LAST MIDWEEK, I shared with you through this column about the eye-opening experience I had when I attended the San Mateo Community College graduation here in Northern California.

My own daughter Katrina was among the graduates as she decided to take this route before going to California State University to complete her bachelor’s degree without having to be saddled with student loans as she invests in her own education.

I shared how my husband and I were humbled by what we witnessed during the graduation ceremony. We saw so many families there— as in the whole three-generation family, beaming with pride because for many of them, their student was the first ever in the family to have an associate’s degree. Most of the other family members were lucky to finish high school.

Then there were those who looked like they were the parents or the grandparents, when in fact they were the graduating students. The wrinkles in their faces would tell a lot about how the decades of struggles and being “OP” (Out of Place” ) did not daunt them from pursuing their dream to get a higher education.

There were also those young mothers who went up the stage with their babies with them and you could see the pride and the joy in their faces for achieving the seemingly insurmountable challenge of raising small kids, working and going to college. Their smiles and tears of joy radiated the hope that they feel that they could now offer their kids with opportunities better than what they had because they now have the competitive edge of an associate’s degree.

There were also people of different races coming from different countries of the world, donning their”national outfit” or symbols with pride, excited to gratefully give back to their adoptive country that is the United States of America — the nation that immigrants built.

I also wrote in my midweek column how much hope I President Donald Trump and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could attend these graduation ceremonies so they could understand the importance community colleges in building a stronger, more prosperous better America.

In this way, they could fully support these community colleges instead of cutting funding and subsidies for them. This will help them truly get to know the true core of the heart of America — which is beating, pounding deep inside these people young and old, working so hard to fulfill the American dream.

I got so many responses from our kababayans via email, social media and through the Asian Journal online edition.

One such Filipino is Jun Obrique, a proud father whose letter I will share to inspire Filipino-American families struggling in America.

[Editor’s note: It has been edited and condensed for clarity]

I have two daughters who just graduated from from Cal State University in Los Angeles with both having achieved the highest honor of Summa Cum Laude.

Your article “Honoring Community Colleges” reminded me where their journey had started in the first place.

My eldest daughter Melanie, after spending a year in UC Irvine, has made a bold decision to transfer to local community colleges. Long Beach City College was the place chosen due to proximity from our house.

My other daughter Janelle Obrique, after graduating from Millikan High School, has made a bold decision to join her older sister in the same school. 

I couldn’t understand at the beginning what was the rationale [behind] their decision. But I understand now that both of my daughters have made an outstanding move.

They knew the pros and cons, considering the cost of tuition fees of going to community colleges instead of universities was an enormous burden for me and my wife.  Another factor of going to community college is being able to stay at home instead of paying rent for dormitories. 

The first two years in Long Beach City College were purely prerequisite aiming toward a nursing career.  I have [reminded] them that God will be the guiding force together with their parents whenever the help is needed.

After completing their prerequisites,  they moved forward to pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing. In the course of their journey, they had to conquer and face the first challenges head-on.

The first challenge was to go under the rigorous selection of only 50 students for the nursing program.  The odds of being one of them was very high since hundreds and hundreds of students were on the waiting list from two to four years behind.

I have always reminded them that with God all things are possible — true enough —  both of them were admitted to the nursing program at the same time!

There had always been the danger of being kicked out of the program, especially if you fall behind the highest standard set in place by the nursing program director. Both of them had experienced being [almost] kicked out but [were] able to bounce back.

Last year was considered their defining moment at Long Beach City College when both of my daughters completed and graduated with associate’s degrees in nursing.

As parents, both Marissa Obrique and I were so overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving to God.  One unforgettable moment of our [lives] was during what we call the pinning of [the] nursing emblem over the collar of their white dress including an announcement of my two daughters’ names. The same scenario during the graduation ceremonies at Veterans Stadium. This [was] a history-making event when my two daughters graduated [in] the same class and the same community college, [which] set the highest standard which may even surpass other state colleges or universities.

Thank you Long Beach City College with such honor you have given us.  You paved the way for them to advance to higher level and graduate from Cal State University in Los Angeles, with both having achieved the highest honorof Summa Cum Laude.

This story does not end with a Firework Conclusion which is passing the California Board of Nursing Licensing Test. I can proudly say [they are] officially registered nurses. Congratulations to Janelle and Melanie and tI will not forget but will give credit to all community colleges in the state of California like the one in Long Beach.  They are able to build a solid foundation in education, especially for my two daughters, possibly a history-making career and event in the land of the free and the home of the brave:  the United States of America.  God bless America and the whole Filipino communities in the U.S.

Thank you. MABUHAY!

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to,

Gel Santos Relos
Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to and

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