Founder and CEO Ryan Sta. Maria-Everist of Las Islas Filipinas Education and Visa Services commits to open opportunities for Filipinos who dream to study in Australia
MANILA, Philippines — “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Benjamin Franklin’s words ring true until today.
Ryan Sta. Maria-Everist, the 35-year-old founder and CEO of Las Islas Filipinas, is a driven businessman who started as a poverty-stricken lad.
His aspirations started coming true when a philanthropist funded his study in college. As he invested in education, he fulfilled his dreams of furthering his studies in Australia.
Realizing how important education is for his personal and professional growth, he took Franklin’s advice on education. And this thinking gave birth to his business.
Las Islas Filipinas Education and Visa Services started in Melbourne and now continues to expand in several Australian states, including Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
The company is simultaneously growing rapidly in the Philippines, branching out in Pasay, Malate, Taguig, Pasig, Dagupan, Baguio, Pampanga, Palawan, Mandaue, Cebu, Tacloban, Bohol, Dumaguete, Siquijor, Davao, Butuan and General Santos.
After many years of staying in Australia, Ryan is back in the Philippines as it partners with the Department of Education for a nationwide caravan.
Returning to the Philippines
In the middle of an exclusive interview with Philstar.com, his phone chimed with a new notification. He drew a smile as he read what appeared to be good news.
Another visa application had been approved. This meant another changed life, another achievement unlocked, another realized dream.
"Ito ‘yung masarap sa pakiramdam kasi nakatulong tayo. May mababago tayong buhay," he shared.
At present, Las Islas Filipinas Education Services receives around five visa grants every day. The education agency has grown far from when it started in December 2021, when Australia reopened its borders to international students.
With the help of his husband, Las Islas Filipinas National Director Boh Everist, Ryan realized he could actually build their own company to help aspiring individuals reach their dreams of becoming international students in Australia.
They can be an instrument in linking the Filipino youth to various colleges and universities in Down Under.
Among the company’s partner educational institutions are Laurus Education—the umbrella company that owns Hilton Academy, Paragon Polytechnic, Collins Academy, Future English and Allied Institute; Melbourne Metropolitan College; TasCollege and Charlton Brown.
“I’m very proud to say that Las Islas Filipinas don’t require financial statements and English assessments from clients because we only partner with Assessment Level 1 and 2 colleges,” he beamed.
These levels prove that certain Australian schools perform well in terms of offering quality education and professional services. The Albanese government has streamlined the immigration system, and it is important to consider the assessment level of the schools the education agencies partner with.
Through Andy Naidu, a special counsel and arbitrator in Australia, Las Islas Filipinas has sealed a partnership with Acrolex Lawyers and Consultants and LegalVision.
Acrolex Lawyers and Consultants is an Australian law firm that specializes in migration services for students and professionals who want to live and work in Australia.
Lessons from Leyte
Hailing from Bontoc, a mountainous part of Southern Leyte, Ryan was raised by different lolos and lolas, titos and titas. His mom, Perla Palomar, was only 16 when she got pregnant.
"Papasa-pasa ako," he disclosed. "I couldn’t blame my mother because she was so young then. We had a broken family so I had to live in different houses."
Ryan didn’t have close friends growing up because he had to transfer schools all the time. “So, I really dreamed of finishing school. Sa isip ko, kapag hindi ako nakatapos, baka wala nang kumupkop sa akin, wala pa akong future,” he said.
Making the experience even more difficult was the fact that good education was hard to come by in their town.
“Sa lugar namin, parang pinagdamot ang pag-aaral. Kapag mahirap ka at walang pangarap, mahihirapan ka talagang makapag-aral,” he lamented.
“I hope our country invests more in education, so everyone can have a better life. They will be open with family planning, managing their finances, and other important knowledge.”
Luckily, for college, Ryan received a scholarship from an Australian philanthropist who sent him to La Salle Benilde in Manila. Ryan’s relatives in Mandaluyong let him stay in their house.
“I had to be ambitious. I told myself that I should study at an expensive school so I could have a better future. But I had to choose the least expensive course in La Salle—and that was Business Management,” the scholar, who wished to be a doctor, said.
Aside from free tuition, his benefactor provided him with a monthly allowance of P10,000. He also took advantage of the option to work while studying—working at a fast food restaurant, a call center and as a student assistant in La Salle.
When he finally went to Australia, almost two decades after his college graduation, Ryan looked for the generous person who paved his path outside Bontoc.
He wanted to buy him dinner and thank him for teaching him about paying kindness forward. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find him anymore.
The road won’t be easy, but will be worth it
After graduation, he landed a job in the Philippine Fashion Week, honing his business knowledge and design artistry.
He then wished to further his studies in Thailand to study digital marketing, before he finally transferred to Australia. It didn’t come easy to Ryan, though. He first battled with depression when he arrived in Adelaide.
From getting into an elite school in Metro Manila to studying abroad “so when I go back to the Philippines, I could get a better job,” Ryan’s grit fueled him to aim higher.
“In Australia, you can study for just one day per week, then work on the other days. For sure, in those four days, you can save a lot of money already,” he enthuses.
He happily shares that more and more Filipino Grade 12 students are becoming interested in enrolling in Australian colleges.
He wanted more Filipinos to experience the advantage of world-class education, thus from being a student himself, he wanted to create an avenue for the younger generation.
“Don’t lose hope in your dreams. It doesn’t matter what other people tell you—that you’re ambisyoso. It will come true. Hindi man ngayon, mangyayari yan. Mag-aral nang mabuti kasi 'yang edukasyon, 'yan talaga 'yung kayamanan. And more importantly, love your parents,” he advised.
From taking a risk and using up all their savings to form Las Islas two years ago, Ryan envisions his company—which he rather calls “family”—to becoming the No. 1 education consultancy in the whole world.
He learned that there is power in positive thinking, and he will persevere to turn his dreams into reality—his ultimate goal of scaling Filipino education from Down Under.
Las Islas Filipinas Education Services is currently offering discounts to onshore applicants who want to convert their Tourist Visa to Student Visa.