Art By Elaine Olaer; Layout By Gil Escorial
Art By Elaine Olaer; Layout By Gil Escorial.

Of pandemics and new normals: How have Benildean scholars coped?

With two years of the pandemic throwing a wrench in the lives of Benilde and its scholars alike, delve into the many facets of the Benildean scholarship experience.

By Dylan Kirsten Melencion, and Francis Gatuslao | Friday, 17 February 2023

Under unprecedented circumstances, the well-being of scholars is one that has always remained a crucial part of the College’s vision and mission. Has the College maintained its promises toward current and future scholars? And how have Benildean scholars reacted to the drastic change in environment? How far is the College from being able to accommodate more scholars and what are their plans to progress this goal further? 


The Benildean sat down with seven scholars and the former Director of the Center for Scholarships and Grants to discuss their varied perspectives on the state of scholarships in the College, and how they had fought to maintain their statuses, all while navigating the culture of the “new normal.”



“But what I learned from that experience is [that] it's okay, [...] I don't have to always push myself to do what I think is the “standard of the best that I can do” because I will just burn out. I just have to focus on what I can give at that time because that's my capacity for that moment. I shouldn't push myself too hard.”


The Benildean Excellence in Scholastics and Talents (BEST) Scholarship is awarded to students who have shown excellent academic performance and leadership qualities—all of

which are exemplified through ID 118 BS Interior Design student Alyssa Belda. “I've been a scholar ever since my freshman year…my whole Benildean life,” she shared in an interview with The Benildean.


“I was supposed to go to UP Diliman, but then Benilde called me and offered me this scholarship and…I don't think I would have gone to Benilde if not for this, because I didn't want to put the extra burden on my parents to pay for my education and I've always wanted to try and pursue arts and design formally, so I took the chance. That's why it was very important for me to be a scholar.”


Alyssa shared that there are not many others under the BEST scholarship but their requirements are similar to other academic scholarships. “I was able to retain my scholarship in terms of meeting retention requirements, but it was really an uphill battle. [...] The services that Benilde provides also [have] been a good help for me, before kasi sa scholarship ko, bawal mag-LOA, but now they're offering that option.”


After experiencing over a year of face-to-face classes, Alyssa emphasized the importance of keeping one’s physical, mental, and spiritual life in check within the pandemic and the online setup. She also shared her sympathy with students who contracted COVID-19 during the school term.

“I got COVID [in September 2022], so it was really hard. I can't imagine how people can have COVID and still try to focus on their school work. It was the first time I got COVID kasi and I'm really glad that there are options for us scholars, na hindi ganon ka-strict for you because it's really a tough time to be sick nowadays.”

“Especially when I went back home, I didn't have my own room as well,” Alyssa recalled. “So I had to work in the dining room and then take care of my siblings because my parents were stuck abroad. [...] Ang dami ding mga government restrictions at that time.”


On the topic of the pressure and the constant battle with motivation, Alyssa spoke about her personal support system she’s built around her friends and family and how she’s had to create her motivation instead of finding it. “If you're working, your motivation is money. For me, I'm in these organizations because my motivation is to keep my scholarship, [but] I want it to be more than that. So I think what really motivates me is what I've learned so far, all the people I've met, and how it will help me achieve my dreams in the future.”


As Alyssa contemplates her remaining terms, she says she would opt not to take any of her courses in person. “If you [asked] me maybe a year ago, with the subjects that I had before, I think I'd want to go to face-to-face classes just so I can directly interact with my professor. [...] I don't think naman na it would change much for me to maintain my scholarship requirements, [although] there are some things about interior design that [are] more efficient online.” She later clarified that it was mainly her remaining courses and difficulty commuting from home to school that pushed her away from the idea.


“I've been here a long time now and I think you should just trust the process. When I was in my [first and second year] I was really paranoid about a lot of things regarding my scholarship. But now that I've found my support system, I found my rhythm, I've learned how to manage myself more effectively and I communicate better now with my classmates and my professors.”

ABBYGAIL DELA CRUZ, Benefactor Scholar, 24

“I was given an opportunity [to become a Benildean scholar]. [...] It was given to me, and I should justify that. I should not waste it, right, because the school trusts me and they believe that I deserve it. Then I would prove to the school that I really deserve it.”


