Rizal Gutierrez, a student with a cleft palate, may seem different at first glance. But much like all boys his age, he is as normal as one could get.
Rizal went viral after sharing his senior high school graduation photo on Sunday, June 14, and thanked everyone who supported and encouraged him in his studies. He graduated with high honors and received an Eagle Scout Award from La Consolacion University Philippines in Malolos City, Bulacan.
“Kapag para sayo, makukuha mo. Pero kung hindi naman, tanggapin mo. Matuto maghintay dahil may mga bagay na para sayo na pero oras lang [ang] mali,” Rizal wrote.
The young achiever said that he was so happy to finally graduate in high school because it was his dream since childhood. (Read: This 12-year-old Filipina ballerina is dancing her way to the world stage)
A Graduate’s Advice
In the same Facebook post, Rizal—who is planning to take BS architecture in college—gave sound advice to his fellow students and graduates.
“‘Wag matakot ituloy ang pangarap bagamat may mga tao talagang nais tayo ibaba,” he says. “Manatili lang tayong matatag para magpatuloy sa pangarap. Hayaan maging parte ng pangarap natin ‘yung mga nanghuhusga at gawin silang inspirasyon.“
According to Rizal, he was a shy student and was always bullied in school because of his condition. In an interview, he shared that his four years in junior high school were very difficult that he almost gave it all up. (Read: These men will inspire you to go after your dreams – no matter the odds!)
“Dama ko ‘yung lungkot habang isa-isa silang umaakyat at sinasabitan ng medal habang ang sa’kin naman ay sampaguita habang nakaupo pinipigil ang luha. Kita ko sa mata ng tatay ko kung gaano s’ya kadismaya at inggit sa iba,” Rizal said.
“Until pumasok na ako sa huling taon ko sa high school, nandito pa rin ‘yung frustration pero unti-unti ko itong nilabanan… Dumating din sa punto na may outing ang pamilya ko ako lang ang wala dahil kailangan unahin ang pag-aaral.“
Despite this, Rizal decided to step up his game when he entered senior high school. He says that it was during these recent years that he honed his drawing skills with the help of his teacher. He joined contests and that’s when he joined the Eagle scouts. (Read: How this ‘viral painter’ from Iloilo City touched the hearts of the online community)
“Dahan-dahan ang usad, unti-unti ang tagumpay sa mga pagkakamali natuto at lubos ang pasasalamat sa mga taong sumuporta mula una hanggang sa may nakamit na ako.“
It was Rizal’s companions in life who encouraged him to pursue his dreams. He also learned to ignore the bullies and become open-minded as he travels through life. (Read: Meet the Man Who Graduated From Law School at Age 70)
“For me, mahirap para sa iba ‘yung naging journey dahil kung sila nga ang meron nito malamang baka po hindi sila magpatuloy,” says Rizal.