The Manila Times College’s free education program saves four teenagers from shattered dreams
Society can sometimes be harsh toward today’s teenagers. Raised in the age of the Internet, where everything is easily a click away, they generally are deemed as spoiled and privileged, and oblivious to real world problems.
But not all millenials—the collective term for people under the age of 34—are born the proverbial silver spoon. And, to be more precise, not all millenials born with a silver spoon are apathetic.
In today’s special anniversary issue, The Sunday Times Magazine spotlights four millenials who may look like regular teenagers in their jeans, sneakers and backpacks. In reality, however, they are, as this story will prove, extraordinary youths fighting for their right to education and the right to nourish their passions.
Meet Jemaima Rae Porter, Lance Gabrielle Librorania, Nicolle Morales, and Mamoru Tochizawa—the proud and deserving Journalism scholars of The Manila Times College.
The call of journalism
Jemaima, or Jem to her friends, looks up to her late father who was a multi-lingual literary writer. It was he who inspired her to pursue the call of journalism.
And so, even during her elementary days, Jem already joined her school paper as a feature writer. However, being the youngest in a family of campus journalists, Jem manifested the youngest child syndrome and felt the burden of living behind the shadows of her older siblings.
Thankfully, she shook off her insecurities in high school when fate gifted her with a mentor.
“I loved journ so much that I almost didn’t want to attend my other subjects,” Jem recalled happily. “And it was in high school when I met Palanca Award-winner Charito Palanca who became my campus journalism mentor. I look up to her to this day because she has penned a lot of books and published numerous works.”
Curiously, as she neared high school graduation, Jem had no intentions of pursuing Journalism in college. As many teenagers tend to be, she was confused about choosing a future career.
“I loved writing so I thought I’d take AB English. But I also loved cooking so I even thought about taking up Culinary Arts until an uncle discouraged me to do that,” she shared. “He said I should challenge myself, and that was when I went back to my original interest in Journalism.”
As she looked into colleges offering the course, someone suggested considering The Manila Times College. And so Jem did, and just as quickly felt intimidated.
“Honestly, just the name ‘The Manila Times’ made me anxious,” she confessed. “And when I told someone else I’d try out [for the school], I was told, ‘Ikaw? Maga-apply ka sa The Manila Times?’ Ipapahiya mo lang ang sarili mo dun. [You’ll just make a fool of yourself applying at The Manila Times College].”
Then and there, Jem felt like her dreams were shattered. She cried over the remark, but, as the insult washed over and she thought back to her love for writing, Jem decided to prove her confidant wrong.
Lover of words
Lance Gabrielle Librorania has always been infatuated with the world of words but lacked the confidence to join his campus paper. Thankfully, his class adviser picked up on his potential for writing, and asked him to join the paper.
“I was too shy and I didn’t want to attend the required meetings, so instead of joining full time, they allowed me to be a contributor,” the college boy recalled his first foray into campus news writing.
He enjoyed his stint at the paper but unfortunately had a difficult time getting along with other staffers. Because of the latter, he decided against taking Journalism in college and took up Multimedia Arts at Mapua Institute of Techonology.
“For a whole year taking up the course, I would tell myself, ‘If I continue pursuing this, I might not be able to make a career out of it.’ I also saw the ‘competition’ and felt I wasn’t at par with my more talented classmates.”
As he continued to rethink his options, Lance unfortunately had to take a leave of absence from school, because of limited resources.
“Back then, I was contemplating what I really wanted to pursue and realized I was wasting money in something I didn’t want to do,” he revealed. “After some time, I reconsidered Journalism and I guess you could say I grew up because I realized it was the people in my school paper that I didn’t like, and not Journalism itself.”
Lance reconnected with his love for words and found a way to be where he truly wanted to be.
The ‘quitter’ and the ‘dancer’
Mamoru Tochizawa confessed, he had once quit his dream of working in the world of news.
“My interest in journalism started in high school when I saw an opening for campus reporters one day,” Moe, as he is known to friends, recalled. “I tried to audition [for broadcasting]and as luck would have it, they liked my voice so I got in.
“I was even asked to compete with other reporters from other schools all the way to the national level. But during our training, I got so pressured, and because I only do something if I find it fun, I ditched our training in the middle of Tagaytay and quit.”
Nicolle Morales also turned her back on writing once out of pressure.
“In elementary, I signed up for campus journalism and because of my English teacher’s confidence in my writing,” she related. “She even signed me up for a writing competition. But when that day came, I got so nervous that I ran away from the contest, so much so that my teacher did not speak to me for a week!”
So traumatized was Nicolle over the incident that she gave up writing all together and shifted her time and effort in learning to dance. She succeeded and fell in love with the art, but when college came around, her parents frowned on her wishes to take up Performing Arts.
“They asked for an alternative, and I realized I wanted to go back to writing,” she continued. “I felt that just like dancing, writing allowed me to express my feelings.”
Finally telling her father about her change of heart, she surprisingly elicited the discouraging words, “But you’re too shy!”
Determined not to quit again, Nicolle instead used her father’s opinion as a challenge to pursue Journalism anew.
“Hindi ko laging nagagawa yung gusto ko kasi pinapangunahan ako ng hiya at kaba [I’ve never done anything I really liked because shyness and nervousness always get in the way],” she realized.
Both Moe and Nicolle, however—as well as Jem and Lance—explained that Journalism was not their last option for a college course, as it may seem.
