Young achiever Aldrean Paul Alogon missed an important phone call during Holy Week. It was his father Alner, a farmer, who answered the phone and learned the good news: that Aldrean had been accepted into US liberal arts school Wesleyan University on the highly competitive Freeman Asian Scholarship.
"Hindi talaga ako makapaniwala kasi ang daming kumuha noon. The fact na ako ang nakakuha, napaka-heartwarming at napaka-unbelievable. Parang sasabog 'yung heart ko kasi hindi ako makapaniwala," the 18-year-old from Sigma, Capiz told GMA News Online.
"Thankful po ako, very joyful kasi it was all-expenses paid. Wala nang babayaran 'yung family ko... World-class education na nga tapos libre pa, win-win talaga," he added excitedly.
Aldrean just graduated from the Philippine Science High School-Western Visayas Campus and was chosen as one of only 11 "exceptionally able students" from certain Asian countries—the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam—to benefit from the coveted grant.
He plans on achieving a double degree in physics and economics at the prestigious academic institution.
Aldrean also admitted that he's becoming nervous about the prospect of being away from his family and getting out of his comfort zone. However, he added, his motivation is greater than his fears.
"This isn't for myself. I'm doing this for the people who also dream but were not given the resources because they were born poor," he said.
'Not just for the wealthy'
Aldrean recalls his culture shock when he entered high school a few years ago.
"Coming from the farm, coming from a very rural place, ang daming adjustment na kailangan gawin kasi 'yung mga kaklase ko, they came from various prestigious backgrounds," he said.
His leadership potentials, however, were not kept secret for long. He proudly and fully embraced his identity as the son of a farmer and became vice president of the student council during his senior year.
"Gusto ko po kasi talaga pong ipakita na the Philippine Science High School isn't just for the smart and the wealthy, kasi parang ganun po ang view ko sa kanila noon. I want to show to the few people like me na mayroon ding magre-represent sa kanila," Aldrean said.
During high school, he also found himself immersed in debate and astrophysics, which brought him to international competitions—while keeping his eyes open and turned to social issues in his surroundings: he also poured his time and effort in a family planning and urban gardening seminar in a community near his school.
His mom as his inspiration
The scholar has endless adoration for his mother, Erna, who was a school principal. Her passing in 2015 due to cancer left a very deep void in Aldrean's heart, but it is also where a new seed of inspiration grew.
"When she passed away I had to be very independent at saka very open-minded. My mother was very loving of her siblings. Sa anim sa kanila, siya lang 'yung professional... nakuha ko po 'yung mindset ng nanay ko na kailangan ko po maging selfless kasi napakarami na pong ibinigay sa akin ng Diyos. Biniyayaan ako nang marami," Aldrean said.
"Iniisip ko po lahat ng nangyayari sa akin hindi lang blessing sa akin kundi para ma-bless din po 'yung iba," he added.
Asked about his mantra in life, the incoming Wesleyan freshman said that he firmly believes in the power of two things: God and education.
Aldrean added that if one could learn how to dream, many opportunities would open up.
He shared that building networks and connecting to organizations such as CAUSE Philippines was one key that helped him pursue higher education abroad.
The scholar hopes of returning home to the Philippines equipped with the knowledge and experience he needs to effectively spark change.
"I'm there to learn and I'm there to acquire knowledge to come back here... I'm thinking of becoming a civic engagement person or a person in the sciences na ang focus talaga is the grassroots," he said.
Aldrean will be leaving for Connecticut next week. His father promised to skip a day of work on the farm to send him off on his new journey.
"Excited na excited nga po siya. Kahit wala kaming pera, sasamahan niya raw po ako papuntang NAIA kasi last na daw namin 'yung pagkikita in four years," he said.
You and your family inspire us, Aldrean! Keep the dream alive! — BM, GMA News