Batch 2013 valedictorian and full academic scholar Delfin Villafuerte is paying it forward. After graduating cum laude last month, Villafuerte shunned all corporate offers to teach public school children for the next two years.
“I’ve signed a contract recently with an NGO (non-government organization), I’ll be teaching in a public school for my next two years. I’ll be teaching Grade 3 students. We’re the first batch also. For the first year, it will just be around Quezon City,” Villafuerte said.
Finishing with a degree in BS Management Engineering and BA Major in Economics (Honors Program), his passion for teaching started during a leadership training where they taught around 5,000 children. “Dito ko narealize na mayroon pala akong profound sense of nationalism. Ako rin nagulat na sobrang mahal ko pala ang Pilipinas. I was willing to cut, kahit sobrang babaw, I cut class for the first time to teach kids. Doon ko na realize na maybe what I really want to do is to teach kids.”
Villafuerte entered the Ateneo in 2009 with Management Engineering but eventually added Economics (Honors Program) to his degree. “I entered Ateneo first with ME because in high school I was really math savvy. I really liked math and I was inclined to taking a business course. My friend told me to take ME, it’s like the perfect mix of business and math… For the second sem, they gave me ECO 102, the first course of economics. I found it easy. I breezed through economics…Eventually, I found it was natural for me to enjoy economics. I really loved it. So, (I thought I) might as well finish ECO H.”
Graduating valedictorian from La Salle Greenhills (LSGH), Villafuerte found it easy to adjust to the Ateneo because the “core values” of both schools are very similar. In his four years in college, he described his entire journey in the Ateneo as very “humbling” because of the many amazing people he met. “First year pa lang, when I entered my math class, people who were sent to international competitions were there, the valedictorians and the salutatorians were there. It was so amazing.”
“What the Ateneo taught me was to find myself. Usually you think when you find yourself, it’s what you want to do in life, what you want to achieve. But I realized that in your search for yourself, more often than not or even always, it’s about other people,” he shared.
Like most students, Villafuerte admitted not liking studying at home and preferred doing non-academic stuff at home. “Academically, as much as I can, I learn everything in class so when I get home, usually it’s just org. (extra-curricular) work. In class, I get to observe everything so when I review, it just takes a few minutes to read the notes and you’re refreshed already. Yun ‘yung secret weapon ko compared to others who don’t listen in class and just study at home.”
Aside from academics, Villafuerte also excelled in extra curricular activities and was a student leader. Being the president of the Management Engineering Association (MeA) last year, he implemented reforms that helped a lot of small Filipino entrepreneurs. He enacted a 3-year development plan where they established new systems and new foundations in the organization. Along with the logo, the core competencies and advocacies of the org changed. “We partnered with a micro finance institution, KMBI, and we implemented a simplified accounting system for sari-sari store owners. Right now, we’re piloting it. It will eventually be implemented by 250,000 store owners nationwide,” Villafuerte shared.
The announcement of his having been selected as valedictorian turned out to be the sweetest yet most unexpected moment of his college life. He received a call from the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs asking him to go to the office. “I was thinking, why would he want to talk to me the day after the interview (screening of all candidates for valedictorian). So it was either good news or they hadn’t decided yet so they wanted a second screening,” he said to himself. “When I entered the office, Sir Calasanz congratulated me and said ‘You have been chosen as the batch valedictorian.’ Nawala ako sa sarili ko. Not really nawala but it became so surreal. It felt like a dream. I teared up a little, I had to catch my breath, and I had to sit down. Actually, even until now. It hasn’t totally sunk in yet.”
Feeling grateful for this achievement, Villafuerte said he simply acted naturally during the last four years. “ I always commited 100 percent .” His family has always been his inspiration throughout the years. “They have been supportive ever since kinder. They have always been there taking videos of every event that I’ve had.”
While life after graduation may be tough, he shared that he most looks forward to seeing his batch mates pursue their careers, their dreams and fight for the things that disturb them deeply. “My friends put it really well that now is the time to be a Filipino. So many young people are passionate about the Philippines and about building a nation. I’m really excited to see the Philippines in a totally new prosperous era.”
His advice to his fellow Ateneans? “Dream big. Never let go of your dreams because this dream is who you are. And if you let that go, you might lose yourself. No matter where you go, panindigan ang desisyon. Magtaya, pumili, angkinin. Always make the Ateneo proud, make the Philippines proud, Villafuerte said.