Apayao student attends 3 UAAP schools, graduates magna cum laude at UP after 12 years in college

"Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to live." - Mora Ephron

In reality, the journey of life is truly challenging. Navigating through it is not easy, especially when there are many obstacles along the way to the rightful destination. However, with relentless effort, hard work, determination, and with the help of individuals empowered by the Almighty to reach their destination, it is impossible not to get there.

Similar to the success story of Al Christian Agngarayngay, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Studies from the University of the Philippines as Magna Cum Laude in 2022 or after 12 years of college education. He exclusively shared with The Summit Express the challenges he faced before reaching the pinnacle of success in life.

Apayao student attends 3 UAAP schools, graduates magna cum laude at UP
Photo courtesy: Al Christian Agngarayngay

“Until now, everything has felt surreal. While I am at the end of this chapter, I will never forget how this journey unfolded. A journey full of uncertainties, but lessons that have led me to where I am now,” he said.

Al Christian was raised from a village in the province of Apayao. He was hailed by his grandparents and even experienced being fetched by a horse after school. His mother was working abroad to provide for their family as a solo parent.

It can be said that Al Christian had a beautiful childhood because it was filled with happy memories.

“As far as I remember, I was riding with my grandfather on the back of a white horse through dirt roads from the remote barrio of Atok to the Poblacion of Flora, Apayao, where I attended the town's public elementary school when I was six years old.”

“My grandfather waited at the school gate in the afternoon, squinting at me with a proud smile, to fetch me on the same horse home. The long ride seemed to go on forever, but I eagerly anticipated it. It was a journey that made me wonder and instilled in me a love of learning. On weekends, I took my favorite books and read in the fresh breeze in the wooden shed my grandfather built by a sturdy mango tree. My mother is a single parent, and when my mother left for greener pastures as an OFW in Hong Kong, my grandparents raised me as if their own son.”

Although they didn't have electricity in the barrio, he managed to study using a gas lamp.

Al Christian also experienced transferring from one school to another at a young age.

“Back in Atok, there was no electricity in the neighborhood. This is why I worked diligently on my assignments at night under the light of a kerosene lamp. And every time its flame went out, my grandmother had to relight it. I worked hard, was inspired, and always returned with a high grade, making my parents proud. I continued and finished each school year at the top of my class before transferring to Manila in fourth grade.”

“Again, the journey was not smooth. My move to Manila seemed to foreshadow a series of school transfers for me in the years that followed. I graduated from elementary school in Fairview as the batch Salutatorian and returned to Apayao for high school. In my junior year, family circumstances forced me to permanently resettle to Manila with my grandparents.”

His school transfers didn't stop when he entered college in 2010. His first school was the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila, where he took a pre-med course with the intention of assisting his grandfather, who had asthma. However, he encountered health problems, prompting him to leave UST and transfer to another school in Novaliches, the FEU-NRMF Fairview, which was closer to their residence.

Furthermore, the expenses for the pre-med course were high, and it coincided with his mother resigning from her job abroad and returning to the Philippines. They faced financial challenges during that time.

“After graduating as Valedictorian of my class in high school, I decided to pursue a pre-medical course at UST, of course, on a scholarship. As part of the challenges, my grandfather had asthma, which intensified my resolve to become a doctor. However, the road ahead through college was long and difficult, much like the mud-and-stone-covered roads in Atok. But I clung on with all my might. My health deteriorated at UST, and I was forced to transfer to FEU-NRMF Fairview to be closer to our home in Novaliches. This put me in financial difficulty since my mother returned from abroad and quit her job. And I had my own sacrifice to make: my costly pre-medical course.”

Al Christian continued his studies because, for him, education was not something to be sacrificed and was non-negotiable.

He did not allow the “light” that he first received from his grandmother's gas lamp in the province to flicker and fade.

It was at this point that he decided to apply for a scholarship at UP Diliman. He can say that his perspectives on life changed when he entered as a student at the University of the Philippines, known as Isko ng Bayan.

“Regardless, I continued with my studies. Education was the first value on my list of non-negotiables. Nothing could dampen my desire to complete a degree. With that, I returned my gaze to the kerosene lamp that my grandmother had kept burning. And with unwavering resolve, I applied for admission to UP Diliman and was accepted on a scholarship.

“Through experience, I discovered that UP was a microcosm of the world beyond its borders. It was a life-changing experience. My cumulative years on campus and with the open university taught me to be critical wherever I looked, striving to understand different junctures, or the society at large, its politics, technology, art, history, and direction.”

