Household helper graduates cum laude
MANILA, Philippines – On Saturday, May 27, the photo of Lucille Guiquin graduating from college went viral on social media, inspiring many netizens for finishing college and graduating cum laude after juggling her studies and work as a household helper with the Benzon family. (The post has since been taken down)
Guiquin hails from Negros Occidental and came to work for the Benzons back in 2006. Her family works in a small hacienda in Talisay and after her high school graduation, she came with her aunt to Manila.
She proved to be responsible and focused when it comes to work.
Roland Benzon, the head of the family said: “One of her admirable qualities is her ability to focus. She did not twiddle with her phone while caring for our son. Her attention was undivided.” He believed that Lucille’s success both as a yaya (nanny) and student came from her focus and good work ethics.
More than deserving
But what really proved to the Benzons that Ate Lucille, as they call her, deserved help to finish her education?
When Roland’s son Joshua was 6 years old and was preparing for the entrance exams, Guiquin took initiative to make a reviewer for him.
“I looked at the reviewer and it was well-made – like a teacher made it. I was impressed that she had read the textbook and [made] a sample exam all on her own,” Benzon recounted. It was then that the family truly saw her potential.
The Benzons later found out that Guiquin was actually the valedictorian of the public high school she attended in Bacolod. She had more than enough skills and knowledge to get into a good university, but had no means to finance it. So the Benzons made a promise.
“After Josh turns 10, we will send you to college," they told her.
They kept their promise and sent Guiquin to college.
She was worried, however, whether she had the capability to study again. Besides, it has been almost a decade since she finished high school. She was 25 by then when she entered college.
“Magre-review na lang ako bago ako mag-aral ulit,” she told herself before returning to college. (I will just review before I enter school again).
Ultimately, she was able to balance her duties as househelp while fulfilling her responsibilities in school. As a result, she graduated in May 2017 with flying colors, proving to the Benzons that they were right to believe in her.
But her success did not come easy.
"Noong una po, hindi naging madali ang pag-adjust ng aking schedule ng pagpasok sa school at oras ng trabaho,” she said. (At first, it wasn’t easy to adjust my schedule for going to school and work hours).
She eventually formed a routine where she would wake up early, cook for Joshua, and get ready for school after the bus picks him up. When she gets home, she helps with the household chores then proceeds to do homework and reports.
“Minsan po nagkakasabay ang aming exams ng alaga ko. Ginagawa po namin, siya muna rereview ko tapos ako naman," she added. (Sometimes, the exams of Joshua and I happen at the same time, so I review him first the he reviews me)
She explains that she often gets only two to 3 hours of sleep due to school work since her colleagues would frequently depend on her as the leader of the group.
There was a time when the Benzons' business was not doing so well and it was a test of promise whether they would continue to sustain Guiquin’s education or not.
The Benzons did, and Guiquin was not short in showing her gratitude. She gave the Benzons a thank you card and letter after her first semester; and she studied well to become part of the Dean’s List to get a 25% discount on her tuition. For 4 semesters, she became a Dean’s Lister.
She eventually graduated cum laude with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from STI College. As she marched to get her diploma, her aunt and the Benzons were there to support her.
Despite the challenges, Guiquin succeeded and ended up as one of the topnotchers. She only dreamed of finishing college but she expresses her joy to be a part of the academic honors.
She says, “proud din po ako sa sarili ko dahil nakaya ko lahat-lahat ng mga challenges sa aking buhay kahit na malayo po ako sa aking parents at mga kamag-anak, na nakaya ko pagsabayin ang pag-aaral ko at pagtatrabaho.” (I am also proud of myself for enduring all the challenges in my life even though I am far from my parents and relatives, that I was able to study and work at the same time).
The Benzons did not see Guiquin as an outsider. They welcomed her into their family and paved the way for a better future for her. More than an act of generosity, it was discovering untapped potential for Roland Benzon.
“I suppose most people deem our act as generous," he said. "But to me, it felt more like a calling; like a scout who spotted a talent, driven to make something out of it.” – Rappler.com
Patricia Dy is a Rappler intern and a feature writer at The Guidon, the official student publication of the the Ateneo de Manila University