I always have a sense of nostalgia of how I used to interact with visitors, but instead, I now deal with clients. My work is built on team foundation and this also makes me reminisce on how it is like being in the leadership program of the scholarship. Submitting reports is like writing monthly letters to my sponsor. Most importantly, the confidence that I bring to work is the same confidence that was molded in me by the scholarship.
After writing all this, I kept asking myself on the main point of this letter. The answer I arrived is very simple: this is my autobiography as a scholar for 13 years. The scholarship is a part of me, literally raised me as one of its child. I know that, for the next years to come, this is the story that I will relay to the people that I will meet. And in my heart, I will forever indebted to the scholarship, for not only helping me financially in my studies, but also developing me as the “MYKA” that I have now become.
On that note, I would like to thank my sponsors that have greatly supported my studies: Auntie Pilar, the Woywoy Rotary Club and, most importantly, SVP Parkville that supported me until the end of my studies and helping me with my review classes for the licensure examination. I remembered Kuya James telling me that the SVP Parkville has a collection of the letters I wrote ever since I was a kid. I hope that I will get to see it someday.
I am also grateful to the Australian Leadership Team: Bro. Doug, Kuya James, Ate Michelle, Ate Liz, Ate Michelle De Guzman and Ate Venezia for you never ending assistance to the scholarship without asking for anything in return. We are forever in awe of your efforts in order to maintain the organization.
Thank you, as well, to Teacher Placid, Teacher Elma, Teacher Cora, Ate Nonette, Mary Joy, Kuya Maurice, Kim, Ate Catherine and to the whole other scholars that has been with me in the duration of my stay. The scholarship will always be my other family in my mind and heart.
After writing this, I realized that it is not open-ended. This letter is a way of saying “Cheers!” for more years to come to scholarship, and most especially, “Thanks!” for being significantly a part of my life.
Once again, I am Myka, signing off as a BBEF Alumnus.”