WHEN Jennibeth Dayao was assigned to the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in 2013, she was focused on doing an excellent job to support her son in Pampanga.
The single mother was first stationed at the information lobbies in the Taft Campus. She then became a roving guard and part of the mail-delivery personnel.
In her first week, she learned from former housekeepers and security guards about the “Blessed Arnould Study Assistance Program (BASAP)”—a grant for working students who wish to pursue Business Management or Marketing Management degrees.
“They were all BASAP graduates, and are now employed as full-time Benildean associates,” she said. “It was so inspiring, I was encouraged to apply.”
However, Dayao—who had to put her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree journey at the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology on hold due to financial difficulties—as the second of six siblings, was sending her younger brother to college back then.
“Our parents were farmers,” she imparted. In Filipino, Dayao shared that all of them wanted to finish schooling, but the state of their finances failed to make it happen, that is why she and her siblings were left to help each other.
Just when Dayao thought she could forget her desire to go back to school, her son started asking questions about his homework. She confessed that it was difficult for her to assist at first, but soon realized that she must learn more if she wanted to properly tutor her young kid.
The security guard insisted that she still wanted to be a direct employee in Benilde, and to be able to do so, she needed a degree.
Dayao, who was then assigned at the Angelo King International Center as a CCTV operator, decided it was about time to pursue her own goals. In September of the same year she was assigned in “Benilde,” she applied for the scholarship.
“Nerve-wracking” as it was, she passed the entrance examination. Two months later, she got her acceptance letter.
However, by the end of November, her father passed on due to a heart attack. For Dayao, it seemed that it was the only thing her parent was waiting for, as he provided her courage to study again. Thus, she made it her personal mission to her dearly departed by enrolling in Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a major in Marketing Management.
DAYAO admitted that it was like going back to Grade 1. She felt the hardships of not being able to study for so long, then going back all of a sudden. She dug deep inside of her for lessons to “sink-in.”
Her batch consisted of working students aged 18 to 36, all of whom fondly called her “Miss Jhen” or “Ate Jhen.” With their patience and help, as well as positive support from professors, she was able to embrace being a learner again.
Being a security guard by day and a scholar at night was not easy. She held onto the power of time management. Her hectic schedule was as follows: Wake up at 4 a.m. to prepare her food for the entire day. Commence her 15-minute walk to the campus for the briefing. By 6, she enters the CCTV Room for her 12-hour shift. She would have her meals at the station.
When the opportunity allowed, she went over some notes, all while still being on top of her tasks. With permission from superiors and assistance from a reliever, she would leave earlier to rush to the Taft Campus in time for the 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. lectures. She would then stay up until midnight to accomplish assignments.
Still, Dayao never took her post for granted, as being a CCTV operator had numerous obligations. She made sure to do it well to avoid any untoward incidents.
Motivation, willpower, passion
WHEN the pandemic hit, her 12-hour duty was cut to 8, and classes shifted online. With more free time, she decided to open a fried chicken stand outside her dorm. That time, her wake-up came at 3 a.m. to receive fresh deliveries from the supplier. She then attended her 5:30 a.m. shift that would last until 2 p.m.
Afterwards, she rushed home to cut, marinate, and fry the chicken and open the stall, then logged-in for the night classes. Believe it or not, she resumed selling once the sessions were adjourned.
The small business helped her survive until Benilde bounced back to normal operations. She found it difficult, but overcame the challenges. Almost ready to give up, she convinced herself to carry on.
After three years of hard work, Dayao finally earned her own diploma. That’s exactly a decade since she walked into the gates of Benilde as a security guard.
The graduate expressed her utmost thanks to all who encouraged her in her journey: from her fellow security guards and housekeepers, to superiors and mentors. She believed that motivation, willpower and passion guided her. For those who wish to follow suit, she advised to not just dream, but take action.
“Never stop growing and learning,” she noted in Filipino. “Whatever your age and status in life, do not give up. Believe in God, and live the determination in your heart. Just keep trying until you achieve your goals.”
Dayao was just promoted to CCTV supervisor effective September 1, and will hold office at the Taft Campus where she was first posted. She vowed to do her usual best in her new role, while waiting for the next direct full-time position to open under the college’s Benilde Center for Emergency Management, Safety, and Security.