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Postscript/PhilSTAR/Nov. 2, 2004/Tuesday

Is Faye's story true,
or just a fairy tale?

By Federico D. Pascual Jr.

pascualWHO IS FAYE?: Do you believe in fairies? If you do, you might believe the story of Faye, an 11-year-old girl who has been winning big contests, the last one being the Intercontinental Science Quiz Net in Australia where she topped a field of 57 students from all over the world.

The side commentary in the story is that, unlike the American Idol finalist Jasmine Trias who was lionized all over town including Malacanang, Faye was totally ignored upon her return. She was not received in audience by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The Internet is now burning with email demanding that poor Faye be given the recognition she deserves. Many readers were set to start a scholarship fund, just as soon as Faye steps forward.

But I doubt if Faye would claim the honor and the assistance she richly deserves.

Pardon my skepticism, but my instincts as a grizzled newsman tell me that the story of Faye titled “Misplaced priorities can mislead a nation” is a concoction. I SINCERELY HOPE I AM WRONG.

* * *

READ HER STORY: But before I tell you why I have reservations about the story, let me reprint parts of it for the benefit of those who want to read or reread it:

“Jasmine Trias visited the Philippines recently. Everyone was agog waiting to welcome her. The excitement was remarkable as the media and many of our kababayans flocked to the airport to see her. This scenario is typical of Filipinos. Sadly, it reflects our country's misplaced priorities.

“Another young girl came back to the country a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Faye (not her real name for very sensitive reasons). Unknown to her countrymen, this 11-year-old girl brought honor to the Philippines. She represented the country in the Intercontinental Science Quiz Net in Australia. Out of 57 countries represented, Faye garnered First Place for the Philippines. Germany came in second while the United States came in third.

“In stark contrast to the hoopla extended to Jasmine Trias, Faye's arrival did not make any noise. Not a peep. In an earlier competition, ‘Mathematics for the Young Asians' in Indonesia, Faye also came out in the Top Five. But just like the Australian event, this feat did not receive any recognition in our country at all.

“Our interests seem to be set on other ‘priorities.' We are more interested in promoting celebrity guests instead of educational and intellectual pursuits. Indirectly and quite obviously we are teaching our children that development of the external image takes priority over educational achievement.

“Faye's story is inspiring. She comes from a broken family. Her father falsely claimed that he was unmarried when he married her mom. When her mom found out, she decided to raise her daughter alone.

“Despite the difficulty, Faye in no way used it as an excuse for complacency in her studies. In grade school, she was a consistent honor student. She took every academic requirement as a challenge. And she delivered. At one time, she submitted a project thesis in Australia that won ‘The Best Physics and Science Award.' The award qualified the Philippines to be one of the top 10 countries that would compete in Australia, among the 57 countries that joined.

“Considering her family's financial constraints, she and her mom asked help from our government for their trip to claim the ‘Best Physics' award and to join the Science competition. They saw this challenge as a rare opportunity offered to Faye and her country, considering that only two Asian countries qualified -- Japan and the Philippines. Unfortunately, our government had other priorities.

“Mother and daughter then tried to ask help from individual senators and congressmen. All turned them down except for one who was willing to help, on condition that Faye should give public credit to the senator for supporting her even in the earlier competitions she joined. Out of integrity, the mother could not accede to this arrangement. Thus no outside help was found.

“Faced with this situation, Faye and her mom took out all their savings and went out of their way to secure by themselves the additional finances needed. The only driving force behind them was their desire to give honor to God and to the Philippines.

“With the little resources they had, they went to Australia on Sept. 17, 2004, for the competition. They claimed the trophy and cash award for the ‘Best Physics' thesis Faye submitted in Sydney and then flew to Brisbane for the quiz competition.

“No kababayan welcomed them in Australia except for a kind Filipina they met on the plane who assisted them. As they were checking in at a hotel, the ‘kind' Filipina disappeared with her Faye's and her mother's bags, passports, and plane tickets. At that point, they literally had nothing left except for a few pieces of clothes and their faith in God. They had to sell the extra clothes left to be able to buy food.

“In need once again, they sought help from some Filipino officials in Australia but to no avail. Oddly, the officials there were too busy with other priorities, not minding to help a young girl and a mother who had no other desire but to bring honor to our country.

“Given a budget for only a one-night stay at the hotel, mother and daughter had to check out the following day. Leaving their luggage on deposit and without money for transportation, they decided to walk two kilometers to the competition venue in their native Filipino costumes.

“Upon arrival at the site, Faye and her mom were surprised when they discovered that the delegates from the other countries were well supported by a band, a cheering squad, and a flag, while Faye only had her mother and the anxiety of lost passports and plane tickets. Worse, representatives of each country were required to decorate their booths. With only the three-piece costume they had on, Faye and her mom were even more surprised when the organizing committee awarded their booth as ‘The Most Creative' booth.

“Our concept of leadership in this country is pitifully skewed. We mistakenly think that leadership is about ‘lording' it over other people. Christ corrected this distorted thinking when he said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you, instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.'

“We dream of becoming like Jasmine Trias. We want our children to be like her. We would rather spend on things that would make us look good instead of things that would make us grow in character. We prefer stardom glitter over service-oriented endeavors.

“Unlike Jasmine Trias, Faye did not receive a hero's welcome when she came back, but, young as she is, she keeps calling on Filipinos to love the Philippines because every Filipino is a valuable gift of God.”

* * *

NAGGING POINTS: Here are some of the reasons why my instincts raised a red flag on the story:

1. If the author wanted recognition for the girl, as he/she seemed to, Faye should have been at least identified. To respond appropriately, we need a face and a name.

2. My search in the Internet proved negative for the “Intercontinental Science Quiz Net” and the “Mathematics for the Young Asians” contest where Faye won honors. It is strange that the contest sponsors never generated publicity.

3. Even if our embassy in Australia ignored Faye, it is very likely that some proud Pinoy down under would have reported her victory.

4. Normally, Faye's school would have tried publicizing her string of achievements. Until now, I have not heard of any school claiming this jewel of a student.

5. There is a repeated, consistent attempt to put down Jasmine Trias (just her, by name). Why only Trias and no other young celebrity?

6. The difficulties of Faye and her mother, one problem after another, were just too much of a series of aggravations. When they reached the contest site after hiking two kilometers in their native dress, they were surprised to learn they still had to decorate a country booth. If they had virtually nothing with them then, how come their booth won a prize?

7. There is a claim that the Bread of Life Ministries was the author of the story. I checked the Bread of Life site, but there is no mention of Faye.

STILL, I DO HOPE FAYE TURNS UP AND DASHES MY DOUBTS.

* * *

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