This Filipina from an Isabela tribe graduated summa cum laude from NYU!

Leaving home to study or work is always a difficult thing. Whether out of choice or necessity, you are setting off from your comfort zone to challenge yourself in a new environment. Surviving in these situations is feat enough, which is why we celebrate truly thriving in them. This is especially true for Janelle Panganiban who graduated with the highest Latin honors from the prestigious New York University.

Janelle Panganiban is a member of the Gaddang indigenous group from Isabela. She graduated summa cum laude while juggling 3 majors: Global Public Health, Public Policy, and Sociology (Honors).  She was also a recipient of the prestigious Alexander L. Shluger Award for Excellence in Sociology. This award is given to Sociology majors who have ‘excelled in his or her study of this subject’. On top of this, Panganiban was a Founder’s Day awardee of her graduating class, meaning she was one of the top-ranking baccalaureate graduates.

On her academic success, Panganiban shares that: “I didn’t feel like I did anything extraordinary. I was just studying what I loved studying. It was less for me and more for my family who was more excited than I was. I was passionate about getting out of the bubble and I realized all the new ideas that were out there. I learned to love learning.”

For her, excellence was a byproduct of learning. Putting her education first and prioritizing knowledge was what led to her academic standing and not the other way around. She says: “Academic success is the time when I read a book that confronted my perspectives or when my professor and classmates challenged my opinions and debated with me. In other words, I achieved academic excellence by constantly questioning the norm and expanding my mindset. This is what I’ve learned to love and enjoy.”

As advice to any Filipino who is still a work-in-progress, she had this to say: “Remain curious, step out of your comfort zone, and engage in conversation. In our world that’s growing more and more divided, I still have hope that we can find ways to transcend our differences.”

When asked where she goes from here she states: “As a Filipino, I feel like I have the obligation to bring all of these back to the Philippines and at the same time, as a descendant of the Gaddangs, I find myself impassioned for indigenous resurgence as a step to combat the long and embedded history of colonization.”

She hopes that this is something we can all remember and embody in our journeys. The things that we do and the deeds we accomplish can always be dedicated towards something bigger than ourselves. Panganiban reminds us: “Never forget that you are a Filipino—huwag kalilimutan ang pinanggalingan. Saan mang bahagi ng mundo tayo makarating, ang Pilipinas pa rin sana ang ating balikan. Mangarap nang hindi lang para sasarili, kung hindi na rin para sa bayan.” 

(Never forget that you are a Filipino — do not forget where you came from. Wherever we end up in this world, I hope we will always return to the Philippines. Our ambitions should not only be for ourselves, but for the nation as well.)

Panganiban is the daughter Representative Jose T. Panganiban, Jr. of ANAC-IP Party list and Mayor Lourdes S. Panganiban of Angadangan, Isabela. She was also one of the awardees in the 6th annual Philippine Graduation (PGRAD) at the Philippine Center in New York.

(INSPIRING: Filipino Harvard law graduate dedicates his career to pro-bono legal work for the poor)

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