May 26, 2003 - The Olympian: RPCV Fil Villanueva starts cholarship fund for students in the Philippnes

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RPCV Fil Villanueva starts cholarship fund for students in the Philippnes

Read and comment on this story from The Olympian on RPCV Fil Villanueva who has started a scholarship fund for students in the Philippines to help others realize the benefits of the education his children received in the United States at:

Lacey man sets money aside to send students in the Philippines to college*

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Lacey man sets money aside to send students in the Philippines to college

Mike Salsbury/The Olympian


LACEY -- In the United States, $40 can pay for two tanks of gas or a cheap seat at the theater. But in the Philippines province of Pangasinan, $40 can pay for an entire semester of tuition at Pangasinan State University.

And it has, thanks to Lacey resident Fil Villanueva

Villanueva and his family have been sending needy Filipino students to the Pangasinan college since 1996.

"My wife and I wanted to repay more or less what was given to our children," he said. Villanueva, now 69, served in the U.S. Navy for 24 years.

Villanueva and his wife, Cely, couldn't afford to send their three children -- Victor, Valerie and Valiant -- to college. Instead, they had to depend on the U.S. government, he said.

Valerie attended the U.S. Naval Academy and then served for five years. Valiant joined the Peace Corps and then went into the Forest Service, which helped pay for part of his education. Victor depended on loans and the money he earned while working during school.

Because of the education his children received, Villanueva decided he wanted to give something back to the community. After he learned how little it would cost to help a Filipino student attend college in Pangasinan, he decided to start a scholarship fund.

"When we found out what it is going to cost us, my wife and my children, we started with 10 scholars," he said.

Since 1996, Villanueva and his family have continued to sponsor students. To date, 32 of their scholarship students have graduated -- three with honors.

"It has helped students that might not have had the opportunity to go to college go," Villanueva's daughter, Valerie Dohoda, said. "In the Philippines, that's a very important thing, because the poverty is so great."

Villanueva said the students who receive scholarships, while academically gifted, are practically homeless.

"They do have houses, but one room, two rooms," he said. "Some of these villages, every time there is a monsoon, they got flooded. They really need help."

Fely Wiedebush, former president of the Filipino American Community of South Puget Sound, said a college education in the Philippines is like emancipation from the bondages of poverty.

"There, if you don't have a diploma ... there are no jobs that will take you except for labor, but labor is limited because of the lack of construction and buildings," she said.

Dohoda said her father's family has always been generous. Villanueva's mother and father used to feed prisoners in the jails.

And Villanueva has done more than start a scholarship fund. He also sends money to feed Pangasinan schoolchildren breakfast. And he has helped get computers into the schools.

"He's always the one who invites the strangers over for dinner," Dohoda said.

"He's always had a generous heart. It's always been there."

To suggest an individual or community group for spotlight as a Pacesetter, write to Jerre Redecker, The Olympian, P.O. Box 1219, Olympia, WA 98507, or e-mail Include your nominee's specific accomplishment.

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