La Verdad Christian College – Quality Education at No Cost

The man in front of the computer was whistling a happy tune, but Brandon’s heart wasn’t pumping a rhythmic beat. As the man handed him his printed papers, Brandon felt his heart drop as he looked at the amount printed in bold, black ink at the bottom of the page. It was enrolment day; he had just got his subjects assessed and validated by his college. The paper handed to him was the form for payment which displayed his total tuition fees for the semester.

What an amount to pay for just a couple of units, he muttered to himself. He was studying in a public school were tuition was subsidized by the government but the fees he pay were still too high for what he can afford.

He makes his way to the cashier’s office, counting and recounting his recently withdrawn money to make sure they were enough and exact for payment. Upon reaching the office and finding a stream of students, his eyes wandered to a huge plastered sign sprawled to his side, directing students like him to the miscellaneous queue. Underneath the bold print were words like dorm fees, lab and library fees and more, screaming at him and making his heart sink even lower. His mind were occupied with thoughts about daily transportation fares he’s going to have to pay, the food he’s going to eat, the school supplies he’s going to provide. And buying a uniform too, he thought.

As he takes his spot on the long line to pay his tuition, he looks back at the miscellaneous fees queue and thinks to himself with a resigned look, “Is education now a privilege?”


Brandon’s experiences are something unrare. These situations and stories happen more often than we believe, prompting the debate as to whether education in our country is a right or a privilege.

It’s June once again, the month of weddings, of Father’s days and beginnings of school. School commencing would mean enrolment and enrolment would also mean money.

High Cost of Education = Out of School Youths?

According to recent figures by the National Statistics Office (NSO) and Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS), a steady growth of percentage of out-of-school youths was listed from 2000-2011, with over 6.24 million youths out of school, or 16% of the country’s 39 million Filipinos in the age bracket between six and 24.

Aside from geographical and temporal reasons, one of the most cited reasons for this increase was the high cost of education. Moreover, the NSO’s 2014 Report of the Country’s Figures listed more than 23 million of the population as no more than elementary undergraduates, with 3 million having no education at all.

That is why in these times, government bodies and non-governmental organizations have conducted programs to help. Various scholarships are now made able to deserving youth, offering several chances for qualification. But there is one non-governmental organization that has taken steps higher than the others.

Free Education through LVCC

The Members Church of God International, through UNTV 37, the country’s public service channel, has established a college wherein free education is one of its services.

With campuses in Pampanga and Caloocan, La Verdad Christian College (LVCC) leads as the country’s first private institution wherein aside from free tuition, other expenses such as uniform, food and lodging fees are shouldered entirely by the school. This is inspired by Bro. Eli Soriano and Kuya Daniel Razon’s advocacy of helping poor but deserving students to earn their college degrees.

La Verdad Christian College is the first private institution in the country that offers free education along with free meals, uniforms, books and even lodging.
Video Courtesy: youtube.com/untvweb

“It’s a very good feeling to know that God has given us instruments in doing good — those who help the youth like me to be able to study. That is wy I thank God for Bro. Eli and Kuya Daniel for giving us the chance to go to college despite the lack of our financial ability,” says Kim Santiago, a Second Year AB Broadcasting student from LVCC Caloocan Branch.

“Here in La Verdad, aside from availing of the free services the school offers, we are being taught to excel academically and spiritually,” says Maryjane Largueza, a recent graduate of AB-Broadcasting in LVCC Caloocan Campus. “LVCC not only aims to produce capable students but also good citizens of the country. I am proud to be a LaVerdarian, and I am grateful to God and Bro. Eli and Kuya Daniel, because without them, this will not be possible.”

Aside from offering kindergarten until secondary schooling, LVCC also offers Bachelor degrees in nursing, computer technology, mass communications, culinary and many more. Moreover, extensive training and career opportunities are also given to students during their stay at the college with help of partner groups such as UNTV.

