Not everybody can say with pride that they put themselves through university independently, but Melvin Chua of Makati City can.
Chua is a maglalako or a peddler of scrubs and sponges, taking to the streets of the bustling city for almost 13 years so he could, with his meager earnings, help his family and at the same time continue his schooling.
It was a little over a decade-long undertaking that was not for naught, a sacrifice that eventually reaped its slow-boil reward in its own good time, as Chua took to his Facebook account last April 11 to announce to all that he was finally graduating.
Yet even this success he could not call his own, as he extended his utmost gratitude to all the people who, at one point, bought sponges from him as a means of helping.
“Mga suki! Ga-graduate na po ako! Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat!” Chua wrote on his Facebook ecstatically last April 11. “Mahal na mahal ko kayo! God bless you all. Dahil sa paglalako, nakatapos ako ng kolehiyo. Now the first college graduate in the family. Thank you Lord!”
(Dear customers, I’m graduating! Thank you very much to all of you! I love you all! God bless you all! Because of vending, I am able to finish college. Now the first college graduate in the family. Thank you Lord!)
Chua is now a degree holder of a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, major in Office Management from the University of Makati.
“Kung may isang bagay man akong ipagmamalaki sa buhay, yun ay ang ilang taon kong paglalako para makatulong sa pamilya at matulungan ko ang sarili kong makapag-aral.“
(If there is one thing I am proud of in life, it’s my many years of peddling to help my family and to help myself go to school.)
Chua shared that after their graduation practice, he went back to peddling in hopes that he would see some of his loyal customers. According to him, he really wanted to see them as he wanted to thank them for playing a role in his life for almost 13 years.
“Yes!! They witnessed my elementary, high school, and now my college Graduation. Sila yung mga taong kahit anong antas sa buhay- bumibili ng tig 5,10,15 20 kong paninda na panghugas ng plato.”
(Yes! They witnessed my elementary, high school, and now my college graduation. They are the people who, no matter what standing they have in life, buy my 5-, 10-, 15-, 20-peso wares used in washing plates.)
He also wrote that he cannot celebrate alone his success; he had to share it with everybody. “Masaya po akong malaman na masaya kayo para sa akin dahil gagraduate na ko ng College. Maraming salamat po. Sobrang maraming salamat po. Para din po sa inyo ito… Sana dumating ang panahong ako naman ang makatulong sa iba tulad ng pagtulong nyo sa akin.”
(I am happy to know that you are happy for me because I’m already graduating from college. Thank you very much. Thank you so very much. This is for you as well. I hope the time comes when it would be my turn to help others, just as you helped me.)
Days later, in April 14, Chua took to his Facebook once again to share his graduation picture with his mother. The two of them were inside the Philippine International Convention Center, standing on the red-carpeted steps of the building as they smiled for the camera.
“Our first graduation picture! Ma, para sayo toh!” Chua wrote. “Maraming salamat Ma sa pagtataguyod sa amin at sa walang sawang pagmamahal. Hindi ko alam kung kailan ka huling nangarap para sa sarili mo dahil lagi kaming mga anak mo ang inuuna at iniisip mo. Hayaan mong ako naman ang mangarap para sayo at sa mga kapatid ko.”
(Our first graduation picture! Ma, this is for you! Thank you so much, Ma, for supporting us and for your unwavering love. I do not know when was the last time you dreamed for yourself because you always think of us your children first, and place us before anything else. Now let me be the one to dream for you and my siblings.)
Apart from his mother and all those who helped support his education, Chua also thanked, in jest, the ukay-ukay where he found his mother’s outfit: “Thank you din sa Ukay Ukay, nag-SALE! Nakabili ako ng Royal Blue Dress na nagpakinang sa Mama ko. Tiyaga lang talaga sa paghahanap. Balik ako dyan sa susunod pag SALE na ulit.”
(Thank you too to the thrift shop which had a sale! I was able to buy a royal blue dress which made my mama shine. One just really has to persevere in looking for a good find. I’ll return there in the next sale!)
Not everyone is born with privilege and Chua is just one of the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who juggle their education with earning a living, working a string of odd jobs from bussing tables, to manning cashiers in fast food restaurants, and street peddling, among many others.
And yet this difficult situation did not leave Chua embittered or in pieces, nor was it an easy excuse for him to lose hope, as he took it not as a curse, but just another reality he had to accept, work through, and trump over — a reality that ran parallel with the things he hold dear. JB