“I want to write—I find comfort in writing. I find self-expression in writing. Whenever I can’t express myself verbally, I write,” Jem volunteered.
Lance, on the other hand, declared, “Aside from art, this [writing]is my best outlet for expression as well, and the talent I really want to develop.”
Seconding his friend, Moe clarified, “I’ve also enjoyed writing since I was young—whenever I’m mad, whenever I’m happy, I write.”
On hindsight, they admit to giving in to insecurities and peer pressure—trademarks of youth—in finding the long way around to their passion.
And then, there is also the heavy weight of reality. For, just when these teenagers convinced themselves that Journalism is the perfect course for them, new stumbling blocks get in the way.
Jem, whose family relies on her maternal grandmother’s financial support and her mother’s meager salary as a medical assistant at a government hospital, was suddenly faced with outstanding bills, even she prided herself in finally getting into The Manila Times College.
“I remember my friends teasing me, ‘Uy, may utang ka [You’re still in debt]’,” she shyly related. “I felt strange being with them.”
Lance, who had to quit his first college course in Mapua because of financial difficulties, neither had his family’s support in going into Journalism.
“They know that a career in journalism doesn’t pay much and being the eldest child in the family, I owe it to them to help my younger siblings,” he opened up. “My parents asked me, ‘If you pursue journalism and if we spend money on your tuition, are you sure you’ll be able to help your two siblings after graduation?” Lance had no answer, but was still determined to pursue his dream.
As for Moe, whose Japanese father, Filipina mother and younger brother are now living in Japan, the choices that faced him when he finally decided to pursue Journalism proved very difficult.
“They wanted me to move with them to Japan or pay for my own schooling here,” he explained. “First of all, I don’t know how to speak Japanese and to be honest, my family’s not doing great there as well, so I was left with no choice but to fend for myself.”
Nicolle, with both her parents well into their 60s, also had to deal with financial limitations. Both her parents were jobless at the time she was about to enter college and though all of her siblings had graduated from college and were already working, they were unable to help her since they were already starting families of their own.
“I was given an ultimatum,” she shared, either I take up Computer Science in Asian Institute of Science where tuition is not as high, or not go to college at all.”
At such a young age, these teenagers had such a difficult start on a very significant crossroads in their lives. But, with determination—and the help of an organization that is just as determined to ensure the training of future journalists—Jem, Lance, Nicolle and Moe fought for their right to education, and their right to carve their own futures.
‘Times’ to the rescue
They will not deny that they were almost on the verge of giving up their dreams and succumbing to the wishes of their family. But just in the nick of time, a school with compassion, run by the country’s longest-running national broadsheet, The Manila Times, came to their rescue.
The Manila Times College is the very first mass media institution in the country to fully support a full-fledged three-year baccalaureate program. It was founded by Dr. Dante A. Ang about the same time he revived The Manila Times in 2001.
With TMTC’s belief that students who are financially challenged should also be given an opportunity to education, the school started accepting scholars every year.
Jem, a current third year student, was saved with the offer to work as an external and student affairs assistant to cover 100 percent of her tuition fee.
Lance, Nicolle and Moe all took their chances by taking TMTC’s entrance exam, which they passed with flying colors. They too were given 100-percent free tuition.
Today, these four millenials enjoy the perks and responsibilities of being TMTC scholars—juggling school and administrative duties (all of them work as student assistants) with a required 2.0 general weighed average, and 500 hours of work per semester.
Asked how else TMTC’s scholarship has helped them, Jem was first to reply, unable to hide her emotions.
“I was on the point of giving up everything but then the TMTC opportunity came. I grabbed it then and until now, I’m still holding on to it. It was my lifesaver. They gave me the chance to grow as a journalist and because they have entrusted responsibilities to me [as a student assistant], I developed confidence, and I became more responsible. I grew into a mature person,” she related.
Giving a different spin to the question, Lance answered with a what-if scenario: “If not for the scholarship, right now, I’d be pursuing a course that I don’t like in a school that I don’t like. The scholarship convinced my parents this is what I want to do and the opportunity to become a journalist. At least now they don’t have to worry about my tuition except for my everyday expenses.”
Nicolle echoed Lance’s sentiment. “If it weren’t for the scholarship, I would be in Bicutan, crying over math,” she jested. But turning serious, she added, “I might be taking a course I dislike, and my parents would still have problems supporting my college education.”
Carefully finding the words to say, Moe took a moment before giving the final answer.
“This is really a huge help. If not for the scholarship, I might be in Japan or a home bum, doing nothing. My mind might rot away. I was so happy to get accepted in TMTC because I was given the chance to stand up and rebuild my confidence.”
Moreover, with a real deal editorial office just below the school’s floor at The Manila Times building in Intramuros, these students feel both fortunate and ever excited to see journalists hard at work everyday. They get to talk to reporters, editors, and even the paper’s top executives, most of whom also handle classes for the school.
“We know the challenges of being journalists. We see how tiring it is, the long hours, the sacrifices. But we also see passion at work at The Manila Times, and just thinking that one day, we’ll see our own bylines, hopefully, in this newspaper, we’re embracing all the challenges with both arms,” Jem spoke for her peers.
And with these young minds, their passionate hearts, and unaffected expectations from these four The Manila Times College’s scholars, the future indeed looks bright for The Manila Times, if not for Philippine journalism.