Being able to study in an institution such as Benilde is a privilege that, unfortunately, not many are able to experience. So, for ID 118 BSBA Human Resource Management graduate and former Benefactor scholar Abbygail Dela Cruz, the scholarship she received from an external company to study in Benilde is nothing short of “everything” to her. “[The scholarship] made me who I am, it helped me accomplish the things that I have right now,” she expressed in an interview with The Benildean, furthermore expounding that she would not have been able to afford a college education without her scholarship.


“A person who really values their education would really want to receive their classes or education in a way that they’re fully [immersed in person].” Like those in her situation, Abbygail also struggled with the shift to the online setting in 2020. She recounted an instance in one of her classes that resonated with her, wherein her professor stated “face-to-face interaction is the richest form of interaction.”

More than the lack of in-person collaboration, Abbygail also highlighted the other challenges that Benildean scholars faced amidst the pandemic. “[...] There are scholars that do not have the same resources that the paying students have, such as stable or good internet connection. [...] Because you have to pay for it; PCs, laptops, [and] good quality phones.” She herself also admitted that her home wasn’t the most conducive environment for learning, where familial and academic responsibilities had the tendency to overlap. 


With these realities in mind, she recognized the need for a community and safe space for scholars. Thus, alongside a group of various other Benildean scholars, she founded the Benildean Scholars Association (BSA) in 2020. Abbygail shared that she and her peers struggled to adapt as scholars, which pushed them to create an organization for those who felt the same way. “[...] Feeling namin out of place kami. Pero, we felt that, if there’s an organization for scholars, hindi nila mararamdaman ‘yun, kasi makikita nila that there are also other people who know that it’s normal to have baon, it’s normal to be scared during the viewing of grades kasi may ire-retain na scholarship.”


Another motivating factor for Abbygail was to help support Benilde’s Center for Scholarships and Grants (CSaG), which she worked closely with throughout the duration of her stay in the College. “CSaG cannot do everything. They're just there to administer the scholarship. Yes, they’re there for the students, but iba talaga ‘yung student-to-student [interaction],” Abbygail added, further cementing the need for an organization for scholars. She also expressed that outgoing CSaG Director Ms. Stella “Thea” Quintos had always expressed how much she valued the scholars and how she had always strived to be considerate of their situations. 


Beyond establishing a tangible community for scholars, BSA also encouraged its members to render service to the community via volunteer work and other activities. This is the vision Abbygail wanted to impart as her legacy as BSA’s former president, and now that she has graduated, she urged that once the scholars graduate, they should “look back and pay it forward.”

Natutunan [kong] mas maging humble, resourceful, [at] mas maging human because of Benilde. [...] Be thankful for what Benilde gave you. Since you were a product of a helping hand, since someone helped you, I hope that you can also help someone.”



“There is more to it than being just a scholar. You also make a family and learn so much from your scholarship program. Plus, you get to experience what it means to pay it forward as a scholar!”


While the biggest benefit to being a scholar is the significant reduction in tuition, being immersed in an environment of students of similar interests and situations is definitely the more worthwhile experience. This was the case for ID 118 AB Consular and Diplomatic Affairs graduate and Benildean Student Envoys (BSE) scholar Aieshah Balmori, whose passion really took root in the BSE community. “I just love the environment and the family I made in BSE,” she explained in an interview with The Benildean. “I was always inspired by my fellow envoys and I wanted to be there for them as their board member.”


Like many of her batchmates, Aieshah experienced the first half of her college life in person, while the second half was spent online. Pre-pandemic, she found comfort and motivation in being around her peers and being able to help them in person. “You can see your friends and hang [out] in Plaza V or Greenway, even do homework together there or in the LRC. Everything is simpler and better when it’s physical.” She also added that it was easier to maintain her scholarship due to the convenience of being able to communicate with her advisers in real time.  


She highlighted the drastic changes she had to adapt to in terms of lessons, activities, and classes in the online modality in general. While she found it easy to adapt to the new setting, she was still understandably disappointed by the shift to online learning. 

