As John 10:10 tells us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ offers each one of us the light of hope for an abundant life. Serving as shining examples are our 291 new Alternative Learning System (ALS) Junior High School completers and 33 graduating Uplift Plus Senior High School and College scholars for School Year 2022 - 2023, who all pressed on towards a brighter future with His guidance.
We witnessed this bright picture during our Moving Up Ceremony at the CCF Center Multi-Purpose Hall last July 25, where we celebrated their academic milestones and achievements. The attending completers and scholars marched with their respective parents and guardians to receive their certificates. Some even received their well-deserved medals and special certificates for their academic and special awards. A processional, followed by the singing of the National Anthem and a prayer, marked the start of the program.
In his opening remarks, Uplift Cares Chief Operating Officer Pastor Ito de Jesus emphasized the importance of pursuing education regardless of age, and expressed his desire for the ALS completers to seek higher education.
“We provide them with education and we disciple them… The idea is for them to know Jesus Christ, and to know Him intimately,” he said.
He also asked the completers ages 50 and above to briefly stand up. “One of the major [reasons why] they want to study is that they want to prove to their children, especially those children who are not studying,” de Jesus said.
From 2012 to 2023, Uplift Cares has produced 3,327 ALS completers, he shared. He stressed that the newest batch of ALS completers achieved a 100-percent passing rate.
“It is our dream, with the Lord’s permission, to go out nationally, all over the Philippines – to the different regions of the Philippines, in order to have students, out-of-school students, and those who are underprivileged,” Pastor Ito added.
Pastor Ito then thanked the CCF administration for allowing us to hold the ceremony at the CCF Center. He also expressed gratitude to the Lord for the manpower, volunteers, and resources for the celebration.
A Story of Hope
ALS completer Danilo Pamilacan, 57, shared in his testimony that he aims to be a good example to his children and the youth who lost their life direction, and serve as an instrument in evangelism. He opened up that he grew up in poverty, and was a product of a broken family.
He became a construction worker in his early teenage years, so he could help his family. “At dahil kumikita na ako, tuluyan ko nang kinalimutan ang aking pangarap na makatapos ng pag-aaral. At dahil namulat ako sa lugar na [may] maraming bisyo, sa edad na 17, natuto rin ako ng iba’t ibang bisyo,” he added.
But while working as a “pulot boy” at a tennis court near his house around 1997, he first met Pastor Ito.
“Binabahagi sa akin ang tungkol sa kaligtasan na inaalok ni Hesus at pagkakaroon ng relasyon sa Kanya. Binigyan niya pa ako ng Bible, at inanyahan niya akong dumalo sa worship service sa CCF Taytay... Binibigyan niya pa ako ng pamasahe para wala akong dahilan na hindi mag-attend,” he recounted.
In 2017, Pamilacan attended a True Life retreat, where he accepted Jesus into his life. Five years later, his would-be learning facilitator Analiza Cabaluna encouraged him to continue his studies under Uplift Cares’ ALS program.
“Noong una, hindi ko alam kung kakayanin ko ba dahil sa edad at trabaho. Subalit ginabayan ako ni Ma’am Ana tuwing breaktime. Nagbabasa ako ng Good News at gumagawa ng work sample para sa aking portfolio… Isa kong malaking pagpapala ang mapabilang sa mga iskolar ng Uplift Cares,” he shared.
‘Seek Everlasting Joy’
In his inspirational message, CCF Pastor Rito “Bong” Saquing, Jr. shared that Jesus pressed on until He died on the cross to be able to offer His gift of salvation to mankind. “Isipin niyo, sabi ng mga doktor, dun pa lang sa paglatigo sa kanyang likod, ay talagang labas na ‘yung kanyang lamang loob at pwede na Siyang mamatay. Pero He did not choose to die at that time,” Pastor Bong said.
He shared that while studying, he experienced selling Filipino food puto’t kutsinta, pandesal and kakanin, and working as a tricycle and jeepney driver. He recalled that one time, he heard the classic song “What Am I Living For” being played from a jeepney headed to Montalban.
“Kasi ang hirap mong mag-press on nang hindi mo alam kung anong pinamumuhay mo at pinatutunguhan,” Pastor Bong added.
He then presented the examples of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, and basketball legend Michael Jordan, who went from being “average” to becoming over-achievers.
“Una sa lahat, dito sa lupa, huwag na huwag kayong susuko. Kasi hindi hangad ng Diyos na mabubuhay tayo sa kahirapan. Ang hangad ng Diyos ay tayo’y magkaroon ng isang maayos na buhay,” he said, pointing out though that fame and money do not necessarily equate to peace of mind.
Pastor Bong exhorted the attendees to seek everlasting joy that can only be found on God, and to also enjoy His goodness. “Sa maraming tao, kaya walang nangyayari sa kanilang buhay, hindi nila nakilala ‘yung Diyos na naghangad na magkaroon tayo ng buhay,” he added.
