A sikyo’s success story

By: Radel Paredes March 25,2017 - 09:11 PM


That news about Erwin Macua, the security guard of Saint Theresa’s College who recently graduated Cum Laude in General Education from that very school where he works reminds me of a friend who has a similar story.

When we were teenagers growing up in Surigao City, our neighbor Manoling, who lived in a small nipa hut along the river, would love to visit our house just to read our books. Although he did not go to good schools in elementary, he was an avid reader who read every book he got hold of. And before they moved from island life to our small city, books were a rarity.

The family was so poor their house almost had nothing in it except the most basic items like cooking pots, water containers, and a big tattered banig or sleeping mat that everyone in the family slept on.

Manoling’s father was a barber who had a tiny roadside shop where I would go regularly for a haircut. He always reeked of rum yet he could trim my spiky hair into a perfect crewcut with just scissors and traditional labaha or folding razor. He always asked us about school and talked a little bit about his son, whom he knew had potential. Manoling’s mother was a housewife who helped earn their keep by accepting laundry.

In spite of poverty, Manoling and his siblings were able to go to school. We were in the same trade school that my siblings and I attended. I was enrolled in Architectural Drafting while Manoling – if my memory serves me right–majored in Civil Technology, a
program meant to train construction workers. They were always busy building something, but during vacant periods, he preferred to stay in the school library or at the provincial library that we also frequented.

We shared a common interest in books and ideas, the reason why we easily became friends. When he was already free from chores, he would visit us to talk about his readings or to borrow a book which he would just read at the veranda of our house.

A lot of manual labor gave Manoling a formidable and intimidating built. He looked more like a kargador than a nerd. Yet, to us, he was more of the latter. But Manoling was a very friendly guy who enjoyed talking to people.

After my brothers and I left Surigao to study in universities in bigger cities, Manoling continued to keep in touch by writing us, asking us about what new things we were up to. He was now already taking up a two-year vocational course in the same trade school but he always expressed his desire to proceed to a four-year course. His ambition was to become a lawyer.

My brothers and I soon became busy with school life and did not hear much from our friend in Surigao. Years later, we learned that he had gone to Manila to try his luck there. He took whatever odd jobs available just to be able to survive. He then became a security guard for a bank in Tondo, which was a risky place for that kind of work.

Eventually, he became a security guard for a private university. Impressed by his dedication to work, the owner of the university offered Manoling a scholarship for a four-year course in Liberal Arts. So our friend juggled his time between guarding the school and going to its classrooms at the same time as a student.

It must be very difficult how he found time to study when he was off duty, but Manoling managed to finish his degree. But I can imagine him enjoying all his reading requirements. After all, he loved books!

He then took up Law in the same school and finished it. He married and got into real estate business, starting with a few condominium units that he bought in Makati. Manoling never became a lawyer, perhaps since family business had gotten in the way of that childhood dream. But he has certainly achieved more than what he probably imagined back when he was then living in that small shack near the river.

When I visited Manoling in Manila few years ago, he drove me around Makati in his Mercedes Benz. He asked me to join him pray before he started the engine. Having a drink at the penthouse of a condo overlooking the city lights of Manila, he narrated how he survived that megacity, risking his life every night in Tondo as a bank security guard. He was in tears when we recalled our days in Surigao.

This was the story of yet another poor person who did not invoke entitlements or complained so much about his condition. He just worked hard, really hard to get an education, taking advantage of what little opportunity was available for him.

It goes to show that real wealth is what you possess or store in your mind. Or in your heart.

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TAGS: Cebu, cum laude, Erwin Macua, graduate, graduate with honors, honors, Saint Theresa’s College

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