On the topic of retaining scholarships, she and her fellow BSE scholars were able to do so easily, as she stated that there were “fewer [academic] requirements now than before.” She also commended the College in terms of how they handled their scholars, claiming that she was able to witness Benilde’s generosity and accommodation firsthand, not only as a BSE scholar, but also as a former BSA vice president.


“CSaG really cares for its scholars, and I’m so grateful for just how understanding they are and how much they take our concerns seriously,” furthermore sharing that she always felt “safe and comfortable” in her scholarship knowing she could rely on CSaG and her BSE adviser to assist her with any concerns.


The passion and love she felt for being a scholar was apparent, despite the added workload and extracurriculars she had to deal with throughout her stay in Benilde. In fact, her dedication was so infectious that she managed to convince her own brothers to become scholars as well. 


She encouraged scholars to keep moving forward with a message, “There is more to it than being just a scholar. You also make a family and learn so much from your scholarship program. Plus, you get to experience what it means to pay it forward as a scholar!”


“It’s really important to me kasi hindi ako makapag-aral kung wala kong scholarship. Hindi ako makapunta sa dream course ko if I didn’t have [a] scholarship.”


Since her freshman year in 2019, giving back to the College has always been at the forefront of AB Animation student Mercy De Felix’s educational stint in Benilde. “I guess ‘yung purpose din kasi nung scholarship, based din sa experience ko with other [organizations], is more on service din talaga. Since you’re able to go to college basically for free, ‘yung pinaka needed sa’yo is parang a way to give back to the College, kaya nga merong kami service hours,” she remarked in an interview with The Benildean.


Even under the strain of the pandemic and online class, her resolve toward service was what had been most affected. “‘Yung pinaka significant difference is siguro ‘yung service hours. Since when it was F2F, pupunta talaga kami sa mga seminars, meron talaga mga speakers in front of you. Mas interactive siya.”

“‘Yung [webinars] parang mahirap din, siyempre kasi parang hindi kamo masyado maramdaman ‘yung passing of time or ‘yung impact mo talaga as a scholar—’yung purpose mo of serving the College.” Mercy eventually joined BSA, wanting to heed the call of service toward others and the College for giving her the scholarship. She started depending on the organization for a sense of direction and purpose, especially as things around her were beginning to get hectic. 


She shared that the pressure to excel also comes from her classmates and fellow scholars, as being surrounded by such talented and passionate people inspires her to do better. But she clarified that she is still her harshest critic, and it is her own expectations of herself that push her forward the most. Regardless kung may scholarship ako o hindi, kailangan ko pa ring gawin ‘yung best ko.”


She pointed out that she’s blessed to have a family that doesn't pressure her and that she’s prepared to face the risks that come with pursuing an art degree in the Philippines. “‘Yung tuition fee namin is [something that] hindi ko talaga ma-afford ‘yan, hindi ma-afford ‘yung family ko,” adding that others don’t typically have such supportive families so she cannot be more grateful.

“Cherish this opportunity well, not everyone is given [the] opportunity to study in private school na magandayung facilities, okay ‘yung mga profs, okay ‘yung trato ng mga students,” Mercy emphasized, adding that the most crucial thing to figure out as a scholar is when to rest and when to be a student.

THEA JOYCE VISTOR, Pierre Romançon Grant Scholar, 21

“I hope we [Benildean scholars] all never lose sight of that kind of core, and [that we] never lose sight of the scholarship that we're given, [and that we] always know that we're in a unique position to not just think about ourselves, but also other people beyond our reach.”


As opposed to regular students, scholars are faced with more responsibilities and challenges in order to continue sustaining a work-life balance. However, for ID 119 AB Consular and Diplomatic Affairs student and Pierre Romançon Grant (PRG) scholar Thea Joyce Vistor, she accepted these difficulties gracefully and willingly. In an interview with The Benildean, she described that a scholar must be able “to encompass both the challenge and the responsibility to be academically excellent and to be of service to, not just the school, but even to people beyond the institution.”

