CEBU CITY, Philippines — Jesus Fuentes, 41, a chicharon vendor, a father of four, and the sole breadwinner of his family, from Barangay Labangon, Cebu City, proved that there is no age limit for a person to attain his dreams in life and for his family.
This August 2022, Fuentes will graduate from the Talisay City College with a Bachelor of Elementary Education degree.
Fuentes is living proof that it’s never too late to start a dream. He also proved that being financially challenged isn’t a hindrance to achieving one’s dream.
“Ang ka pobre dili babag sa kalampusan sa tawo. Maningkamot lang g’yod siya kay kung imo g’yod siyang haguan, maabot jud na siya nimo, kay ang Ginoo di na magpasagad. Ang Ginoo nagtan-aw sa imong gibuhat. Basta nagbuhat lang ka og minatarong, ihatag na niya nimo,” he told CDN Digital.
(Being poor isn’t a hindrance to ones success. We just have to strive because if you work hard for something, you will really reach your goal because God will never leave you. He is always looking at what you’re doing. If you just do good things, he will really give it to you.)
Fuentes is the youngest of six children from his father’s first family. Due to financial constraints, he was unable to complete high school on time or continue on to college after graduating at the age of 22.
At 23, Fuentes had his own family after his wife gave birth to the eldest of their four children. Jesus’ children are aged 17, 14, 10, and nine-months old.
To provide for his family’s needs, Fuentes once worked as a gasoline station attendant and a promodiser in one of the country’s beauty companies before starting selling and delivering chicharon for his supplier. His family currently lives in a small makeshift house at the corner of PU Abella Street and Salvador Extension in Barangay Labangon.
Despite these circumstances, Fuentes said he has never forgotten his dream of finishing college.
In 2018, he finally made the decision to return to college.
Fuentes said he was supposed to enroll at the Cebu Technological University main campus but decided not to after learning that the school’s class schedule is daily.
He said he wanted to find a school that would allow him to only report to school at least three times a week, so he can have time to sell and deliver chicharon so he can earn for his family.
He said he learned about the Talisay City College (TCC) admissions process from a student there while his family was visiting the beach in Talisay City’s Barangay Larawan. The school offers his desired class schedule.
However, his admission, did not come easy.
Fuentes said he had to coordinate with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in the region in order to enrol in the said school under the old curriculum.
Although, he was successful in enrolling himself at the public college, Fuentes said he also had to deal with his wife, who at first, was not supportive of his plans.
“Mag-away lagi mi at that time katong first year pa. Kay mao to musamot daw mi og kalisod. Pero, bahala’g magyaw-yaw siya, eskwela jud ko,” he said.
(We would fight at that time when I was on my first year. Because she said it would be an additional burden. But no matter how much she’d babble, I was determined to finish my studies.)
“Nakadesisyon ko nga kinahanglan naa koy resbak kay basin diay makatrabo ko, bahala’g ginagmay basta naa koy sweldo kay naa man kay degree,” he added.
(I made the decision to make sure I had something to lean on because I might be able to finally work, even if just for a little, at least I’d be able to have income because I have a degree.)
Fuentes would bike from his house to the TCC every class day. And even at school, he said, he would still bring his chicharon supplies and sell it to his fellow students and faculty members.
“Inig eskwela nako, at the same time, kuyog nako ni akong chicharon. Dal-on nako ni sa eskwelahan, unya ako ihatag…Naa koy mga tindera ani, mga (students from) IT, HRM, Education, ako ning idistribute. So, inig ka hapon, ihatag nila ang bayad nako,” he said.
(When I go to school, at the same time, I bring my chicharon. I bring them to school then I’d sell them. I have people selling it for me who are students from IT, HRM, and education. I distribute these to them. So in the afternoon, they give me the payments.)
Fuentes admitted that even now, he could not still believe that he survived what he had been through the past four years in his pursuit to get a degree.
Asked of his future plans, Jesus said he would take whatever job opportunities that would come along the way. This is while he waits for the opportunities to review for free and take the Licensure Examination for Teachers.
Should he become a full-fledged educator, Fuentes said he would want to teach in their province in Malabuyoc, Cebu, so he could also take care of his father while he teaches.
Meanwhile, Jesus is appealing to those who can assist him, either in kind or financially, in repairing their makeshift house, which serves as their shelter especially during this rainy season. For those who wish to extend assistance, Fuentes can be reached through cell number 0932-497-7907.
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