There are hidden riches in the far-flung farming community of Nueva Ecija. Such was the premise of Sandra Aguinaldo’s documentary “Kubling Yaman ng Cama Juan,” which aired last year on GMA-7’s I-Witness.
In the documentary, Sandra went to the remote barangay of Cama Juan in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija where she met five friends bound for college after graduating in a public high school. Camille Basilio, Arlene Ramos, Jessica Duran, Jerick Marin, and Mherry Camarota were honor students of their graduating batch in Zacarias Aquilizan High School. Their teachers call them “kubling yaman”-students with hidden exceptional potential, but lack the final touches that would make them truly stand out.
Son and daughters of fishermen, all five friends knew that finishing college would provide them a ticket to a better future. But they were also aware that it would take more than their passion for learning to put them through college. In a country where education ends up being a privilege to a few, Camille and her friends knew that their dream may never become a reality.
But just when time was about to run out for Camille and her friends, help started pouring in from those who were able to watch the I-Witness documentary. “Right after the episode, we got a barrage of calls and e-mails from viewers,” Andrea Pineda, the episode’s researcher explains. “They all wanted to help Camille and her friends. Some OFWs empathized with Camille, since they also came from poor families and struggled through college.”
Barely a day after the airing, an anonymous donor volunteered to sponsor Camille and Arlene until they graduate and provide them with full tuition and allowance. The Araullo University in Cabanatuan City also offered full scholarship to Camille including book allowance. Some sponsors even went as far as going to Nueva Ecija to visit Camille and her friends-bringing with them bags filled with school supplies.
“Since most of the sponsors were directed towards helping Camille and Arlene only, I gently informed them that Camille already has a sponsor but her friends still need help,” Pineda says. “[Because of this], we even got to include Camille’s friend [Marie Destreza] who wasn’t even featured in the episode but was also an honor student to become one of the recipients,” Pineda adds.
Camille and Jessica are now on their second year as BS Education students in Araullo University. As for Arlene, Jerick and Mherry, they are also on their second year as BS Education students in Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology. Meanwhile, Marie is currently enrolled in a private college taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management.
Today, Camille and her friends have nothing but gratitude to all those who helped them get in to college. “I-Witness really helped me a lot-not only me but also my family. It gave me an opportunity to continue reaching for my dream of someday finishing school,” Camille says.
“The documentary Kubling Yaman ng Cama Juan is something that I’m very proud of because it inspired a lot of viewers and it also inspired me. I learned a lot from the students featured in the documentary. I am also amazed at the generosity of Filipinos,” Aguinaldo says of how she feels about the way her documentary helped the students from Cama Juan.
And although education may still very well be a privilege to a few, one thing is certain-there will never be a lack of hope for students like Camille for as long as there is compassion and generosity, even from a privileged few.