Thea actively sought out a scholarship for the purpose of helping her family out, despite her parents’ reluctance to place that responsibility on her shoulders. “[...] But it was really just out of my desire to help them out, because hindi biro ‘yung tuition sa Benilde, and kahit na I know that they would always say that they can provide for me, I also wouldn't want to take too much advantage of what they can do for me,” she shared. 

Moreover, Thea’s perspective was heavily influenced by the gratitude she felt for being in her “unique position” as a scholar. To keep motivated, she maintained a positive outlook on pressure and expectation, especially those that allow you to grow and tap into your highest potential. “So what I do [to cope] is, amongst all the expectations that are geared towards me as a Benildean scholar, I would always just filter out what is a healthy expectation that will allow me to grow, allow me to mature, and allow me to stretch and exercise [myself],” adding that these healthy pressures keep her from becoming static or stagnant in life. 


However, what truly kept her grounded during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic was the fact that she was not alone in acclimating to a new kind of environment. While the experience was oftentimes “daunting,” she knew that everyone was trying to cope and manage at the time. Yet, try as they may to thrive and succeed, Thea implored her fellow scholars to know that settling for what is “enough” is not failing. “We've always been accustomed to [a culture] of not settling or never settling for less. [...] We forget to get settled, to calm down, to know when good enough is already enough, [and] to know that you can also have time and space for you to grow just as a normal Benildean college student has,” she asserted.


“It's okay to live [on] a day-to-day basis. [...] And if that's just showing up in class, reading your material, and being able to do your craft, well, then, I believe that alone is enough. We've become so hard on ourselves that we've always thought that we are always in a perpetual state of fixing,” Thea underscored, imploring her fellow scholars to look back at the past two years of the pandemic and how they thrived during “the ups and downs and detours of life.” 

“I think to feel satisfied would not feel perfect, but I believe it will allow us to let ourselves settle in every situation we can be,” she concluded.



“My positive outlook in life is that being a scholar will allow me to work with a variety of people, I will be able to expand my horizons, boost my academic achievement, and open doors to new learning experiences.”


Studying under the School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies (SDEAS) as a scholar has been an incredible journey and opportunity for ID 117 Bachelor in Applied Deaf Studies student Roque Louie C. Alac. “As a Deaf scholar, it is my responsibility to complete my studies and to work diligently toward my academic goals,” Louie shared in an email interview with The Benildean. Like many other scholars, Louie must maintain a set GPA and must not receive any failing marks, among other requirements.


“I was able to retain my scholarship by studying with a great deal of enthusiasm and determination.” He added that “[it was] through the support of my family, [the] Student Grants Office, and [the] School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies, [that] I was able to meet the retention requirements.” 


Louie shared that after studying in Benilde for almost three years prior to the pandemic, the sudden transition to the online setup was a challenge for him, “[...] I prefer face-to-face classes. I don’t have to worry about [having a] weak internet connection.” When asked how he had tackled the many challenges of the transition, he stated that “having an optimistic outlook gave

me the confidence that I can achieve my goals, be happy, and fulfilled,” citing his optimism and positivity to be major driving forces behind his motivations as a student and a scholar.


“I found the current online modality very challenging because I must rely on myself to learn the materials, as well as the learning system,” he continued. “I was swamped with work, studies, evaluations, seminars, and other online commitments. This was aggravated when I lost my mother. However, I learned to accept reality and found healing through the help of others.”


Further exemplifying his infectious brand of positivity, Louie imparted his advice to fellow Benildean scholars, “I believe in you and want nothing more than for you to achieve your goals and aspirations. To me, you exude positivity and intelligence. Keep your spending in check. These are challenging times. You hope for success and contentment, and you try to fill your time with productive pursuits.”


He also shared that students should not be afraid to pursue their dreams, and above all things, “keep praying and seek what will make you happy in life.”

Mark, SPG-B Scholar, 23

“What happened was ‘di na nga natuloy because of sadyang budget cuts, so they couldn’t go through with it. Siguro, yeah, I took it hard. Pero, parang I still wanted to press on [and] give it a chance [that] baka after this term, magkakaroon ulit ng more budget for scholars, baka bumalik ‘yung scholarship.”


