MAASIN CITY, Southern Leyte, Oct. 22 (PIA) -- Opportunity, the saying goes, knocks only once.

For Paula Elisha Cutamora, 24, and Ritchie Jacob Madrona, 25, the opportunity that crossed their way was, indeed, once in a lifetime.

The two were among the pioneer beneficiaries of a medical scholarship program offered by the provincial government of Southern Leyte, starting this school year, to anyone who wished to pursue a course on Doctor of Medicine.

They are both studying at the University of the Visayas-Gullas Medical School in Cebu City, he in his first year in college, and she, a second year student.

A salient feature of the scholarship program was that the student, who is determined enough by sheer guts to become a physician one day in the future, would have to serve the people of the province for a certain period of time before going out on his or her own.

At the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) Tuesday, October 20, in the conference room of the governor's office, Madrona, a native of Macrohon, was teary-eyed as he narrated that he is now on a journey to realize his long-time ambition.

"The moment I heard about this (scholarship program) I readily grabbed it," Madrona said, his voice audibly choking, as he thanked the provincial government for the rare chance. He was accompanied by his father, who also expressed his gratitude.

Miss Cutamora, a resident of barangay Guadalupe, Maasin, was equally overcome by emotion as she spoke, her words punctured by subdued intermittent sniffs and sobs.

"I was surprised someone was looking for me at the college, until I realized this is all about it," Cutamora, accompanied by her mother, said upon regaining her poise. The elder Cutamora was equally thankful to the provincial government in helping fulfill the vision of her daughter.

The emotional atmosphere that obviously touched everyone was tempered when Gov. Roger Mercado teased, "so let us all cry . . . anyway these are tears of happiness," to the smiles of those present, the members of the Enterprise Board.

But seriously, after affixing his signature to the MOA, Gov. Mercado mused, "we are now beginning to see our dream come true."

That dream was on producing a medical practitioner willing to work hereabouts, someone the province can call its own, the fruit of its labor, through the medical scholarship program. (mmp, PIA8-Southern Leyte)