It is a sad reality in the Philippines that a lot of people live below the poverty line, unable to fully support their children in terms of providing them with food and sending them to school.
Poverty stops many of these kids from going to school, yet there are many who managed to overcome their difficult situations. One of these is Benjie Liloc, a former puto-kutsinta vendor who now works as teacher! Isn’t that awesome?
But life had been very difficult for Benjie, born to a poor family in Balingoan, Misamis Oriental. After his parents broke up, his mother nearly gave them away because she could not provide them food.
“I grew up from a broken family and raised by my mother whose income was only enough for us to eat. Our life was very difficult. Every day was a survival of the fittest,” Benjie recalled.
“It almost reached to the point that our mother thought about giving us away, but her love for us prevented her from doing so.”
To make ends meet, Benjie decided to help his mother earn money. At age 13, he started selling puto and kutsinta, walking across the town to sell his goods.
And while there were good days when most or all his food get sold out, there were also many days when very few people would buy despite Benjie walking all over Balingoan to find customers.
One very hot day, he had spent hours walking around Balingoan but only very few people bought the goods he was selling. Frustrated and exhausted, the teen thought about quitting, but he managed to motivate himself using that situation, using that moment to push himself to pursue his dreams.
“I almost wanted to cry. I took a sit, breathed heavily and told myself, ‘Benjie, you cannot live your lifetime like this, take a rest but do not stop. Get up and keep moving on,’” he recalled.
The motivation worked. He was able to push himself to work harder and complete his studies.
After high school, Benjie was happy to receive a scholarship that allowed him to enroll at the Misamis Oriental Institute of Science and Technology in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental. But his dream was cut short when the scholarship didn’t pay his tuition fees.
Unable to pay for the tuition fees at the time, Benjie had to quit. He went back to selling puto-kutsinta, yet he did not stop reaching for his dreams.
The following year, he enrolled again and continued to sell puto-kutsinta while also trying to find scholarships.
“I survived my first year in college pleading to my teacher to let me take my exam and making promissory notes but still I keep on searching for scholarship,” Benjie recalled.
He passed one of these scholarship applications, becoming a recipient of Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano’s “Iskolar Ko Ni Bambi” (IKNB). With his continued hard work and the scholarship, Benjie was able to graduate.
“I graduated from college. I landed to a noblest job which is teaching, and passed the licensure examination for teachers,” Benjie shared.
He was asked to share his story during the 12th General Assembly of IKNB attended by 3,000 scholars in Misamis Oriental.
Photo credit: Sun Star Cagayan de Oro
“There is no shortcut to success. In order to be successful, do not underestimate the power of prayer. Just take a rest, but do not stop. Listen to yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Plant your seed and have a sweet harvest of tomorrow,” he told his audience.
“I am Benjie Liloc. A kutsinta-puto vendor and now a licensed professional teacher, believing, Good things come to those who wait but better things come to those who work for it.”
Today, Benjie works as teacher at St. Marys Academy of Talisayan in Talisayan, Misamis Oriental. It’s a good thing he did not give up on his dreams!