Mark, who opted to remain anonymous, was awarded the Student Publications Grant-Benildean (SPG-B) for his service as a member of the Benildean Press Corps (BPC) right before the pandemic hit. “It was supposed to be given early, if I'm not mistaken. Pero since nag-hit bigla ‘yung pandemic, nagkaroon ng budget cuts. It took a while bago ako ma-approve for scholarship, and even then, originally, parang around 60 or 70% ata dapat ‘yung tuition, pero naging 20% lang sa ‘kin because of the budget cuts,” Mark ranted in an interview with The Benildean.


Mark joined BPC during the second term of A.Y. 2019 to 2020 as a photographer and was regularized as a member the term after. However, the third term of that academic year was unfortunately canceled in favor of the Benildean Online Learning Term (BOLT), and thus, they were not given the subsidy.


“They gave us a heads up na not everyone who [was promised] scholarships might be getting them. [...] So, [the first term] after BOLT, I was not given a scholarship, mainly because nag-Leave of Absence (LOA) din ako. [...] Pero it was given na nung second term of the online classes, so school year 2020 to 2021.”


Mark was given a scholarship for only one term, and stayed with the organization for two more terms before leaving his position. “Originally, when I joined BPC, other than to further my skills as a photographer, one of the reasons I joined then is because of the scholarship.”


“I wanted to start dorming sa Manila at the time because I live in Las Piñas. [...] It takes two hours going to [DLS-CSB] and then two [more] hours going home. I wanted the scholarship sana para the money that we do save from the scholarship, we can use to help, like for rent for a small apartment near Manila.”

Mark continued by sharing that he also wanted to aid his parents financially, as they had both taken hits to their salaries and businesses. “...We can afford the education, pero it’s not like the money comes easy to us.”


“It wasn't easy to keep up with the online modality. Kasi at the time when the pandemic first hit, wala kaming proper internet connection at home. It’s less of not being able to afford it and more of wala pang linya [ng internet] sa area namin. [...] I relied on data so magastos; laging nauubos agad ‘yung data.”


When asked how they felt after losing their scholarship, Mark expressed his disappointment since he felt his service to the school through BPC was deserving of a subsidy. “It was hard for me to sort of take in, [that] I'm not getting a scholarship when I was putting in almost the same amount of work as my other colleagues at the time.”


“I didn't grow [resentful] naman kasi I get it, like [nagkaroon ng] budget cuts, and it's very unfortunate. And I was honestly very touched and humbled by Ms. (Dayanara Cudal) at the time because she really fought for me to retain my scholarship,” Mark shared, highlighting the efforts of the Student Publications Unit (SPU) in advocating for the scholars. Ms. Cudal was the BPC Publications Coordinator and OIC Head of SPU at the time.


Mark went on to share that while the College did make some adjustments in order to accommodate students, such as the implementation of the 9.9 or INC (incomplete) grading system—which allowed students to submit requirements for their courses even after the term had ended—he was disappointed in their overall response.

“Despite all these pleas and calls for help, we had to experience a certain academic adviser who was talking down on students who couldn't afford to continue [their education in the] College despite the pandemic, saying things like, ‘Kung wala naman pala kayong proper resources, ba’t pa kayo nag-enroll sa [DLS-CSB]?’ [...] It added salt to the wound, na parang it just made us all feel [that] we were being left behind talaga.”

“If you still have the scholarship and you have the means of maintaining it, by all means, keep it pa rin,” Mark emphasized. “Having a scholarship is a really big privilege, but at the same time, especially if you have enough privilege to forgo a scholarship, you don't have to set aside your own personal mental health, and you don't have to set aside your own academic performance just so you could maintain a scholarship.”

  1. STELLA “THEA” QUINTOS, Outgoing Director of Center for Scholarships and Grants

“I really believe in Benildean students. And I really believe that our scholars can bring us a long, long way. When I mean ‘us,’ I mean the name of Benilde. [...] I could not be prouder to leave Benilde having known many batches of students in my 16 years.”


