Linking poverty, education and living away from home: A personal experience

Research studies in most Western countries, especially the US and Canada, show that leaving the parental home marks the transition to adulthood and is indicative of parental independence. In developing countries, such as the Philippines, parental home-leaving is somewhat different. One research conducted by Clarinda Berja (one of the faculty members I consulted for my master's thesis) of the Department of Sociology of the University of the Philippines reveals that the main reason why young Filipinos leave their parental homes is economic in nature. Rural poverty leads the youth to go to urban areas to look for jobs where better economic opportunities abound.

As a migrant here in Metro Manila, I could attest that Berja's main finding is true. It is a reality. Being born in a poor family, I know how hard it is to make a living in a rural area. Our municipality is considered 5th class. Gaisano Mall and Robinsons Mall (operated just last year) are located about 37 kilometers away from Tacloban City. About 99% of the people are farmers. In my tennage years, my family lived in a nipa hut - no electricity, so we didn't have any electric devices and equipment like TV. Even in the city, there are very few jobs available for thousands of newly graduates who are all seeking for decent work.

When I was in my elementary years, my father told me that my family could not afford to send me to college. So I was thinking, well, I would be spending my entire life tilling the soil. I kept on asking myself why my little barrio wasn't like the other good places I've seen on a neighbor's television shows/programs. I have seen the sacrifices of my parents and siblings. The burden was there.

Luckily, I graduated with flying colors in both elementary and high school. I felt proud of myself and for my family as I delivered my valedictory address (1998, elementary and 2002 in high school). The year 2002 has been a turning point in my life. I passed the coveted University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT). Actually, I was the only one who passed the exam in our school. With totally no exposure to urban life, I have to temporarily 'migrate' to Tacloban City for my college studies. That was my very first home-leaving experience. I spent four years of my life in Tacloban in different boarding houses. I stayed away from home primarily to study and not because I wanted residential independence. I pursued college education because I knew from the very start that a college diploma would help me land a job and finally help my financially struggling family. Armored with my ambitions and faith in God, I ventured in the unknown. I had a lot of fears and struggles, but I have overcame all these with the help of my supportive family and friends.

I was thinking that after I graduated from college, I would surely look for a job. But when I was studying in UP Tacloban, I've learned a lot of things and I was exposed to different ideas which would help me realize deeper and more important things later in my life. Education really shapes one's attitudes and perspectives. I decided to apply for a master's degree in UP Diliman (thanks to the help and encouragement of Prof. Hernanita Pelino, my sociology professor, and Prof. Ladylyn Lim-Mangada, my political science professor). And fortunately, I passed the entrance exam and the best thing was that my studies would be funded by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. One of the provisions in the scholarship agreement was the prohibition from engaging in any type of employment. At first, my siblings were against my plan going to Manila to pursue my master's studies. They wanted me to immediately work and help them which was a legitimate and reasonable demand. They argued that I have already my college diploma so I have to work. They got angry, but I already made up my mind. I have bigger ambitions in life, and I was quite sure that this would greatly help them later on.

It was May 2006 when I enrolled in UP Diliman. Innocent as I was, I looked for a dormitory inside the campus. For two years, I stayed at Ipil Residence Hall and within that time frame, I finished all the coursework, i.e., academic units, required. I have already presented my thesis proposal. I began to associate myself with different types of people inside the university. After the scholarship agreement expired, I immediately looked for work. I did part-time tutorial work with Korean students. I also taught social science subjects in a computer college. And recently, I am working in a BPO industry. It is almost four years since I started my MA study, and I am still working on my thesis. My focus shifted from finishing my graduate thesis to earning money. I send money to my family every pay day. If you are working and studying at the same time, you will know what I am talking about.

For almost 12 years living on my own (by the way, I'm 24 years old now), you could imagine how I always missed my family. No mother who used to give me a medicine when I was sick. No more father who used to bring me to hospital almost every month. I was a frequent visitor of the hospital when I was a child. I was always sick. That's why my parents made a 'panata' with the so-called Santa Cruz that every year until I reach the age of 25, my family would held some sort of prayer sessions in our house lead by the Catholic elders in our community. I broke that 'panata' when I was 16 years old, the time when I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and understood clearly that it was Jesus who healed me.

Living away from home shapes my transition to adulthood. Education is the primary reason why I choose to leave parental home which, at the end, is the key to uplifting the economic status of my family. Poverty is the major obstacle many Filipinos are facing up until today but I choose to rise above it. I continue to struggle for the attainment of my ambitions. Today, I am happy to see that one of my two younger brothers is now in his third year in college and the youngest will be entering college next year. I will continue to support them as long as I can. My experiences help me become mature in many areas. To some extent, I became independent. I learned how to stand on my own feet. I learned how to communicate well, build friendships and relationships and to depend solely on God. I realize that at the end of the day, there is a meaningful purpose of each event that is happening in my everyday life.
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