Laguna Polytechnic University student wins P100,000 grand prize in Smart’s ‘Balik Tuition’ promo

When salvaged computer parts and a loaned smartphone yield jackpot

For 21-year-old architectural drafting student Janella Viktoria Briones, it was just another day loading her prepaid SIM, so she could carry on using her smartphone as hotspot for her desktop computer, where she did most of her projects – online. That kind of workaround had been her way of struggling through college since the pandemic began, her family was forced to take out a loan to get her a smartphone, and later on, her relatives lent her a workstation salvaged from reassembled computer parts. Little did Janela know, the Smart prepaid SIM top-ups that sustained her through, would yield her a jackpot of a Php100,000. 

Janela qualified for Smart’s ‘Balik Tuition’ promo as she was loading her prepaid SIM with Smart Giga Study offers. The promo served like a loyalty program for customers, and the corresponding Giga products used equated to the number of entries in the promo. “When I joined the promo, I thought it was a scholarship,” Janela recalled. “So, I told myself, maybe I can find someone who can donate a laptop that can help me handle the workload of my course.” 

Janela is taking up Architectural Drafting Technology at the Laguna Polytechnic University – Sta. Cruz campus. When schools were forced to migrate to online platforms because of the coronavirus pandemic, she struggled to adjust to what has become the new normal for learning. “My father runs a small welding shop in our house,” she shared. “What he earns is barely enough to cover household expenses. My mother sells ‘isaw’ to chip in.” 

She also leaned on Smart’s Giga Study 99 to continue her education, “It’s perfect for online learning. You get 2 GB of open access data for 7 days. More importantly, there’s 1 GB of data allocated for online learning tools such as Google, Google Search, Google Plus, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft 365.” 

Smart launched in October 2020 the ‘Balik Tuition Promo’, an electronic raffle where students using Smart and TNT prepaid SIMs can win cash, gadgets, and data loads to help them get on with the new normal of e-learning. 

“Smart believes that the internet is a great equalizer. It gives students the opportunity to access a multitude of information and application to help them fulfill their dreams. That’s why we’re always rolling out innovative products, like our GIGA Data offerings, to empower our nation’s future to live smarter for a better world,” said Jane Basas, SVP and Head of Consumer Wireless Business Group at Smart. 

While the smartphone and the prepaid Giga pack helped provide Janela’s access to online classes, the third-year college student also badly needed a computer that could handle the heavy processes needed to complete her plates. Now in her junior year, most of her projects require the use of computer-aided design and drafting software applications that demand a lot from a computer. 

So, she turned to relatives and friends for help, “My family couldn’t afford a desktop PC, so I borrowed computer parts to set up my own workstation.” Her aunt lent a CPU (central processing unit), a keyboard and a mouse, while she borrowed a monitor to complete the system. When she needed to, she would walk to her aunt’s house to use the PC that was assembled from salvaged parts. And this humble desktop computer has allowed Janela to continue with her studies. 

“This pandemic has taught me to be resourceful. You need to do something, even if it means reaching out and asking for help because if you won’t, nothing will happen,” she said. 

With the P100,000 she has won, Janela is finally getting that dream laptop that will enable her to complete her projects. But she also wants to help her family. So, she’s setting aside part of the grand prize to expand her mother’s ‘isaw’ business and to pay their electricity bills. 

“My family has always been my motivation to push forward despite the challenges. They have sacrificed a lot for me. It’s the least I can do for them,” she said. 

Janela is also looking beyond the horizon. Buoyed by the opportunity that her win has granted her, she plans to proceed to a formal architecture program. She’s determined to work her way through college to earn her license as an architect. 

“This isn’t the time to give up. Even with just a little hope, I’m holding on to it because I want to give my family a better life.” she said. 

Aside from Janela, three other students from the National Capital Region, Visayas, and Mindanao have also won P100,000 each, for joining the two-month-long promo that lasted until December 31, 2020.