While much of the work and effort are still credited to the Benildean scholars themselves, it’s people like Ms. Ma. Stella “Thea” Quintos, the outgoing Director for Benilde’s Center for Scholarships and Grants (CSaG), who worked just as hard behind the scenes to ensure the scholars’ success. So when the COVID-19 pandemic had hit in 2020, Ms. Quintos and the rest of CSaG had to work twice as hard to secure the ongoing scholarships at the time. 


“The first thing CSaG, well, SGO [Scholarships and Grants Office] at that time, was to really secure that we would [ensure the graduation of] the current scholars. And that was the commitment the College had immediately,” Ms. Quintos shared in an interview with The Benildean, adding that the incoming frosh students from ID 120 whose applications were already accepted and processed were also given the opportunity to receive scholarships. She also highlighted that CSaG did their best to secure gadgets such as tablets, keyboards, and wifi for scholars who responded to the department’s survey on the matter.

On the topic of scholars’ population, Ms. Quintos disclosed that by 2020, Benildean scholars made up approximately 16% of the College’s overall student population. This goal was in line with De La Salle Philippines (DLSP), who issued a challenge to all La Salle schools in 2013 to ensure that 20% of their students were scholars. Ms. Quintos also shared that as of the third term of A.Y. 2021-2022, Benilde only reached the 13% mark, and unfortunately, CSaG does not really see this number going up in the following terms, as their current goal is to ensure that the delayed ID 118 and 119 students graduate as soon as possible while retaining their scholarships.


“For scholarships, there is an overall budget, just to simplify things, and this is divided across all the scholarships and across all the degree programs. Because there was a delay for the [ID] 117, 118, and 119 graduations, we could not take in new scholars. And it’s not the equivalent of when a scholar graduates, you put in another scholar. It doesn’t work that way, eh,” Ms. Quintos clarified. 


“We work with a budget. [...] So, the reduction in our percentage is really because scholars are not graduating as they should have been graduating. And we cannot take in new scholars—not as many as we want,” she added that she would not be surprised if the percentage of scholars population reduces to 11% or 12%.


Despite the reduction in the scholars’ population, however, Ms. Quintos revealed that the College has lost only a few scholars throughout the course of the pandemic, mainly due to CSaG’s efforts to maintain their students’ statuses. This holds true according to statistics from Benilde’s Finance Department, which reveals that there were 1,381 scholars enrolled in the first term of A.Y. 2019-2020, which only decreased to 1,314 scholars in the following term. For BOLT, however, only 662 scholars were able to enroll. 1,367 scholars were enrolled in the first term of A.Y. 21-22, with the numbers gradually decreasing with 1,284 scholars in the second term and 1,168 in the third.


On the other hand, another policy reform that CSaG implemented during the pandemic was to allow scholars to take a Leave of Absence (LOA) and to enroll in at least nine units per term, which was not previously not allowed. CSaG had also gone as far as to encourage scholars who received two incomplete grades to take a LOA, which would allow them to “mentally and physically rest from the rigors of online learning.” Ms. Quintos highlighted that, “Those who took our advice [to take a LOA] came back [to school] and are doing well. Those who did not eventually lost their scholarships,” further underscoring that LOAs were a big factor in maintaining the status of scholars in the pandemic.

When asked if CSaG would once again offer full scholarships moving forward, Ms. Quintos explained that not all of them would be offered in full, citing that the College is still trying to recover the finances lost in the pandemic. She explained that much of the costs were caused by the number of students who were delayed to graduate, as the College would have to pay for their miscellaneous fees per term. “When you multiply that [cost] by thousands of scholars, hundreds of scholars, that’s a huge cost to the College. [...] So, in a way, we were actually advancing the budget just to graduate the current scholars. So, it will also take us some time to recover and that will affect the number of slots [for scholarships].”


Despite the difficulties and delays on all ends, Ms. Quintos will continue to look back fondly at her time in Benilde, sharing that she wishes that the Benildean scholars would continue to succeed and “fly.” 


“I’m leaving Benilde after 16 years, and I really believe in Benildean students. And I really believe that our scholars can bring us a long, long way. When I mean ‘us,’ I mean the name of Benilde. But Benildeans in general are such talented, wonderful students. I could not be prouder to leave Benilde having known many batches of students in my 16 years.” 

With reports from Jade Clarito and Albert Villanueva