“I attained a level of maturity that was not only intellectual and academic in nature, allowing me to know what I wanted and understand contexts, but more importantly, I learned the importance of taking responsibility for one's actions.”

Only a few people in his life are aware of what he went through. He also admits that the relationship with his mother wasn't perfect, mainly because of his determination to finish his education.

“Few people are aware that I attended three different universities. If you know my backstory, you might laugh or wonder why I'm almost done with the UAAP. Haha! Kidding aside. But, on a more serious note, those years made me realize how I carried my own cross — a cross full of doubts about myself as a result of everything that had happened. My dream appears to have been shattered because I am unable to pursue my desired course. That was a difficult journey that I thought I couldn't overcome. In addition to difficulties, despite being a scholar, I lacked financial stability. My mother is unemployed, and the only thing she could do for a living was to do laundry. Aside from that, we had a rocky relationship. Yes, you read that correctly. Mom and I had so many squabbles that I rebelled. There seemed to be no one to back me up. This made the journey even more difficult. However, my passion for education drove me to continue.”

There were times when he became a working student to meet his educational needs. He experienced being a bit player on a TV show, a production assistant for an independent film, a caretaker of a condominium unit, a full-time employee in Human Resources, and a graveyard shift call center agent.

“There were times when I needed to look for work and be a working student in order to support my needs as an eager student. Even before I enter the Open University, I must bear the burden of being both a worker and a student. I did an extra job as an 'Extra' in some of the TV shows and earned 500 pesos which can save me a day. I got a job as a caretaker for a condo unit, and I have to clean the bathroom and everything. In addition, I worked as a production assistant on various indie films, which gave me sleepless nights. I also had a full-time job as an HR in Makati, but I didn't stay long because it was harmful to my health. At last, I worked as a graveyard call center agent. I can only imagine the difficulties I faced in order to pursue my dream.”

“With all of this, I had no choice but to stop working and focus on my studies when I finally transferred from UP Diliman to UP Open University. This was also the time when I began my freelance journey, which helped me maintain my financial stability while I pursued my degree in Multimedia Studies. These were the times when I learned a lot about myself, helped a lot of people, and reconciled with my mother. What a blessing in disguise!”

Al Christian also shared what he learned from the course he took, which was far from his initial dream of becoming a doctor.

“Pursuing and completing Multimedia Studies allowed me to discover my creativity and explore solutions in a broken world that cries out for truth and justice day by day. So, at UPOU, I left no stone unturned in order to keep my scholarships until the end of my time at the university. I did everything I could to maintain good grades in order to qualify for an academic scholarship. Thank God, I was qualified for it, and after how many trimesters, I applied for and was accepted for another scholarship. I have many accomplishments as a freelancer that I am proud of. But none of this would be possible without the assistance of a Person above. I gave my best to finish this journey with flying colors, but God is faithful that He gave me a bonus — a Latin Honor. This is a heartfelt dedication to my mother, titas, grandparents, a few friends (my support system), and loved one.”

Part of his post includes gratitude to the people who helped him achieve success in his studies, leading to his graduation with honors as Magna Cum Laude.

“To Tatang, I know you are smiling up there. I know you are happy knowing that finally, there is someone in our family; Agngarayngay, who graduated in UP, plus, with a Latin Honor. To my Inang, even if the ticket was too expensive, we'll still celebrate here in the Philippines sooner.”

“To my mama, even if people were saying that you are blessed because even if your child didn't finish his study, he was able to help you, this is actually a compliment for me. However, this brought you to the point where you accepted that I would be unable to complete my study, and yet here we are.”

“And to those who believed in me, the people who have stayed, accepted, and loved me for who I am and for who I was. See you in the next coming weeks to celebrate this success. You are all part of this success!”

“Lastly, to my Lord who guided me all the way through. While there are many challenges along the way, here we are, Lord. We finished it together! Thank You, for provisioning me with a strong mind, heart, and body.”

"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you." - Psalm 32:7-8.”

“On to the new life I'll be living. God, be with me!”

But a year after graduating, what has Al Christian been up to?

“I am working na po full time sa SGV & Co. since Sept 2022. My role is Talent Attraction and Acquisition Associate (Talent Team/HR Department). 🙂,” he said in an interview.

On September 19, 2023, he shared his anniversary post related to his job.

It can be read, “Reflecting on one year at work, and what a journey it's been! Grateful for the journey, and the amazing people I've had the privilege to learn from. Cheers to new horizons and a brighter future ahead! 💛”

Congratulations, Al Christian! Let the flame from the gas lamp ignite in your heart and soul until it becomes a torchlight that continues to illuminate everything!

— Richard, The Summit Express

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