Despite never owning a book of her own, and never having enough money to buy a decent meal (even instant noodles) or supplies for school, Iah Seraspi overcame all odds, placing second in the entire country, out of almost 82,000 hopefuls, at the recent Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET).
In an incredible feat, Iah garnered an impressive score of 90%, just a few digits shy of the top passer who got 90.20%.
“I came from a poor family… I am not telling you this to humiliate my family nor to get your sympathy. I just want you to realize how blessed you are if you were able to live a life better than mine,” shared Iah days after the results came out, in a speech for the new teachers of Romblon State University.
Iah grew up in the rural/ fishing town of Looc, where she lived in a humble nipa hut with her parents and 3 siblings. Though Iah had never stepped out of her sleepy town, she had bigger dreams for herself, ones that aimed to bring her and her family out of poverty.
As a child, Iah was a driven and highly dedicated student. She graduated Class Salutatorian at Looc Central Elementary School and Class Valedictorian at Looc National High School. But her journey to the stage was wrought with many challenges. As a daughter of a poor fisherman, she and her 3 siblings subsisted on rice with salt. And if her palate was in want for something more flavorful, she would buy cheap junk food and sprinkle it over her meal. Eating a meager instant noodle meal was already a luxury for the family as her father barely made P50 a day as a fisherman.
ON THE NEXT PAGE: The woman who would change her life
While financially poor, Iah was spiritually rich and passionate about her studies. Even if her home had no electricity, she did not consider this as a hindrance to her education — even studying by candlelight until the wee hours. Iah’s dreams for a better life were never dashed. If ever, her circumstances only pushed her to dream bigger.
Soon, she was blessed to meet Debbie Esquejo of the Ernesto Esquejo Scholarship Foundation, who would become her generous benefactor.
Seeing how Iah deeply desired to become a teacher, Debbie promised the young girl that she would support her education. Iah had passed the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT), but chose to to take up her Bachelor of Science in Education (BSED) with a major in Biological Science at Romblon State University, which was closer to home.
Even with Debbie’s help and the P15,000 stipend she got from being a scholar of the Commission on Higher Education, Iah still had to make sacrifices. To reduce expenses, she never bought books, and instead borrowed from her classmates. Growing up without money to buy notebooks and other supplies when she was younger, Iah had learned to become a better listener and honed skills that would make her a more efficient learner. These skills would become valuable learning tools as a college student.
ON THE NEXT PAGE: The secret to success
A Prayer Answered
Iah’s a natural achiever (she graduated Cum Laude in 2015); but when it came to preparing for the LET exams, she was not one to rest on her laurels. She poured all her energy into her review, studying at the Carl Balita Review Center. After weeks of intensive study, and sleepless nights praying for success, Iah was blessed with the best news – she finished Top 2 in the exams. Her hard work finally paid off.
“I proved that poverty is never a hindrance to success,” she said. “When you commit yourself to an ambitious goal and sacrifice, your dreams will eventually come true.”
For other students who are going through the same challenges, Iah shared some valuable advice: “Never give up just because you’re poor. I still believe that life is fair. Just look at poverty as a challenge to improve oneself and get out of the bad situation.”
“And most of all, never doubt the power of prayers. God answers big time!”
READ: Salutatorian forced off stage during speech
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