Student Gesture Earns Woman, 64, Scholarship

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"Monday, August 18, 2014

MARIVEE Ann Velasquez was on her way home from school one night last July when an old woman riding with her on a jeepney caught her attention. The woman asked for six pesos from a younger woman sitting beside her, saying she had no money to pay for the ride, but her words fell on deaf ears. She turned to another woman, who gladly handed her six pesos. Feeling pity for the woman sitting across her, Velasquez struck up a conversation. The 22-year-old psychology student realized the woman had ridden the wrong jeepney, which was bound for Mandaue City. The woman, who carried two huge bags, said she was supposed to ride a jeepney bound for Colon St. in Cebu City, where she would start her long walk home to Sitio Alaska, Barangay Mambaling. Velasquez, who resides on Hernan Cortes St. in Mandaue City, offered to help the woman get a ride home. They got off on M.C. Briones St. When she saw the woman stagger as they walked, Velasquez-who was helping the woman carry her bags-decided to take her to a nearby fast food restaurant and bought her food. The woman told her she hadn’t eaten since 8 a.m. that day.


While eating, Velasquez learned of the woman’s desire to go back to college and fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher despite her age. She is 64 years old. “I cried while listening to her,” Velasquez recalled in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu yesterday. “I admired her strong will.” When they finished their dinner, Velasquez hailed a taxi outside and accompanied the woman-who introduced herself as Aurelia Alburo-to a mall in Cebu City. Velasquez said the woman got emotional, saying it was her first time to ride a taxi. At the mall’s terminal, she gave the woman what remained of her money that night and asked the jeepney barker to get her to Mambaling. The woman thanked her profusely. Velasquez arrived home past 10 p.m. Deeply touched by the woman’s story, she logged on to Facebook and posted about their encounter-including a snapshot she took of the woman-with a plea for her friends to share the post so people with kind hearts could read it and help the woman. Four days after she posted the story of their encounter-which happened last July 27-an official of the University of the Visayas (UV) sent Velasquez a message informing her that the school had granted the woman a full scholarship and that she had been enrolled.


Jacqueline Gullas-Weckman, UV vice president for academic affairs, also promised that the school will help Alburo find a part-time job. Less than a day after she posted Alburo’s story, Velasquez received a message from Weckman informing her that they were looking for the old woman. Alburo had told Velasquez she once studied in UV through a scholarship, but quit for some reasons. Having no permanent place to stay, she finds shelter in some of her acquaintances’ houses. She does housework like dish-washing and laundry in exchange for a room and food. She told Velasquez she hailed from Masbate and that she lived on her own, having no children or relatives. She spends most of her time in the church—at the Sto. Rosario Parish Church on P. Del Rosario St. and San Vicente Ferrer Parish Church on Urgello St.

“She always prayed that she be given another opportunity go back to school,” said Velasquez. Alburo told her she also dreams of studying theology.


Velasquez, daughter of a public school teacher and a Mandaue City Hall employee, said she doesn’t normally talk with strangers, but she saw sincerity in Alburo, who kept mentioning God in their conversation.

A third-year student of the University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus, Velasquez said her experience proves how social media can be a powerful tool to help people in need. “It’s normal to share about our lives on Facebook, but sometimes we should also share other people’s stories and get people to help them,” she said. Her post about Alburo has been shared more than 1,600 times and more than 4,700 Facebook users have liked it. Velasquez, who has yet to meet with Alburo after their encounter, said several people have sent her messages expressing their desire to help Alburo. A freelance model, Velasquez-who is known to her family and friends as Mavii-joined the Miss Cebu 2013 and was awarded Miss Photogenic. A former student of the Cebu Normal University (CNU), she was also crowned Miss CNU Centennial in 2011. Velasquez said she hopes that Alburo’s story will inspire others to pursue their dreams despite their old age. “I think the lesson here is that regardless of age, you can aim for what you want,” she said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 19, 2014."




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