Many months ago, the story went viral on social media about a foreman who asked his boss for some old books on mechanical engineering that he is no longer using so that he could give them to his son who is taking a Mechanical Engineering course.
Indeed this caring attitude speaks more than a thousand words of the love of a father towards his child. I would not be surprised if the foreman and his son had been deluged with assistance from many people who were aware of their predicament.
Reading this kind of story brought back memories of my own ordeal, every details of which are forever etched in my mind. I was born in a barrio and as a boy I lived below poverty line and the fangs of hunger always wrenching my stomach. I went places searching for fruit bearing trees that even unripe guava fruits had not escaped from the reach of my skinny hands just to quench the grumbling in my stomach.
It reminds me eating “Hinanggop” as my breakfast (newly cooked rice mixed with water sprinkled with salt). We would be lucky then if we have a refined sugar or mantika for our breakfast. Our father would give us five centavos saying, “Ari singko bakal ka mantika, indi gani kalamay nga refinado para dapli sa pamahaw (Here is five centavos, buy cooking oil, or refined sugar for your breakfast). At that time cooking oil then was in paste form such as the Purico brand.
We may be materially poor then, but rich in spirit. Nonetheless, poverty had not deprived me the experience of childhood happiness. My mindset then was joyful and unmindful of poverty. I enjoyed playing traditional games such as; paupas damang (spider fighting), sigay (shell), hole-in, guma (rubber bond), tansan, trompo (tops) and many other rural childhood games. As a child material things was far from my concern. What matters most was to play and enjoy the game – childhood games that no amount of computer games today can replace my innocent happiness.
During my childhood, electricity and tricycle were non-existent yet in our barrio. Money was too scarce that I don’t even have slipper to wear. In Grade V & VI, I have to walk barefoot about 3 kilometers from our house to reach the school, walking several rice paddies before my barefoot could feel the pebbles of the dirt road. Worst was during rainy season where I have to look for big banana leaves for use as an umbrella to shield my school things and myself from getting wet. Since we lived far away from school, I have to bring food for my lunch wrapped in banana leaf. My lunch usually consists of rice and cooked fish (paksiw na isda). If I have no viand, my parents would give me 5 centavos to buy cooked banana (saging saba), or turon or butong-butong as my viand. There was a time that I was forced to buy leche-con-yelo as viand when a mouthful of rice stuck in my throat.
Since there was no electricity, at night I studied using kerosene lamp. Thus, for several years my eyes blink rapidly mimicking the flicker of light generated by the kerosene lamp, thus my aunt used to tease me as “kirat.” Nonetheless, I persevered and graduated as class valedictorian from Grade I to grade VI.
My high school life was no different from my elementary years. My struggled continue and poverty forced me to stop schooling after first year in school. In order to earn for my tuition I went to Negros Occidental and worked in a sugar cane plantation, pulling weeds. I saved my earning in order to continue my study. Months later, I went back home to Iloilo with the amount I saved. Since my saving was still insufficient to pay for my tuition fee, I moonlighted as jueteng kubrador (koridor sa Daily double in Ilonggo), experiencing running scared whenever there was a raid conducted for jueteng operations. After a year hiatus, I saved enough to pay for my tuition fee, thus, when classes opened I enrolled as second year student. During Saturdays and Sundays I was a jueteng kubrador so that I would have money to spend for my weekly expenses. I persevered with my struggle and graduated as First Honor.
After graduating from high school, poverty forced me to quit schooling for 5 years. A lesser mortal would have lost interest in pursuing an ambition to obtain a degree but not me.
During those tumultuous years I held many odd jobs, including tire vulcanizer and kubrador in jueteng. But as fate would have it, I was able to work during day time and studied at night. My perseverance as a working student was rewarded with a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics & Communications Engineering and lucky to work abroad for several years. The woman who was always with me in my time of need became my wife. Now I’m a happily married man with an understanding wife and two sons, both ECE graduates like me.
The point is, if you have strong determination to achieve your goal nothing is impossible. As the saying goes, “Fire is the test of Gold, Adversity the test of strong Men.”
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