Class 2018 Valedictorian Paul, a young champion for Agriculture

As early as grade school, Paul Joshua C. Marquez was already fascinated with plants and animals. He shared this interest with his late grandfather who taught him basic gardening and pet raising. And when he told his father that he wanted to be a farmer, the head of the family delightfully enlightened his son.

“Hindi magsasaka ang tawag doon, agriculturist iyon. Mag-BS Agriculture ka doon sa UPLB,” advised his father. (I think you want to be an agriculturist, not a farmer. Go to UPLB.) That was the first time Paul heard the word “agriculture.” And so it was that Paul found himself in UPLB in 2014 with the highest UPCAT scores among the BS Agriculture (BSA) freshmen. Four years later, as an agronomy major who specialized in plant breeding, Paul achieved another feat — graduating as the lone summa cum laude of Class 2018.

Getting to this place was a result of his grit and perseverance. “Na-develop ko ‘yung attitude na hindi basta-basta sumusuko sa lahat ng mga bagay at pagbibigay ng 100% ko sa lahat ng ginagawa ko. Hindi ako mag-isa sa laban na ito dahil suportado ako ng pamilya at mga guro ko sa lahat ng mga bagay,” he said. (I developed the attitude of  determination and perseverance in me. I had the support of my family and teachers.)

Paul said that university life was difficult, but he tried his best to keep his balance, primarily by sharing his gift for music as a violinist of Harmonya: The String Ensemble of UPLB. “Binigyang-kulay ng Harmonya ang buhay-kolehiyo ko. Hindi naman talaga ako magaling tumugtog pero tinanggap at binigyan nila ako ng pagkakataong ma-improve ang sarili ko to the point na tuluyan kong niyakap ang musika,” he said. (Harmonya gave color to my college life. I am not good in playing the violin but Harmonya welcomed me. This motivated and helped me to improve myself and fully embrace music.)

As if the challenge of academic work was not enough, he still found time to participate in and win university and college quiz contests with his friends. He was also a member of the ROTC Batch Masidhi, the champion of the Regional Annual Administrative Tactical Inspection in 2016.

With two scholarship grants – the Estores Tiauzon Angeles Memorial Undergraduate and the UP Presidential Scholarships – Paul spared his parents from the burden of financing his tertiary education. On Dec. 30, 2017, the Knights of Rizal hailed him as the 2017 Most Outstanding Jose Rizal Model Student of the Philippines for academic, co-curricular, and volunteer service excellence.

Asked about his future plans, Paul proved his consistency: he said he hopes to contribute to the country’s agriculture sector by educating and empowering farmers.

“Sa totoo lang, ang mga magsasaka ang mga tunay na manggagawa sa mga bukirin na namumuhunan ng dugo at pawis para sa pagkain ng sangkatauhan, hindi kaming mga agriculturist. Kaya balang araw ay gusto kong maging Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary dahil gusto kong ipaglaban at iangat ang estado ng pamumuhay ng mga magsasaka,” Paul said. (The farmers work the fields in order to provide food for everyone. I want to become the Secretary of Agriculture because I want to fight for them and their livelihood.)

“Gusto kong pangunahan ang malawakang agricultural revolution tungo sa mas masasaganang ani sa pamamagitan ng liwanag ng edukasyon. Gusto kong magsilbing boses ng mga magsasaka at iparating ang kanilang mga hinaing at ipaglaban ang kanilang mga karapatan,” Paul added. (I want to lead an agricultural revolution for bountiful harvest and farm productivity through education. I want to be a voice for the farmers and help protect their rights.)

For now, Paul plans to familiarize himself with the farming systems in the country and hopefully be able to teach crop science courses at UPLB. He looks forward to further understanding the farmers before becoming a worthy leader of the country’s agriculture sector.

Knowing how consistent and focused Paul is, it will not be a surprise if he becomes the country’s number one agriculture champion, the Secretary of Agriculture. (Juan Paolo A. Aquino)

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