SCHOOLMATES and friends can’t help but admire Rachelle V. Llones, 16, a fourth year student at Palo National High School in Palo, Leyte after she was chosen as one of the 9th Kabayan-Ten Outstanding Public School Students (TOPS) award winners for 2015.
“I am very proud of her. She is a role model to us,” said Rogellyn Lima, a school mate of Llones.
Llones said that being able to survive from super typhoon Yolanda which levelled their town last November 8, 2013 has taught her how to overcome her own fears and challenges.
“I put my trust in God. I am very thankful that my family were saved during Yolanda. That was already enough for me. Being selected as one of the outstanding public school students in the country is another miracle that happened to me,” said Llones, who is also the class valedictorian in their SPED class of 35 students garnering an average grade of 95.52 percent.
“She’s very talented. I am happy and proud of her,” said Jessica Logronio, her classroom adviser.
Aside from being the president of the Supreme Student Government (SSG), Llones is also an award-wining campus journalist and an UPCAT (University of the Philippines College Admission Test) passer.
At school, her friends describe her as “smart yet unassuming student.”
“I want to become an accountant,” Llones said.
“I reminded her to study hard so she can help her parents. Good education is always the key to her success in life,” added Socorro Ausa, the school principal.
Just like most of the students in public schools, Llones came from a poor family.
Her father, Domingo, is a carpenter while her mother, Mariafe, is a plain housewife. She has two other siblings.
“I am thankful to Kabayan Foundation for including me as one of their awardees. This is such a humbling experience,” said Llones, who is the winner for the Visayas regions on academic excellence awards.
Llones said the other finalists from Visayas also came from Yolanda-hit communities.
“They asked me about my experiences during Yolanda and the visit of Pope Francis. I told them about how I and my family were able to cope up with the typhoon and how blessed we were that Pope Francis came to see our town,” Llones said, recalling her interview and her story of courage on how they managed to live in the already-crumbling Barangay Hall and chapel after the storm.
“Our house was destroyed. My parents had to find a place for us.”
Llones also expressed gratitude to her school for her training and education, amid the destruction and the on-going recovery efforts being done inside the campus.
There are about 2,400 students in her school, ten of whom died due to the super typhoon.
During the awarding ceremony last March 16, 2015 at the GSIS Main Office in Pasay City, Llones was accompanied by her adviser, principal and mother.
The Parents-Teachers Association officials and members in her school had pitched in to help defray the cost of her and her mother’s plane tickets and other expenses so they can attend the awarding ceremony.
“This is a gift to my parents, for their love and hard work,” Llones said.
Winners of this year’s KABAYAN-Ten Outstanding Public School Students (TOPS), which is an initiative of Kabayan Noli De Castro Foundation in partnership with the Department of Education, received the Kabayan Medal and Certificate, a cash award and full tuition fee, including miscellaneous fees and monthly allowance for the entire duration of the college course.
This article has been re-published from Manila Standard Today, March 12, 2015