FEU Advocate
May 21, 2016 23:37

By Aina Michaella G. Licodine
Photo courtesy of Kebyn Villarino

Plated, prized, and etched with Magna cum laude. It was more than a medal of honor. It was a reminder of the tears, empty pockets and his six years of struggle.

One thing is for certain, it was not a speedy flight to the top. It was more of a drawn-out battle for Kebyn Villarino. As he now enjoys the fruits of his labor and the admiration of the public, this lad looks back at the long thread of struggles he had to clobber before reaching his ultimate goal.

To start things off, Villarino never dreamt of walking through his collegiate journey in the green and gold lair. Allured by the quality of education and high passing rates, he initially planned to apply in the premier universities of the country; however that did not pan out.

“My brother suggested me to enroll in Far Eastern University (FEU) so we can be together,” he admitted. “[Actually], FEU is my first and last choice; it is the only university where I took an entrance exam.”

Villarino believes that even if paths are redirected, the passion must be sustained. He took up Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration Major in Internal Auditing at Far Eastern University (FEU) with numbers being his forte since high school. It was a smooth ride at first; he had his fair share of fun and games, making most of the college student liberties. But when monetary troubles came in the picture, it became a 360 degree shift for him.

He said goodbye to the luxury of life. The cribs of his friends became his sanctuary instead of his own home. He had to do a five-to-nine to support his everyday expenses, venturing into theater and voice acting, and even t-shirt printing.

Like a lit candle, his life was at risk of being blown out any moment. Given this uncertainty, he strived to nab a scholarship in school. It did not take long; getting scholarships became a routine for him, almost obligatory.

However, every semester was worse than the last. There were days he was living on 30 pesos a day. For some, not securing a scholarship or just barely passing means “try again next time.” For Villarino, there was no room for falling short or else it was “game over.”

The most dreaded day came when he failed to reap a full scholarship by only 0.01 - he was not be able to continue.

“It took me time to move on during my first time to stop [especially because of] only having a 1.26 GWA (Grade Weighted Average). During that point, I felt like I didn't have a purpose to live anymore, like there's no hope,” he recalled.

After the depressing circumstance, he devoted the whole year juggling jobs - from regularly serving fast food meals to picking up foreign calls during the graveyard shift, from straining his hands as a typist to joining pageants.

Of course, his determination never waned. He had a major comeback after a year, topping his class and even snatching a scholarship. But another roadblock arrived as he did not make it to the list of passers for the qualifying examination for Accountancy the next semester. He, once again, had to stop.

Almost being immune to failures, he took a big leap, even bigger than before. He tried his luck overseas, landing a job with a wage enough to secure his tuition for the following semesters. He burned the midnight oil, working 16 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week for two dreadful months.

“Instead of doing nothing or by feeling down, I used all these downfalls as my motivation. I learned from these negative factors that putting in my heart that I won't stay on that and I'll be better,” Villarino expressed.

When he returned to the Philippines, there was a sense of fulfillment in his part, being more financially equipped. He transformed into a jack-of-all-trades, balancing his academic requirements, student leadership duties and work commitments throughout his remaining years in college. When his money ran out midway, he returned working in call centers, bookkeeping, and modelling to make both ends meet. Villarino believes each setback is just a boost up. Each semester, he became triumphant, habitually getting financial aids for performing well in school.

“There might be times that you failed to get something you wished for. But you can use that failure as your motivation and by believing in yourself in order for you to strive harder to reach farther,” he remarked.

Until his last year in FEU, he was granted a scholarship and got to represent the country in Korea and Vietnam. His tale struck many hearts at the core. His Facebook post was flooded with comments and even reached 241,000 likes as of press time. With the attention he is receiving, he considers everything surreal.

“I'm really touched with all the messages, even if it's a simple congratulation,” he opened. “But what makes my heart melt is whenever parents [say] they want their future children to be like me, [like] how motivated I am to reach my goals.”

Amidst everything, his feet remain firmly planted on the ground. With the fame he is receiving, artist centers have also been knocking on his door, offering a showbiz career to the good-looking fresh graduate. But Villarino does not want to put his hard work to waste; he wants to do his dream job - to be a Certified Public Accountant.

“Never give up on reaching out your dreams. It might be hard for now, but it's just temporary. You might not have reached your goal as you imagined it to be, remember, God has better plans to all of us,” he advised.

Success is not served on a silver platter; it is achieved through relentless hard work and complete focus. Aside from the medals harvested and the cheers received, the real achievement is the person one has become.