Hundreds of mourners including youth groups, students and civil society groups bade farewell to UP Manila student Kristel Tejada Saturday as the latter was finally laid to rest at the Manila North Cemetery a week after her death.
At 2:39 PM, the funeral march began as Kristel's remains was brought from the Immaculate Conception Parish in Tayuman st. Sta. Cruz district to Manila North Cemetery.
Kristel's family and friends walked behind the horse carriage that carried the remains of the 16-year old college freshman who dreamed of finishing her studies to help her parents in their daily expenses.
Kristel was the eldest among four siblings. Her mother is a housewife while her father works as a part-time taxi driver.
Last March 15, Kristel was rushed to the hospital after she drank silver cleaning solution. Doctors failed to revive the 16-year old Behavioral Sciences student who had to file for a leave of absence because she could not pay for her tuition.
Kristel became an icon of the unaffordability of education in the country as youth groups held a week-long protest that has rubbed off even in another state university, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines where students torched old chairs to show their dismay over the rise of tuition in students taking up graduate studies.
In the eulogy prepared for Tejada, her mother, Blessilda, read Kristel's note whom she wrote before her demise.
The note described love in its many forms including one's love for parents and for God. Kristel's note mentioned how much she loves her family and bore no anger. It ended with "Sorry talaga pero kailangan kong gawin ito."
"Baunin mo ang pagmamahal ng lahat. Ng mga naniniwala sa pinaglaban mo. Marahil anak napagod ka na na magsalita; na magpaliwanag. Nagsasabi ka ngunit di ka pinapakinggan...nawa ang liwanag na binuksan mo, ang kandilang sinindihan mo manatiling bukas habambuhay...Naniniwala po ako na may isang Kristel sa inyo kailangan lang manindigan at maniwala at ipaglaban kung ano ang katarungan," Blessilda Tejada said.
Tejada's death resulted to several protests from students and youth groups that eventually resulted to the suspension of UP's 'no late payment' on tuition policy.
Tejada was enrolled under bracket D of Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP). Under bracket D, one unit of academic load costs P600.
A husband and wife alumni of the UP Manila College of Medicine earlier set up a trust fund for poor. UP Manila students to prevent similar instances.
Caritas Manila Inc also announced the creation of the Caritas Emergency education fund on Saturday to aid poor students who are having trouble paying for their tuition.
"Ito ay trahedyang matatawag...Ito'y pinahintulutan ng Diyos upang gisingin ang tao sa pagiging Kristiyano na hindi dahilan ang kahirapan upang mahinto ang pag-aaral ng kabataan. Ang mabigyan ng oportunidad ang lahat ng kabataan..." Caritas Manila Executive Director Rev. Fr. Anton Pascual said before he administered the last sacrament to Tejada.
Fr. Pascual described Tejada's passing as a 'shame' to a christian country like the Philippines.
The Caritas Emergency education fund was set up in memory of Kristel and a seed money of P.5 Million has already been infused into it.
Rev Fr. Pascual said the fund will be available for poor college students who are in an 'emergency situation' and will be unable to afford their tuition. This could be due to his or her parents suddenly losing their jobs, a sickness in the family and other instances that could hamper the student's parents to pay for schooling expenses.
The student needs to be endorsed by the parish priest to be able to qualify for the emergency fund.
Source of funds will be from parish donors who wish to support the education of poor students.
The funeral cortage arrived at the Manila North Cemetery at 4PM. A sea of mourners were already at the site waiting for the young 'iskolar ng bayan' to be finally laid to rest.
Blessilda Tejada acknowledged the assistance given by Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and even to the teachers and administration of UP Manila who helped them during the whole week.
At 4:10 PM, white balloons were released into the air as mourners tossed red roses on top of Tejada's coffin as it was placed inside the grave.