Johnlerry Olonan, 17, a child-beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program from Lucena City, always has to rush doing his school works while there is daylight. Their small home in the coastal community of Brgy. Dalahican has no electrical supply yet as his family cannot afford paying the bills. This and his other struggles in life coming from a poor family, however, did not hinder him from dreaming big and achieving it. Last March, he graduated as valedictorian among 409 graduates of Lucena-Dalahican National High School.
According to him, his graduation is the start of getting out of their current situation. With a full scholarship in a private university in the city, he’s a hundred percent certain he’ll reach his dreams of being an architect and finally give a brighter future for himself and his family.***
THE JOURNEY OUT OF THE DARK
Immediately after arriving home from a busy school day, Johnlerry has to open his books and rush doing his assignments. With his broken eyeglasses, he needs to finish his school work before getting dark. Otherwise, he has to struggle with his homework with only a small kerosene lamp to give him light.
Johnlerry Olonan, 17, a child-beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program from Brgy. Dalahican in Lucena City, Quezon Province, has endured doing this every night just so he can achieve his dream of being an architect. According to him, this situation made him more determined to rise higher and experience a better life.
“Kahit po ganito ang sitwasyon namin, sinisikap ko po talagang mag-aral nang mabuti, kahit madilim o kahit pumunta ako sa kapitbahay kapag gabi para makapag-aral sa maliwanag dahil walang kuryente sa bahay namin. Hindi ko ito ginawang hadlang para sa pag-aaral ko dahil alam kong ito lang ang magagamit ko para maging mas maayos ang buhay namin,” shared Johnlerry.
Last March 2015, every night of his sacrifices in the dark bore great fruits. He graduated as valedictorian among 409 high school graduates of Lucena-Dalahican National High School.
“Ito na po ang simula ng ating pagyabong. Pagsusumikapan ko pa pong lubos sa susunod pang mga taon upang maisakatuparan natin ang ating mga pangarap,” shared Johnlerry, who was referring to his parents, during his valedictory speech in his graduation ceremony.
Building a better life
Johnlerry’s family stays in a small hut in the middle of a crowded coastal community in Lucena City. His father, Roberto, is a fisherman and is the main provider in the family. His mother, Edita, stays at home but sometimes works as a housemaid in other provinces to help with the daily needs of the family.
“Ramdam n’ya (referring to Johnlerry) ‘yung hirap ng buhay. ‘Yun na lang mag-aral sa madilim at lumabo na ang mata kakasulat at kakabasa kahit madilim ay malaking hamon na para sa kanya. Kahit noong nasira ‘yung salamin n’ya hindi namin mapalitan kaya nagtatiyaga s’ya na naka-epoxy lang ‘yung salamin n’ya,” shared Edita, who is almost in tears.
As a student, Johnlerry sees how hard it is for his parents to support him and his older brother. His brother, John Robert, 27, only reached second year college because their family can no longer support his needs in school.
“Kapag walang kita sa pangingisda, nangungutang sila para may pambaon kami, pambili ng projects o kaya para may pamasahe ako kapag sumasali ako sa mga contests,” said Johnlerry.
The coming of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in 2009 became a big relief, especially for Johnlerry, who was the only qualified child in the family.
“Natulungan ako ng programa sa pag-aaral ko at natutuwa ako na hindi na masyadong nahihirapan ang mga magulang ko. Dito kasi sa amin, kapag malaki ang alon sa dagat, walang kikitain ang pamilya namin. Noong nagkaroon ng Pantawid, hindi na naging balakid sa aming pag-aaral dahil nasisigurong may nakalaang pera para sa pag-aaral ko,” he shared.
This inspired Johnlerry and his parents to continue working hard to improve their lives.
As a result of his hard work, Johnlerry is very grateful that graduating as valedictorian is opening good opportunities for him. He is able to get a full scholarship in a private university in their city and is a hundred percent certain he’ll enroll in the coming school year.
For Johnlerry, he’ll not waste this opportunity. For his parents, on the other hand, they’ll do everything to support their son until he gets his dream.
“Masakit sa loob kung hindi s’ya makakapag-aral, alam ko kung gaano kalaki ang mga pangarap n’ya at nakikita ko ang mga pagsisikap n’ya. Kahit magtrabaho ako sa malayo, ayos lang sa akin, basta masuportahan ko lang ang pagkokolehiyo n’ya,” shared Edita in tears.
Inspiring others to do the same
As a son of a fisherman, Johnlerry understands that when at sea, he cannot control the wind. However, he isn’t bothered at all since he knows that he can set the sail and go wherever direction he pleases.
In his valedictory speech he delivered during their graduation ceremony, he challenged his classmates to not be bothered by the struggles they have to face in the next few years and use what they have learned in school to set a good direction for their future.
“Tayo ang mag-aayos ng layag para makapunta tayo sa ating mga pangarap,” he shared.
Today, Johnlerry understands that his high school graduation is also the end of their being a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilya program. He considers this a blessing and is grateful for the program for supporting his dreams. He’s more grateful that his family has learned to strive harder because of the program and would be glad that their graduation from the program will mean other families and other children will be given the same opportunity provided to them.
Looking back at his life, Johnlerry has already proven how despite poverty, someone can rise and change his life through hard work and determination.
For him, the next five years in college will be another struggle—to go to a private university without enough allowance, attend each class with broken eyeglasses, and come home every afternoon and rush to finish school works while there is daylight. However, he’ll never mind these challenges because for sure, there’s a good life waiting for him and his whole family when he finishes college and becomes an architect.***