CEBU CITY, Philippines – For a woman who has a dream and an unwavering determination, no job is too hard or too tiring if it means taking her a step closer to her goal.
Proof of this is the story of Ester Pelaez, who worked as a house help, and then as a security guard, to finally becoming a teacher that she has always dreamt about.
Now an English instructor in a college in Danao City, Cebu, Pelaez not only survived but thrived despite the challenges thrown at her.
This is her story.
Ester Pelaez’ childhood
When she was five-years-old, Pelaez said she walked to school everyday wearing her thinned out slippers with not a single peso in her pockets.
The young girl would head to school on her own because even at a young age, she knew that the only way she could change her fate was if she got proper education.
Pelaez grew up in a poor family who lived in a simple house in Panalipan, Catmon town, in Cebu.
Her father made ends meet by fishing and farming while her mother was a housewife who stayed home to take care of their seven kids.
Aware of her family’s status, the young Pelaez, the sixth of seven siblings, was dedicated to finishing her schooling.
Not wanting to burden her parents, Pelaez did errands in a neighbor’s farm during the weekend to earn her lunch money.
Despite the tedious routine, the stubborn child pushed through from elementary to high school and was able to graduate with honors.
House help, nanny at 16
When she finished high school, Pelaez had to face the sad reality that her parents could not afford to send her to college. Instead, they made a deal along with her older sister to help earn money for the latter’s allowance for college. And, after her sister graduated, her older sister would return the favor.
Sad but encouraged by the promise, Pelaez began to work as a house help in a neighbor’s house at the age of 16. She worked long hours everyday to help earn money to send to her sister who was studying in the city.
After working as a helper for a few months, Pelaez was then hired as a nanny of a young child.
With how unpredictable life can be, Pelaez had to go from job to job in order to continue helping her family financially. But for a woman like her, there was nothing she wouldn’t do for the sake of her loved ones.
At 18-years-old, she became a sales lady at a big mall. A little while later, she then worked as a promo clerk.
Pelaez: The pillar of the family
But then, an unexpected incident shook her determination and challenged her strong can-do attitude.
Pelaez’ father suffered a stroke and died.
With her other older siblings married with families of their own, the responsibility as breadwinner was passed down to Pelaez.
She was left with no choice but to care for her mother, her older sister, who also got sick at the time, and her younger sister still in high school.
Because of her father’s passing, Pelaez felt for the very first time a sense of hopelessness and made the decision to lock away her dream of going to college.
While she was grieving, Pelaez boldly took over and acted as the pillar that her family needed. So she continued to work for a few years for her beloved family.
Pelaez then decided to start her own family at age 23. Love found her even when she wasn’t looking and this made her really happy.
Before she knew it, she had built a family with the love of her life. They bore four kids.
Growing up with brothers, Pelaez had always been tough and courageous. This is exactly why she dreamed of becoming a police officer or a soldier.
An opportunity came knocking on her door when she was able to apply for training to be a security guard.
Wanting to experience a little bit of her dream, she took the chance and began working as a security guard in a local resort in her hometown.
Pelaez was proud of her humble job as a female security guard. This even as it made her very tired. She was happy that it felt like she was living her childhood dream.
Back to school
And then a realization hit Pelaez one random day as she was staring at her youngest child.
Despite being happy with their current state, she realized that she wanted to have the means to give her children the opportunities she never had as a child.
Knowing that the only way to do that is by going back to school, Pelaez became a student once again after 16 years.
Being a student by day and a security guard and a mother of four at night was difficult for Pelaez.
Fortunately, she was able to adjust with the help of her partner, her mother, and her friends at school.
As additional income, Pelaez also started to sell sweets she made herself at home.
Her packed schedule took a toll on her body but no matter what, there was nothing that could force a mother to stop her pursuit of a better life for her children.
In 2017, everything paid off.
Childhood ream now a reality
As she walked on the stage to receive her diploma, she remembered her 5-year-old self. She never thought, though, that she would graduate as a cum laude.
Not long after, Pelaez took the boarding exam and passed on her first try. She was able to get a job as a teacher in one of the universities in Danao City, Cebu.
After a journey that lasted many years, Pelaez has finally turned the dream she had when she was only five-years-old into a reality.
It may have taken a long time, but her story is proof that life is not a race, unlike what most people believe.
Pelaez, a woman who never gave up, is a firm believer that it is never too late to reach for what you desire. She is also living proof that nothing is impossible if you work hard for it.
The girl who used to take a peek at the doorway of the classroom to learn has now grown up into a strong and resilient woman whose attitude for greatness has never changed.
Acknowledging that she has so much more to learn, Pelaez aims to pursue her masters soon while balancing work with spending quality time with her family.
Her story shows that the road to success is usually not a straight line. But no matter what bumps you face or step backs you go through, giving up is never the option.
To kids out there who might relate to the experiences of young Pelaez, she advised them to move at their own pace and keep trying until they too reach their ambitions.
“Bisag-unsa pa na kalisod, kung determinado jud ka nga makab-ot nimo ang gusto nimo makab-ot, imo gyud na makuha. No matter how many times you fail, as long as you try, makab-ot gyud nimo ang success. You never know what you can do unless you try,” Pelaez said.
(No matter how difficult it will be, if you are determined to achieve your dream, you will really achieve it. No matter how many times you fail, as long as you try, you will achieve success. You will never know what you can do unless you try.)