OXFORD, England - When Filipino scholar Jeryl Bayona was admitted to study Bachelor of Theology (BTh) at Oxford University, he was over the moon. His childhood dream was fulfilled and he was thrilled of the prospect of a promising future.
Only the best and the brightest make it to Oxford University. The oldest university in the English speaking world has produced distinguished alumni in various fields and profession including 26 British Prime Ministers, 30 international leaders, 47 Nobel Prize winners, at least 12 saints, 50 Olympic medal winners, amongst many others.
Dreaming of Oxford
Born in Banga, South Cotabato with a visual impairment, Bayona’s parents instilled in him the value of education.
“I grew up in a farm. Kalabaw at itik lang kasama ko palagi. Walang-wala kami. Sabi ng parents ko, the only thing na gusto nilang inheritance ko yung education nga. Education became my passion as far as I can remember,” said 36-year old Bayona.
Trapped in the harsh realities of poverty, studying at Oxford University was just an elusive dream. Little did he know that it would become a reality.
“Sabi nila, isa sa mga sikat na university sa buong mundo yung Oxford or Harvard. Sabi ko gusto kong pumasok dun. I didn’t know how pero yun ang gusto ko. I’d like to do it kung bibigyan ng pagkakataon,” said Bayona when he recalled his dream of studying at Oxford.
Inspiration to fellow Oxonian
In the burning desire to succeed and do better in life, he credits his humble beginnings for the fire inside that keeps him fighting for the best.
In London, he has worked as a waiter and clerk when he quit studying under another scholarship grant.
Bayona earned a degree in the Philippines. But every time he was up for a job promotion and his credentials were reviewed, the degree from a college not accredited by the Department of Education in the Philippines, was a major setback. It made him decide to go back to university for a UK degree.
“That is to prove na kahit walang-wala ka, kahit physically you have some challenges at imposible sa pagtingin ng iba, but if you have the determination to do it and if you are given a chance and you grabbed it with the full understanding na may magagawa ka, I think you can do it. That‘s what I have proven,” said Bayona.
His application for admission in Oxford was rejected twice. On the third attempt, he was accepted.
Now Bayona is an inspiration to fellow Filipino Oxonians.
“Oxford is a tough place. Jeryl’s story inspires us to persevere and build confidence to face the pressure of perfection in the academe,” said Analyn Salvador-Amores , an Oxford scholar doing her doctoral degree in Anthropology.
In the last 900 years since the foundation of Oxford University, less than a hundred Filipino earned their undergraduate degree from the prestigious university. Bayona said the thought that he is privileged to be admitted at Oxford motivates him more to do his best all the time as a scholar.
Oxford scholar and janitor
His university education at Oxford is funded through a scholarship but he also needs to provide for his wife and four-year-old son. It prompted him to work as a janitor and caretaker of a church.
Studying and working is no mean feat especially in Oxford. The university offers a unique, but very rigid and demanding academic requirements. The tutorial is at the core of undergraduate studying, where students meet regularly with their tutor, either on a one-to-one basis or with one or two other students.
On average, undergraduates attend an hour- long tutorial every week. Long hours are also dedicated to preparatory work for each tutorial, to include background reading, essay-writing and problem-solving.
“During the first two terms, mangiyak-ngiyak ako dahil parang di ko kaya. I have been telling my wife after this year di ko na kaya ito. But there you go. Tapos na ako ng second year ngayon. Nakakatuwa na nakakaiyak minsan na nakakainis. Imposible pero pag sa Pinoy kung gusto niya possible yun,” explained Bayona.
He works 20 hours a week and also juggles between studies and family life. With his determination to do well both academically and in his job, the church warden has only praises for Bayona.
He and his wife also helps him in keeping the church and building clean and tidy.
“Since they have been here, Jeryl, Alma and their four-year-old son, they look after the building and keep it absolutely spotless,” said David Stevens.
He added: “There are times that he is obviously studying. Other parts of the day, he is here to keep the place in a wonderful shape".
In two years, Bayona will graduate. He is a testament that poverty is a not a deterrent in achieving one’s dream.
“I’m very blessed that suportado ako ng wife ko, also by my relatives. They support me in prayer s at sa pag uunawa nila na may mga bagay na di ko kayang ibigay ngayon dahil nag- aaral pa ako. For that I’m very grateful,” he said.