After the inspirational message, the giving out of certificates and special awards took place. The marching sequence was as follows: ALS completers from Brgy. Nagpayong and Brgy. Sta. Cruz, Pasig City, with Learning Facilitator Elisa Ampuan; CCF Payatas and Steve Street (Jovey Masagnay); CCF Commonwealth (Marilou Salamida); CCF Taytay (Wil Salandanan); CCF Antipolo, Taytay and Brgy. Pag-asa, Binangonan (Analiza Cabaluna); CCF General Trias (Jerick Remoyan); and CCF Imus (Alfredo Lavetoria, Jr.), were all called to the stage. Then the completers from CCF Cauayan (Julius Malsi); CCF Tagum (Daisy Mangunlay); and CCF Davao (Alexandra Montojo) were each recognized online. Also marching to the stage were the graduating Uplift Plus scholars.
A total of 45 new ALS completers received With Honors award. Arthur Pontas took home a total of three awards: With Honors, Perseverance Award, and the Perfect Attendance Award. Accepting the Life Achievement Award were Betty Francisco, Divina Namoca, Danilo Pamilacan, and Catalina Gorospe.
Rio Angela Bellosillo and Mark Miranda earned the Uplift Plus Academic Award, while 10 Uplift Plus scholars accepted the Servant-Leadership Award.
Uplift Plus Servant-Leadership Award recipient Christian Keith Arreglo, an incoming junior information technology student at the National Teachers College, expressed his gratitude to Uplift Cares for leading him to a door for a brighter future.
“Uplift Cares also gave livelihood to my family by helping us start a small business during the pandemic. This did not only help my family earn, but it also brought my family to Jesus Christ. Now, my family reads the Bible, and attends the Sunday worship service together,” he said.
This is a far cry from working as a garbage collector, when he earned much lower than the minimum wage daily. In 2008, his father, who used to provide for their family, passed away. His mother worked multiple jobs, and his grandmother took care of him and his sister.
“I thought to myself, I didn’t have a future. So I stopped going to school, and worked as a garbage collector,” Arreglo said. He felt the desire to go back to school after his grandmother’s death in 2016. A year after, he decided to enroll in Uplift Cares’ ALS program.
In 2018, Arreglo underwent a TESDA training after completing ALS. In the same year, he was accepted into the Uplift Plus scholarship program. He then studied Senior High School at the Miriam College Adult Education, under the Technical-Vocational-Livelihood track. “It was in 2020 when I graduated. But pandemic hit, and yet, Uplift was able to enroll me in my first year of college,” he said.
As the celebration was drawing to a close, the attendees sang gospel artist Mandisa’s 2013 single “Press On,” as their moving up song. Then the completers and graduating scholars alike joyfully threw their toga caps into the air.
Among the new ALS completers are brothers Milan and Minard Capua, both from Pasig City. In his class, Milan learned many concepts, gained new friends, and more importantly, discovered the Lord more. Milan plans to apply his learnings from the Scriptures, and to study hard to reach success in life. Minard felt proud of himself and his peers during the ceremony for finishing their program, adding that studying is better than being a “tambay.”
Michael Angelo Malayo, a Perseverance Award recipient from Taytay, Rizal, would help his classmates complete ALS. He aims to keep focusing on God’s Word, attend CCF Elevate services, and serve as a good example by helping those in need. Neslly Piamonte, from Binangonan, Rizal, and With Honors and Moral Excellence Award recipient, also learned much about God and the Gospel, and had friends who care for one another. He then urged his fellow youth to study hard, never give up in life, and take care of themselves.
Bellosillo, an Uplift Plus scholar, said that the past school year was “definitely far from easy,” but still persevered with the Lord’s help. “Some days, I chose staying up late at night until early in the morning to finish my activities, and then use the travel time to catch some more sleep. There were other days I chose to sleep early, and do my activities during my travel time. I also had massive difficulty socializing with my schoolmates,” she said.
Miranda, who unfortunately did not make it to the ceremony, had to deal with the big adjustments in online learning, together with the core discussions about political theory. He studied under the Alternative Tertiary Education Program.
“I want to study law, that’s why I grabbed this opportunity to take up political science – to help the unfortunate and vulnerable who were denied justice in our society, and the people deprived of liberty,” Miranda said.
Graduating Uplift Plus Senior High School scholar Pauline Dichoso recalled exerting her best efforts to study hard, and avoid distractions and procrastination, amid the difficult subjects she had to handle.
“I remember I was once an out-of-school youth who was having a hard time figuring out what the purpose of life was. And I am so emotional because I can’t believe that I survived Senior High. Now, I am able to continue my studies in college,” Dichoso added.