It starts with a ripple: Linar-Mae Orbista sparks hope among scholars

As tertiary education becomes an elusive privilege, Linar Orbista holds the line for students to fulfill their academic pursuits.

During the peak season of college admissions, applications for financial assistance come flooding into the inbox of the RipplED Initiative, an organization that provides educational aid to anyone in need. In these emails, students from different walks of life would share their stories and aspirations, hoping to get one step closer to realizing their dreams. With a smile, its humble founder Linar-Mae Orbista reads through every one of these emails, eager to provide what she can. 

Linar was a scholar herself at Ateneo de Manila University. As she immerses herself in the students’ current realities, she looks back on her own experience, “Imagine if I wasn’t given the chance to take the ACET (Ateneo College Entrance Test) for free.” But even before her time in university, Linar was already a firsthand witness to the many structural hurdles that underprivileged students had to hop across. 

This persistent problem became a turning point for her. Unbeknown to Linar, her humble passion project would grow into a pivotal bridge between disadvantaged students and scholarships. Linar’s RipplED Initiative commits itself to creating a future with accessible education for all—one student at a time.

Linar turns the tide of privileged access to education, setting sail on the waves of change through the RipplED Initiative.

Waves driven by altruism

Truth be told, Linar never planned on applying to Ateneo. Even before facing an expensive tuition, the application fee of P600 already deterred her from the institution. “P600 is really a huge amount,” she laments, explaining that it could already be enough to feed a family. Paying to roll the dice on an already uneven playing field was simply disheartening. 

Gutted by high tuition costs and limited resources, the thought of applying never crossed Linar’s mind until she was given a chance to apply for free. She took a leap, believing she had nothing to lose. To her astonishment, her shot in the dark was a bullseye. Not only did she pass but also received a full scholarship. 

This transformative experience lingered at the back of her mind until she started her project. Inspired by the spirit of volunteerism that emerged during the pandemic, she sought ways to help students applying for college, and it came to her almost naturally: “What I can offer is actually my skills.”

Motivated to level out the uneven terrain posed by unequal access to private tutors and review centers, Linar started providing free tutorial classes. This simple initiative was met with a wave of heartfelt stories from underprivileged students acing their admissions, a few of whom went on to become scholars just like Linar. “Sometimes, all we have to do is give these students a chance,” she posits.

A single act of altruism caused a ripple quite literally. Initially starting as a one-woman team, Linar’s personal advocacy project blossomed into a full-fledged organization. “That’s why it’s called RipplED,” she explains. By covering application fees and offering free tutorial classes, RipplED aims to empower students to pursue their aspirations despite informational and financial barriers. 

Having once been in their shoes, Linar understands all too well the worries that come along with college applications. “That’s what RipplED wants to be able to give, the sense that someone is believing in them.” 

Through rough tides and currents

As with every journey, challenges inevitably occur that need to be sailed through. Financial limitations and difficulties in looking for volunteers are just some of the inescapable predicaments experienced by non-profits. Still, Linar observes a distinct problem that lacks tackling: “There’s no guarantee these students [will] pass…[or] get [a] scholarship, so donors don’t realize the importance of giving financial support.”

But the underfunding is only the core of a larger disadvantage faced by RipplED. While the organization intends to help as many students as they can, they are impeded to do so. “It’s really heartbreaking [that] we [can’t] provide assistance to everyone applying,” Linar admits. Providing more insight, she points out that breaking the bank for college application processes doesn’t stop at the application proper. “You have to worry about transportation [costs], you have to worry about food, and how about those living far from universities [and] testing centers?” 

These are real stories of beneficiaries that Linar regularly encounters. A striking narrative she came across was from a student who opted out of a college entrance examination due to the distance from her home to the testing center. Because of the roadblock of distance, they needed to consider the student’s lodging and the physical exhaustion from enduring a long commute. These experiences would have been a stressful ordeal on top of the mental toll that the exam would have on her the following day.

It seemed an unfair disadvantage. Even with the student’s outstanding academic performance, it did not guarantee the chance to study at a top university. Most of the students’ stories revolve around the challenges of studying for college entrance tests, but the burdensome costs it takes to merely secure an application are often forgotten. And when best amalgamates from tutors, expensive review centers, or well-connected private schools, only those who have the means for such reign victorious.

Linar does not shy away from calling out these advantages. “To study in these top universities is a privilege enjoyed by a select few,” she says. Although state universities offer free tuition, the considerably desirable institutions of education—most of the country’s top-ranking and reputable universities—are in the private sector.

All hands on deck

Despite what has come, RipplED stays true to its mission. Acts even as simple as hosting information sessions about available financial assistance programs already contribute a lot in dismantling the barricades of privilege around higher education. “The issue starts in the fact that a lot of students do not even know that these exist, or if they know that these exist, they do not have the means to access them,”
Linar lays out.

And for Linar, her heart is full seeing how far RipplED has come; from being her personal passion project, to becoming a full-fledged, volunteer-driven organization, it never stops pushing students to keep chasing their dreams. “I’m hoping that especially for underprivileged people like me, in the future, graduating [from] an institution that provides quality education is no longer an exception but the rule,” she proclaims. Having gone through it all herself, Linar continues to pursue and advocate for an equitable education system. She always looks to inspire positive change and touch the lives of aspiring scholars through her work. Many tend to glorify stories of people from poor backgrounds, putting it on a pedestal and reducing it to a matter of not having worked hard enough. However, stories of scholars—like Linar’s—are not a call for celebration. Rather, these pose an unsettling reminder of how a society that continues to oppress
and exclude the marginalized, still prevails.

This article was published in The LaSallian‘s March 2024 issue. To read more, visit

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