'Batang Matibay' winners triumph over hardship, model resilience to youth
Batang Matibay Bear Brand
All winners: From top left, clockwise: Ocampo, Guinahon, Teves, Miranda, Ambinang, Evangelista, Mara, Alayon, Pelonita, Solania

‘Batang Matibay’ winners triumph over hardship, model resilience to youth

Written by: Vaughn Alviar

A young girl crosses several rivers to get to her school in North Cotabato. A boy in Negros Oriental, born without hands, uses his feet to create art. In Bulacan, a girl stands out not only for her scholastic excellence but also for the tutoring she offers her older brother with autism.

Those aren’t made-up teleserye stories. Those are 3 of the 10 Batang Matibay Awardees whom BEAR BRAND feted in ceremonies on Oct. 27 at Estancia Cinema Club in Pasig City. The event was hosted by Atom Araullo, an award-winning journalist and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Batang Matibay Bear Brand
With Atom: Award-winning journalist Atom Araullo asks Batang Matibay winners about how they feel receiving the prestigious award. Evangelista pointed out that being ‘matibay’ would help young people like him overcome the challenges they’d have to face growing up.

In a partnership that began in 2018, the beloved mild drink from Nestlé Philippines and the Department of Education (DepEd) once again came up with Grades 5 and 6 pupils who modeled tibay (endurance), emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and their own unique challenges with impressive credentials in academic and extracurricular pursuits.

“Aside from delivering superior products that can help provide the nutritional needs of Filipino children, we believe that BEAR BRAND can contribute further to ensuring tibay in Filipino youth through programs such as the Batang Matibay Awards,” Russell Lipchin, Business Executive Officer of Nestlé Philippines, said in his opening remarks. 

In the current context, BEAR BRAND and DepEd both believe that the 10 awardees for the 2022 edition can inspire learners to persevere as schools transition to the new normal.

“Over the years, we have uncovered inspiring stories of tibay of Filipino youth from all over the Philippines. They are students who continue their schooling despite lacking support – those who live in areas with no access to proper infrastructure and those who have huge responsibilities on their shoulders despite their young age,” Lipchin explained. “These exemplary Filipino school kids kept moving forward to achieve a better life.”

The nomination process turned up 256 nominees, the biggest number since the awards were first given out. A panel of distinguished judges reviewed each nomination and then parried them down to the 10 that make up the Batang Matibay Awards’ fourth roster of winners. 

All winners: From top left, clockwise: Ocampo, Guinahon, Teves, Miranda, Ambinang, Evangelista, Mara, Alayon, Pelonita, Solania

“Definitely they are achievers, achievers not just in school but also in life, so they have the tibay to succeed, to pursue their education, to achieve the dreams of their future,” explained Regine Nario-Mendoza, brand manager at Nestlé Philippines, before introducing each one of the awardees. They are:

  • Isabelle Lara Miranda, Laguna. She did not let her epilepsy and experiences of bullying get her down. She stayed positive, worked doubly hard, and became an outstanding student and champion orator. Not only did her experience harden her grit, it also made her an anti-bullying advocate.
  • Matt Jayrus Evangelista, Batangas. Whenever he needs to do research for class or to speak to his mother, a single parent working abroad, Evangelista must climb a mountain to connect to the Web. He is characteristically industrious and compassionate, taking on vital chores at home and helping classmates with their tasks in school. 
  • Mark John Alayon, Capiz. He is a student-leader and community volunteer who does not let his personal difficulties – his mother is a cancer patient, his is father a construction worker – bog him down. He impressively juggles academics and community work with taking care of his mom and helping his dad raise livestock and vegetables. 
  • Xoann Kyle Ocampo, Laguna. This budding entrepreneur stepped up after his mother lost her job over the pandemic and their family couldn’t even make rent. He helped establish a snack bar for extra income. That allowed the family to get back on their feet, and even afforded him a computer to aid his studies and hone his journalistic skills. 
  • Sean Geralyn Mara, Bulacan. She maintained high marks despite having to deal with the pandemic and, on top of that, doubling as a caregiver and tutor to her older brother who has autism. She wants to be a neurologist someday to better understand her brother’s condition and offer greater care for him and others like him.
  • Daryl Ashlei Teves, Catanduanes. Teves is a certified math whiz with a golden heart. In 2020, Supertyphoon “Rolly” pummeled her hometown and destroyed their home. Despite that, she continued to excel in school. She also joined relief operations to serve her community. 
  • Cryzon Jay Ambinang, North Cotabato. Ambinang is a pupil at a last-mile school. This young Manobo is a diligent student and a reliable leader. He distributes modules to youth in his community, which has no electricity and Internet connectivity, and organizes feeding programs there. On top of all that, he manages to help his family with farm work.
  • Jessca Solania, North Cotabato. Solania is another top student from the same school as Ambinang. She must wake up at 4 am every weekday to make it to school on time, needing to cover 8 km of road, plus seven rivers and a mountain. She wants to become a teacher to offer much-needed help to her solo parent and service to her community.
  • Jerald Pelonita, Negros Oriental. He has lofty dreams and commits to working hard to achieve them, despite being a person with disability. Even though he was born without arms, Pelonita decided to learn drawing and painting with his feet. He has since won art tilts. Inspired by his personal experience, he personally takes on the advocacy against bullying.
  • Marchilyn Guinahon, Misamis Oriental. A childhood polio infection now makes Guinahon unable to walk but, her mother acting as her feet, she goes to school regularly and even performs well there. She does not fail to help at home and can craft moving poems.

Before the Oct. 27 event, BEAR BRAND visited the awardees in their respective schools to provide them with their prizes: a recognition plaque, BEAR BRAND Fortified gift packs, a P50,000 cash prize and college scholarship grant. The schools, too, received a recognition plaque, a laptop computer and BEAR BRAND Fortified gift packs.

Due to the pandemic, only four of the awardees – Miranda, Ocampo, Mara and Evangelista – made it to the gathering. Their insights during their interviews with Araullo quickly proved why they joined the elite list of Batang Matibay.

“Batang Matibay, for me, is a person who has resilience, faith and confidence to overcome the problems and challenges that come their way,” said Miranda, asked how she would define the title she won. Ocampo noted it was “someone who strives to achieve their dreams even if there are many hurdles and challenges in life.” 

Evangelista added: “It’s important to be matibay because we take this with us until we grow old. Any challenge that comes our way, we will overcome it immediately.” To Mara, being a Batang Matibay means “not giving up in any trial, pursuing what they set out to do until they succeed.”

 “If I summarize [all 256 the entries] into one word, it’s grit… The situations and the conditions that they are all in are … very diverse, but what is common across all of them … is the desire to persevere no matter how difficult it is,” Lipchin told the Inquirer. 

The 10 awardees, he added, had a “well-roundedness – academically very strong, circumstances are unique, … [and] they demonstrate the life lessons beyond the textbook and how that becomes a part of their makeup and their being,” he noted. “That, to me, would be what separates them.”

“They have different stories, but they have only one desire and determination to continue learning in life. The success you achieved today is a symbol of your tibay in achieving your dreams,” noted Nario-Mendoza in her closing remarks. “Indeed, your stories inspire us all, especially to your fellow students, your families and your communities.”

Learn more about the Batang Matibay awardees: https://www.bearbrand.com.ph/batang-matibay/kwento-ng-tibay/awards