So, was the guy who claimed he got accepted to 30 universities in the US and UK, as well as PHP104 million worth of scholarships, lying?

Image: Julian Martir
Image: Julian Martir

One of last week’s hottest stories was of a high school graduate, claiming to be the son of a tricycle driver and a vendor, who managed to secure college acceptances across 30 universities in the United States and the United Kingdom along with scholarship grants worth PHP104 million (US$1.86 million).

These universities include Ohio Wesleyan University, Clarkson University, Hofstra University, Marquette University, Alfred University, Xavier University, Duquesne University, among others.

After numerous outlets reported on Julian Martir, the graduate in question, his rags-to-riches narrative managed to secure him an interview on the Dos Por Dos radio program on DZRH, which is also telecast simultaneously.

This is when things began to unravel.

The eagle-eyed people of the internet noted that Martir reportedly fumbled in answering anchor Anthony Taberna’s questions, notably when he was asked why he wanted to pursue a double degree in Mathematics and Science.

“I want to be a quantum scientist because that’s what you see in the Avengers. I want to build a biomechanics prototype so I can use them for glasses where we can communicate with animals. I would advance the technology through these glasses, kind of like what we call supercomputers,” the 20-year-old said.

The internet had a field day when they did some digging and found out that there had not been any proof yet that he was accepted into these schools.

They also found that Martir had a previous incident of embellishing his credentials.

People raised the issue of a lack of critical thinking across the nation and accused the media of “lazy journalism.”

Some media outlets who reported on the story took down the articles.

However, Philstar Life, who originally ran the feature on Martir, did an update and said they had reached out to the 30 universities Martir claimed he was accepted from. Eight out of the 10 who responded confirmed they had granted admission to Martir — two universities declined to comment to protect Martir’s privacy.

A thread by Twitter user Ewemiz Insigne, a Filipino student on a full scholarship at Colby College in Maine, shed some light on the US college application process and said that Julian may not have been lying about his acceptance letters.

“The list below are schools Julian was accepted to. These are some of the most common ‘safety schools’ international students apply to as they have high acceptance rates, and tend to be generous with merit scholarships,” she explained.

She added that Martir could have been telling the truth about the scholarship grants he received — but emphasized that scholarships from different schools cannot be added, and as someone from a low-income background, this may not be enough for Martir to pursue his studies abroad.

“Applying to colleges abroad is somehow both easier and harder than people think. It is a complex process that requires a lot of privilege, time, and money, but it is also a lot more accessible than the majority of the public believes,” she added.

While the jury is out on whether Martir, who has deactivated from social media since, was telling the truth or not, people can stand to be kinder on the internet. Although clout chasers can definitely be annoying, the extent as to which people have hunted for Martir’s head is excessive.

Martir’s story is a fascinating display of how enamored Filipinos are with rags-to-riches stories, but the flipped reaction after people thought he was lying about his acceptance letters is also telling.

While there is no excuse for lying, if Martir was untruthful about his credentials, he isn’t necessarily hurting anyone — except perhaps those with a bruised ego who feel they were duped by his tale.

Meanwhile, the vitriol people online have spewed could be damaging to Martir’s health and well-being, whose claims have at least been proven to be partly true.

While it would be great for Martir to shed light on the issue, being kind on the internet doesn’t come at a cost. We can hold someone accountable without being incredibly nasty about it.

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