By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY — Proud of his tribal roots, a Mangyan wore a bahag (loincloth) and walked barefoot to the stage as he received his college diploma in northern Iloilo province.
Anthony Suday from Sablayan town, Occidental Mindoro, became the first Mangyan indigenous person to earn a bachelor’s degree from Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College (NIPSC).
Photos of the 24-year-old, who has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree from NIPSC’s campus in Batad town, became viral on Facebook.
Anthony’s father took the two-day trip from Sablayan to attend the April 2 graduation ceremony at NIPSC’s main campus in Estancia town.
Anthony’s quest for a college diploma would not have been possible if not for the philanthropy of Rene Sausa, an educator and businessman from Balasan town.
“Anthony’s journey was not easy,” Sausa told Manila Bulletin in a phone interview Thursday.
Suday is one of a dozen Mangyans whom Sausa and his wife took from Mindoro to study in Balasan, where the couple runs a private school.
Suday first stayed with the Sausa family in 2011. Unlike many other Mangyans, he already knew how to read and write, making it easier for him to get along with other high school students.
During his third year in college, Suday was almost sent back to Mindoro after having a child with a Mangyan girl, whom he later married.
“Anthony broke one of our rules, but we gave him a chance. He only had a year left. We didn’t want to destroy his future,” Sausa said.
Sausa hopes Suday will apply what he learned to improve the farming methods in Sablayan and inspire other Mangyans to go to school.
“I told him that they should be proud of their culture and never be ashamed of it,” Sausa said.
Suday and his father have returned to Sablayan, where the local government offered the new graduate a job.