Scholar who lost parents during pandemic graduates as summa cum laude, batch valedictorian

MANILA, Philippines – A scholar who graduated with flying colors shared his inspiring story of grief, pain, and success. Rey Matthew James Volante went through some of the hardest moments of his life but he still persevered until he achieved his dream of finishing college.

Matthew admitted that he grew up realizing that their life was difficult. Despite growing up in poverty, he used his intelligence to land scholarships so he could finish his education. He became a recipient of the Nicanor Reyes Senior Scholarship and DOST Scholarship. He became a BS Biology student from Far Eastern University.

Rey Matthew James Volante inspiring story
Rey Matthew James Volante lost his parents during the pandemic but still graduated summa cum laude and the batch valedictorian | Photo Courtesy: Facebook/ Matthew Volante

“Nasubukan na rin po naming magkakapatid na suyurin ang mga tindahan na pwedeng magpautang sa amin tuwing kapos at wala nang mailaman sa ‘ming mga sikmura. I had to be extraordinary all the time because opportunities do not come easily to poor people like me,” he shared.

All his hard work paid off when he graduated summa cum laude and the batch valedictorian last June 30, 2022. During his speech, he revealed the many hardships he overcame to get to where he is.

“Bilang laki sa hirap, ginawa kong wika ang pagsusumikap at pagtatiyaga. Buong buhay ko, nangangarap ako. Kahapon, natupad na ang isa sa mga pinangarap ko. More than recognition, being this year's batch valedictorian is about telling my story: the choices I made, the pains I endured and the humbling breakthroughs I created. As we have a shared experience of pain, grief and struggle, my story has become everyone's story,” he said.

Matthew shared how the pandemic brought him too much pain as he lost his parents. His twin brother was wrongfully detained and when he was finally able to get freedom, their mother died due to COVID-19. Shortly after, Matthew’s father died of a heart attack.

The grief and pain almost made him give up but he knew he had to fulfill the promise he made to his parents. It was his parent’s wish for him and his siblings to finish college.

Matthew said, “Lagi ko lang is inasapuso ‘yung sinabi ni mama at papa before they passed away, na kahit anong mangyari magpatuloy ako. Hindi dapat ako magpaapekto. Pinili ko at ng aking kapatid na maging matapang sa gitna ng lahat ng nangyari because it was our parents’ dying wish.”

In his speech, Matthew said that his story is also the story of many others who are poor and couldn’t afford premium healthcare. He said that despite it all, he chose to be brave and faced it all with his head held high.

“My story is the story of the children who have dreams but were deprived of opportunities because of poverty. My story is the story of families who were victims of a failing justice system that jails people because they are poor.”

“My story is the story of those who have lost their loved ones during the pandemic because they cannot afford premium access to quality and proactive health care systems.

And for all of these stories, we have the power and a choice to be brave, to be extraordinary, and to battle for the right. Four years ago, I chose to dream. Two years ago, I chose to be brave. And today, I chose to move forward with my head held high,” Matthew said.

— Sally, The Summit Express

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