Six years ago, Princess Desire Abao dreamed of wearing a dentist’s white coat. But instead of examining teeth, she will soon be looking at circuits and electrical connections.
The jump from dentistry to electrical engineering may seem far-fetched for some, but for Princess, it’s all about helping others and her community.
She has something to show for it, too, as she finished magna cum laude from Cebu Institute of Technology-University (CIT-U) last month and is now preparing for the engineering board exam this September.
“That has always been my dream, my passion. I wanted to become a dentist so I can help others, but I guess now I will have to do that in a way that is different from what I had initially planned,” the 20-year-old Bohol native said.
After taking her exams in a few months and, by God’s grace, passing, Princess said she’s even considering taking up Law.
Princess moved with her parents to Cebu 13 years ago to start elementary school. Her parents separated when she was in fourth grade, leaving her mother Girlita to raise her alone. Her mother worked as an administrative assistant at a mobile X-ray clinic while selling beauty products on the side to help make ends meet. Her father also sent financial support from abroad, albeit intermittently.
Following a full year in pre-dentistry and despite enjoying a presidential scholarship, her family asked her to consider transferring schools and switching courses due to financial difficulties.
While some of her relatives pitched in, her expenses in dental school were bound to grow more expensive and harder to cover.
“I enjoyed free tuition because of the presidential scholarship, but I realized it could be taken from me anytime I perform below the standard and that was the risk I was afraid of,” Princess said.
In 2014, she enrolled in CIT-U and took up Electrical Engineering because, aside from a relatively more affordable tuition, she had uncles on her mother’s side who are engineers.
It wasn’t an easy transition, though. She and her mother argued for months and none of it felt right to her. Princess went through the motions for some time until she realized her mother’s sacrifices in the past would all go to waste if she didn’t give her all moving forward.
“That was when I realized it wasn’t really about me. I felt really bad for my mom when I saw her cry and this was such a common thing back then. I wanted to help her and that motivated me to excel,” Princess said.
In 2017, AboitizPower subsidiary Therma Visayas, Inc. (TVI) chose Princess as among the beneficiaries of its purposive college scholarship program, which is among its ongoing partnerships with the Aboitiz Foundation.
Although Princess has been an achiever since she was young, her journey through college was not an easy one. Everyday for five years, she had to endure the commute from their house in Consolacion town to her school in Cebu City, which are about 23 kilometers or more than an hour’s ride apart.
Last year, she was also diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age that may cause them to have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormones. Princess shared that the condition gave her anxiety, which almost led to depression.
But her latest milestone proves that no hurdle is greater than a determined heart.
God gave me the strength to be where I am now. Our struggles have taught me to stay strong and to keep going despite the challenges. Everybody faces hurdles and I’m just blessed mine are not as bad as others have.
Princess was among 19 college scholars supported by TVI and Aboitiz Foundation who will be graduating this year. Joining her is fellow CIT-U magna cum laude graduate Reginald Luther Sinay. Four other scholars will march as cum laude during their graduation in May.
Aside from the scholarship, the college scholars will also receive support for review and board exam expenses.
Princess may have traded her white coat and dental tools with safety goggles and electrical equipment, but her dream of helping others remains the same.
I hope that one day I will also be able to contribute to the education of children just like me.
TVI’s purposive scholarship program began in 2016 while its high school financial assistance program was launched in 2014. These programs aim to give financially challenged but deserving students an opportunity for a better future by securing their education.