LVCCA shot of one of the main buildings of La Verdad
Christian College in Apalit, Pampanga.
Photo Courtesy: Rovic Balunsay of Photoville International

First established in 2009, the two campuses are always being improved and maintained by its administration. Citing Bro. Soriano in a speech during the inauguration of the LVCC Branch in Caloocan, he says, “We have spent much to establish this school, and much is to be spent still to sustain it. But we do not look at the amount, just as it is written in the Bible,” adding that, “This is our mandate from knowing the truth in the Bible. Students do not owe this to us. They owe it to God.”

On Being Filipino: Bro. Eli as Pinoy Pride

“Pinoy Pride.” What comes to your mind when you hear it or its variation: “Proud to be Pinoy”?

For boxing fans, the name of world-renowned boxing legend, Manny Pacquiao could immediately ring a bell.

For singing enthusiasts, the likes of Jessica Sanchez, Charice Pempengco and Lea Salonga may pop up in their minds.

Manny Pacquaio (right) and Lea Salonga (left) are both icons in their respective fields and are symbols of Filipino pride. Photo Courtesy: underdogboxing.wordpress.com | broadwayworld.com

Manny Pacquaio (right) and Lea Salonga (left) are both icons in their respective fields and are symbols of Filipino pride.
Photo Courtesy: underdogboxing.wordpress.com | broadwayworld.com

But people aren’t the only sole symbols of Pinoy pride. Even cultural things like customs, food and clothing also make it to the list of things which Filipinos are proud of.

We always hear these phrases often, something we might even say ourselves. But what do they really entail?

What is Filipino Pride?

Filipino pride or Pinoy pride can be defined as the symbols that bring good, international recognition to the Filipino race. Like the examples given above, and to name a few, persons like Manny Pacquiao and Lea Salonga have given good name for Filipinos in the world of their respective fields.

Only this previous month, Filipino “Miss Saigon” actor Jon Jon Briones had made rounds on the web for being the Best Actor nominee of the prestigious Olivier Award in British theater.

These are positive outlooks on Filipino pride, because these are really something to be proud of. These Filipinos have attained their status through talent and hard work — something that we, as a nation, naturally acquire.

Meanwhile, our hospitable culture is also something unique that defines us as a people. This quality of Filipinos being hospitable is also something that the world looks up to.

We Pinoys, are known to be warm and always willing to offer what is special, what is new and what could be their everything, just to make visitors feel comfortable and accommodated.

The Other Side of Filipino Pride

Looking at my abovementioned points, it would seem that Filipino Pride is something genuinely and solely good!

But too much Filipino Pride also has its downsides, and for me, it starts with the word “overkill”. Well, as the Filipino saying goes, “Lahat ng sobra, masama.” (Everything in excess is bad).

The urban dictionary defines overkill as, “More than what is needed. In gross excess of what is reasonably expected. An excess of something beyond what is required or suitable for a given purpose. “

"Overkill" as defined by the Urban Dictionary.

“Overkill” as defined by the Urban Dictionary.

There are countless examples of Filipino pride overkill and this serves as a reminder that even things intended for good can also be bad in excess. Riding in the bandwagon to claim famous people with little to no traces of Filipino blood or culture as Pinoy pride symbols is overkill. This kind of paradoxical “Filipino pride” will not bring appreciation to our country, but may seem more like a “confidence booster” and earn backlash from critics.

What I Am Proud of As A Filipino

What makes me proud to be a Filipino? Aside from some recognized personalities in my list, unique food and good customs, here are some:

(1) Close Filipino family ties (i.e. We are known to not abandon our elders in nursing homes, and make it a point to care for them in their old age)
(2) Honesty and morals (i.e. Good deeds like returning money that aren’t ours, debt of gratitude concept)
(3) Hardworking Overseas Filipino Workers (they are our modern day heroes!)

Then another person who remains under-recognized excels in the field of religion and spirituality. He is today making rounds across the world through preaching and changing lives.

