First-ever Badjao graduates Magna Cum Laude from MSU

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Meet Roben Abdella, the first-ever Badjao to graduate as Magna Cum Laude from Mindanao State University.

What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word "Badjao"? Most people will probably visualize fishermen or seafarers who mostly rely on the sea for a living, while there are some who sees Badjaos as scruffy-looking folks who wander in the streets, begging for money.

Because of the oppression and stigma surrounding the Badjao tribe, it is not surprising that the success of a Badjao man surprised many. Recently, news all over the country was bombarded with jubilant reports of Roben Abdella, the first ever Badjao to graduate Magna Cum Laude.

Despite being dubbed by most people as illiterate or ignorant, this 22-year old Badjao proves that this image is slowly evolving. The stereotypes against his ethnicity did not hinder Abdella from reaching his life-long dream of finishing college. Abdella is the first known from his tribe to finish college with flying colors from Mindanao State University (MSU) Tawi-Tawi.

The 22-year old is from Sama Dilaut, an ethnic group that identifies themselves as Badjao. While most of his tribesmen take fisheries technology courses, Abdella pursued a degree in Bachelor of Secondary Education,major in English to become a teacher. Every year, MSU grants scholarship exclusively for deserving students from the Badjao tribe. Abdella belongs to a group of 17 other scholars who were chosen in his batch.
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However, there are times when the study grant is not enough. Aside from the stigma surrounding his ethnicity, Abdella also struggled with poverty. Sometimes, he is forced to skip meals in order to pay for his school requirements. His family resides at Sitangkai, a small municipality in Tawi-Tawi which is 4 hours away from his school and his small allowance rarely allowed him to go home often.

In school, Abdella excelled not only in academics but in other fields as well, particularly in theater. While maintaining his scholarship in his last year in college, he also participated in MSU Tawi-Tawi's theater troupe Sining Parmata where he landed as the troupe's head writer. Aside from acting, he is also an accomplished writer who mostly writes about the discrimination against his fellow Badjaos.

Because of his accomplishments, Abdella inspired the hearts of many people, especially other Badjaos. He stressed the importance of education by encouraging his fellow tribesmen to go to school:

I encourage them to go to college because it's free. As long as they're determined, they can do it. It's all about sacrifices.

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XOLXOL: First-ever Badjao graduates Magna Cum Laude from MSU
First-ever Badjao graduates Magna Cum Laude from MSU
Meet Roben Abdella, the first-ever Badjao to graduate as Magna Cum Laude from Mindanao State University.
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