A former housemaid will be marching with the rest of Philippine Military Academy's Class of 2017 later today, March 12, in Baguuio City.
Her name is Meriam Nalo Libongcogon, a Cebuana who is set to join the Philippine Navy.
Her father, Mario Libongcogon, works as a farmer and a carpenter jn their hometown Bambalan, while her mom Florida is a housewife and a mother to six children.
To help her parents put food on the table, Meriam and her siblings had started working at the age of six.
In an interview with ABS-CBN, the 25-year-old PMA graduate said, "Madalas wala pong makain. Pero minsan ang kinakain na lang po namin, kamote o saging. Kung ano pong meron."
When she was nine, she started earning 20 pesos per week by collecting and selling construction supplies such as coconut shells, wood, and sand to workers.
Meriam recalled, "Ang ginagawa po namin, naghahanap po kami ng coconut shells para ibenta. Tapos minsan, may nagpapahakot po ng tubig…
"Iyong kinikita po namin, ilalagay po namin sa alkansiya 'tapos yung maiipon po namin, ginagamit po naming pangtahi ng damit namin."
But despite her family's financial struggles, Meriam finished elementary with flying colors and graduated as the valedictorian of her batch.
At 15, she finished high school at a Catholic school in Cebu as a full scholar and, at the same time, a working student.
"Dahil po sa karanasan na iyon...Parang nag-graduate po ako ng grade 6 na valedictorian.
"Iyon po ang gift ko sa parents ko, na kahit mahirap po kami, kaya ko po silang pasayahin."
In college, she decided to pursue Computer Engineering while working as a yaya to finance her studies, but she had to stop because it became harder to juggle her studies and duties.
"Mahirap po kasi iyong mga bata, maliliit pa po.
"Iyong parang pasaway pa po sila 'tapos kailangan ko gumising nang maaga para paliguan iyong mga bata, pakainin.
"'Tapos ihahatid ko muna sila sa paaralan bago ako pumasok sa paaralan ko."
She relocated to Baguio City where she met Nanay Rose, her foster parent.
Nanay Rose was the one who helped Meriam enroll in PMA.
"Ginamit po ni Lord yung mga nakilala ko sa pagkakatulong para makapag-aral dito sa PMA.
"Tinanong po nila kung ano yung grade ko 'tapos tumulong po sila na kunin yung credentials ko sa Cebu."
Her life as a PMA cadet was no bed of roses, but what she's been through had prepared her to overcome the hardships.
"Hindi ko naisipang mag-resign kasi sanay na po sa hirap.
"At saka lagi po akong nagdarasal sa Panginoon na tulungan niya po ako."
Meriam's next goal is to buy a house for her family.