 Bro. Eli Soriano.

Bro. Eli Soriano is a Filipino preacher making rounds across the globe for preaching the words of God in foreign lands. Photo Courtesy: facebook.com/Eliseo_Soriano

Bro. Eli Soriano is a Filipino preacher making rounds across the globe for preaching the words of God in foreign lands.
Photo Courtesy: facebook.com/Eliseo_Soriano

Hailing from the provinces of Pampanga, Bro. Soriano has been unrelenting in preaching the gospel for more than five decades.

Despite earning numerous accolades for his work and the great number of people who have found the truth through him, Bro. Soriano is also one of the most slandered men of all time, with the internet spewing all sorts of lies and defamations against him.

But what strikes me the most is his unfeigned attitude to continue to help, his glaring humility for those who malign him, and his God-given courage that strives to point out the errors of the mislead and the misleader.

It makes me proud to know that I came across this man in my life. With God’s help, through a simple man like him, I and many others have found truth in our lives.

That is one of the things that I am truly proud of. I am proud to be Filipino because of Filipinos who know how to look back to their roots, of Filipinos who do good deeds without asking anything in return, of Filipinos who work hard for their families and their country abroad. But most of all, I am proud of these Filipinos who work hard for the Philippines to be recognized and appreciated by the world. Filipinos like Bro. Eli who are proud of their heritage and their country even in foreign lands make me truly proud to be like them — a Filipino.


Some articles I’ve cited on Pinoy Pride and its cons:

https://stonegrenades.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/what-is-pinoy-pride/

http://getrealphilippines.com/blog/2014/01/mistaken-beliefs/

http://remarkablyweirdsyndrome.blogspot.com/2012/06/pinoy-pride-what-hell-does-that-mean.html

Not Just “Artsy” Music, But Faith-full Music

As a self-proclaimed ‘artistic’ spirit (in my own, Yanna-Faye-way of course), a day wouldn’t pass without me encountering or interacting with art. Whether it be a literary text, a trailer for a film, a painting I would pass by in one of the halls of a college building, or even music, I would take some time to digest it, to appreciate it or just simply look/watch/hear it.

ImageOne of the many paintings that adorn the halls of the new National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB) Building.

Photo taken from: NIMBB Official Website

I like to think that most of these art forms were created with a much deeper meaning or essence to them. It might reflect what the artist, composer or director was feeling at the time of its inception. It might speak of words hidden in its colors, melody or story. Or there’s just something down there, something in between the written and/or the stroked lines.

But then I hear this ‘song’ from my eleven-year old sister:

Isa kang malaking libag na tinubuan ng pisnge! Alam mo? Mukha kang tuhod na may bukol, na may sugat, na may nana!

It has a far longer verse and chorus, from what I heard my sister sing, but these few lines really caught my attention. These lines are from a popular Philippine song called “Gayuma” by Abra. “Gayuma” in English, might translate into love potion, so the song simply talks about how the narrator is being hoodwinked by an extremely ugly girl that he can’t help but love.

I have nothing against the song. What I have against is the lack of better quality of music being played on the radio. The degeneration of music. The sad thought that today’s generation would only hear songs about scabby knees that look like faces. The extremely sad thought that today’s generation don’t hear enough of worthy, meaningful songs – songs from the old days – and more so, songs that praise God.

I remember Brother Eli Soriano, my favourite evangelist of all time, talk about songs. He says that songs are used to express people’s feelings. Like the fact that married people sometimes love another aside from their spouse, hence the song, “Release me, let me go. For I don’t love you anymore.”  Then there are songs about spoiled food, “Hopiang di mabili, may amag sa tabi.” And then there’s Gayuma as well.

