Student achieves dreams with help from SM Foundation

A 2009 graduate of Iloilo National High School – Regular Class dreamt of being an accountant and she had all the reasons to. Having a fun and fruitful childhood, Jessica Aliana Habunal considers this stage the happiest period of her life.

Being the only child was no reason for her to be lonely as he had her cousins with her growing up. She got to experience both city life and farm life, which she considers a big contribution to how she sees life. That life’s hardship should not be a hindrance but an opportunity.

Jessica’s father is a farmer while her mother is a housewife. Her parents lived separately because her father need to stay in Capiz to take care of the farm of her grandparents and she only gets to see him every vacation, while her mother stays in Iloilo City to take care of her.

Driven by her dream to be successful in life, Jessica thought of ways to be able to go to college. Back in Iloilo National High School, the guidance counselor's office posts different scholarships for which graduating students can apply for college. One of those scholarships is the SM Scholarship program. She decided to take the exam of SM Foundation and passed. After passing the interview and other requirements, she became an SM Scholar.

Habunal took Bachelor of Science in Accountancy at Central Philippine University. “Aside from the financial help, SMFI also motivated me to do well in my studies. My scholarship was one of my inspirations to study harder and pass my subjects amidst the rigorous retention policy of my course”, she shares.

True enough, Jessica Habunal graduated Summa Cum Laude at Central Philippine University in 2013. The same year, she took and passed the CPA licensure examination.

Jessica Aliana Habunal

Grateful is an understatement for how Jessica appreciates what SM Foundation has done for her life. She indeed achieved her dream to be a CPA and is able to do the things she loves to do like traveling, being with friends, and most especially, sharing her blessings with her family.

She is currently working as an Accountant at Esmeres Outsourcing and Consultancy Inc. and works as a part-time teacher at Central Philippine University, College of Business and Accountancy

“In some way, I still thank God that I was not born to a wealthy family. Poverty was not a hindrance for me, but rather an inspiration to do better in life. Because of our social status, I was able to qualify as an SM scholar and meet the amazing people behind the Foundation, especially Tatang (referring to the SM’s founder, the late Henry Sy, Sr.), Jessica says.

In fact, her most memorable experience as an SM scholar is during the presentation of graduates for her batch and she had a chance to speak and share her story in front of Tatang himself and her fellow scholars.

Jessica shares a part of her favorite poem since high school entitled, Don’t Quit by Edgar A. Guest.

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit

You can never tell how close you are

It may be near when it seems afar

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

"My message to the youth today is, do not let your weaknesses destroy you, acknowledge those weaknesses and turn them into strengths”, Jessica says.

Just like Jessica, a number of scholars in Iloilo City are now settled in different fields of expertise and pay it forward to their families and the community, in their own little ways.

SM Foundation (SMFI), the corporate social good arm of the SM group, awarded new scholarship grants to more than 300 college freshmen for SY 2022-2023 last August 27.

Of the more than 300 new SM scholars, 40% are from the National Capital Region and 60% are from the provinces across the country. This makes the total current number of SM college scholars to more than 1,300.

Under the flagship program of SM Foundation, scholars enjoy full tuition and miscellaneous fees subsidy. They also receive monthly stipends and are exposed to various enrichment activities and job opportunities at SM malls during their semestral or Christmas breaks. After graduating, they also have a chance to land their dream jobs in companies within SM.

The program covers the following fields of study: Computer Science, Information Technology, Engineering (Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Computer, and Electronics), Education (Elementary and Secondary); Accountancy, and Financial Management, among others.

SMFI, through its Scholarship program, provides deserving and qualified students with access to college education and technical-vocational studies since 1993. To date, SMFI has produced more than 8,000 scholar-graduates.

Through SM Foundation, Inc., donated school buildings in Iloilo City (Ticud Elementary School, Nabitasan Elementary School, Montes Elementary School, N. J. Ingore Elementary School, and Bo. Obrero Elementary School) have been utilized and have molded students from these communities, better their lives with a conducive learning environment.

SM’s late founder Henry Sy, Sr., believed that education is the best defense against poverty. SM Foundation provides college and technical-vocational scholarship grants as well as access to primary education through school buildings to help the youth achieve their dreams.