The son of a sidewalk vendor and a tricycle driver graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from the University of St. La Salle (USLS) in Bacolod City with a bonus certificate from the College of Engineering and Technology as an Outstanding Student on Sunday, May 29.
Joshua Mahilum, 22, a scholar of USLS and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), attributes his achievement to God’s goodness and his mother’s insistence on his enrolling in La Salle even if they did not have the money for it.
His mother Jennifer, 47, who finished grade two, sells food to drivers who park their vehicles outside the USLS campus.
His father Ramil, 51, was an electrician but met an accident and lost his right leg. Now with a prosthetic leg he drives a tricycle near the USLS campus.
Joshua said his mother pushed him and his sister to get college degrees at USLS on scholarships because she did not want them to go through the hardships she went through.
Joshua graduated salutatorian from the Vista Alegre Elementary School and with first honors (the equivalent of valedictorian) from junior high school at the Luis Hervias National High School (LHNHS).
LHNHS did not offer the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics strand as a Senior High School major that he wanted to enroll in so his mother prodded him to enroll at La Salle.
“I was hesitant at first because first and foremost it is very, very expensive and I did not know how to interact with rich kids, but my mother was really persistent and made it possible,” he said.
He went through a rigorous selection process for his senior high school scholarship at USLS. When he was asked what a scholar should possess, Joshua said: “Attitude, because intelligence, talent, and skills are nothing without attitude and good manners.”
Four days later, he was one of those who made it as a full scholar of the Liceo De La Salle SHS, he said.
“For two years, I only paid P2 for the printing of the form before every exam,” he said.
Joshua also said during his first semester in Grade 12 he saw his classmates rushing out of the university to go to the DOST office to apply for scholarships so he went with them. When he was filling out his application form he learned that a P200 fee had to be paid and luckily one of his classmates lent him the money.
Joshua said he passed the DOST scholarship that would pay for half of his college tuition but there was still thousands of pesos to raise for the other half, which his parents could not afford.
That is when his mother reached out again for help at the USLS Admissions Scholarships Office that enabled him to obtain an academic scholarship to pay for the other half of his tuition.
He also received a monthly allowance from DOST that enabled him to buy a second-hand laptop and install a Wi-Fi connection at his house for school.
Joshua now works as an online virtual assistant to earn money to pay for his review classes for the chemical engineering board examination.
When he passes the board he wants to get a job in an industrial firm and continue serving God through his singing and multimedia work. He is a member of the Church of God Bacolod.
His sister Honney Jane Laurenia, also a USLS scholar, works as a part time teacher at the university, while his brother Jonnas and Joram are in grade school at the LHNHS.
Joshua, on his Facebook page, wrote that he always dreamt of being interviewed by reporters together with his mother and telling them how God has been good to them since the beginning.
He hopes his story reaches even just one kid stricken with poverty, at the point of giving up, and is inspired by it, Joshua said.
“My story as a beneficiary of several scholarships is a testament that yes, definitely, there is a way. There is hope even if you are poor, “he said.
“Poverty is not a hindrance to success as long as there are opportunities,” Joshua said.