He meant to point out the abundance of numerous songs all dedicated to numerous, mundane things. Why not make more songs dedicated to the One who made all of those? In this article, Brother Eli gives inspiring thoughts to attendees of a Music Summit held by the MCGI last May. To quote Brother Eli, he says:

“Singing to God is one of the few things that we can do directly to Him. We cannot serve God with our hands. But we can offer him the fruit of our lips, praising His name.”

Brother Eli and Kuya Daniel Razon, CEO of Breakthrough and Milestones Inc. are also behind the popular UNTV show, A Song of Praise Music Festival, which adheres to their vision in encouraging people to listen and compose music that gives glory to God, as well as promoting Original Pinoy Music. It airs every Sunday, 7:00pm Philippine time. You can watch it via live streaming here.

Like what I said about art forms having deeper meanings into them, aren’t songs that praise God speak about what our hearts might fail to say? Aren’t these songs greater means to express our gratitude to the Lord? If only today’s radio would take some time to play songs such as these, and we people would make the effort to listen to them, then everyday would not only be art-filled, art-inspired days, but also worthy, meaningful days – days spent in serving the Lord through the fruit of our lips.

Memories of A Saturday: Why I Offer Thanksgiving to God

There had always been something different with Saturdays. If days of the week had color, it would be the color yellow. It always looked so warm and very anticipating.

ImagePhoto courtesy: MCGI.org

As a kid, I used to remember one of my weekends being spent in a place far away from home. My family and I would spend it in Apalit, Pampanga, where we attend our weekly Thanksgiving ceremony. I must have been somewhere between five or six years old then, when I would distinctly remember the homey scent of rice being cooked wafting through the bathroom as my mother splashes me with lukewarm water. It was 3:00am in the morning, but I was the least bit sleepy.

By 3:30am we would be cruising at the dark road ahead of us, illuminated only by the orange-colored expressway lamp lights and the dimly-lit moon. I would fall asleep resting my head on a pillow that nestled in one of my Kuya’s laps. At 6:00am we would be eating hot sopas with some cheesy puto or butter-smeared hotcakes on our monoblock chairs near the front of the stage. And then my mother would spread half a blanket on the cement floor and make a make-shift bed for me, and she would make me lie down and close my eyes as I listen to the heavenly singing of the Music Ministry as the ceremony starts.

I may have fallen asleep during the opening parts of the ceremony, but I would extremely be wide awake during the part where brethren would come up on stage and offer thanks to the Lord. When it was our time to go up the stage, my dad would place me on his shoulders and I could see all of the convention center, which was smaller back then. Then I would hear the rhythmic beats resounding, and the brethren onstage dancing and singing praises to God.

Then brethren would enumerate numerous reasons why they give thanks to the Lord – some of them were given jobs, some of them were cured from sickness, some of them were celebrating their spiritual birthdays. Then there were those who thanked the Lord for being fired from work, for failing exams and even for losing a loved one. “Why do they do that, Papa?” I once asked my Dad. And he answered that brethren still offered thanks despite the seemingly bad things that happened because it was what Bro. Eli and Brother Daniel had taught us – to give thanks in all circumstances as written in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and because it was God’s will and things will work together in the end (Romans 8:28).

Fast forward to eleven years, and here I am, with God’s help still awaiting the coming of Saturdays every week. When I was younger I didn’t fully understand yet what it meant to give thanks to the Lord, but now that He has called me into His fold nearly two years ago, I learned to thank Him for everything He has done in me and my family’s life. I thank Him for the wonderful fate that He has given me, that I grew up and was brought up inside His true Church, and that I was given the highest calling and duties that give meaning to my life, duties I sometimes think I don’t deserve. But with His loving kindness and mercy He urges me to go on and do my part, to someday be with Him in paradise even if I get to stay in a little corner. I thank Him that I can write, even though I am fully aware that no words would describe what I am feeling and that words will never be enough to express my gratitude.

Image

Photo Courtesy: MCGI.org

But I thank Him still, for everyday of my life that I am able to open my eyes and be able to reach another Saturday.