A few months before starting college, despite a lot of uncertainties, he decided to keep going.

“Sumama muna ako sa mga [trabaho sa] construction para may panimula akong panggastos bago magpasukan dahil alam kong mahihirapan ang magulang ko na masuportahan ako,” recalled Gabriel Ashley Balgemino, now 23, a resident of Brgy. Poblacion 1 in Real, Quezon.

Growing up in a family of 10, Gabriel experienced a lot of hardships, which made him realize that chasing even the simplest of dreams will take a lot of work. 

Several years later, Gabriel takes pride in finally being a licensed Civil Engineer with more confidence about the future.

Gabriel is one of the 31 former monitored children of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in the CALABARZON Region who passed the Civil Engineering Licensure Examination (CELE) last April 2024.

With his new title, Gabriel remains grateful to all the institutions that helped him and his family along the way.

Getting support for their education

“Maraming pagsubok kaming naranasan habang nag-aaral. And’yan ‘yung pumapasok kami na walang baon, iisa lang ang uniporme, at mga pinaglumaan lamang na bag at sapatos ng aming pinsan ang aming ginagamit,” Gabriel recalled.

With a lot of them going to school at the same time, his parents, who have no stable income, could barely afford their needs. His father is a construction worker while his mother is an encoder at their barangay health center. Things became harder when his parents decided to take separate ways.

“Kung sa sariling kakayanan ng magulang ko, alam ko na hindi kami makakapag-aral lalo na ‘nung naghiwalay sila. Walang naging plano para sa amin, at lalong higit ay walang nagtutulungan para mapunan ang pangangailangan namin,” he shared.

However, Gabriel is proud that his mother valued their education and worked hard each day to support them in school.

So when they became a beneficiary of the 4Ps in 2012, it was not only his mother who felt relieved.

“Sobrang laking bagay ng 4Ps para mairaos ang pag-aaral namin,” shared Gabriel, who added that his three elder brothers were able to finish college through the opportunities provided by the 4Ps.

Their eldest, Glenn Mark, was a grantee of the Commission on Higher Education’s Expanded Students Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGPPA) while Garry Leo and Mikko Gerald were both grantees of the UniFAST. These programs from CHED all prioritize members of 4Ps households.

As a result, his solo parent mother only had to worry about the younger children’s needs in school.

Gaining his diploma and license

While still in high school, Gabriel already planned out how to go about with his college education. At that time, he knew he did not want to be a burden to his mother, especially since two of his elder brothers were still in college.

“Kahit hindi ako gaano kasipag mag-aral dati, alam ko na hindi dapat ako magkaroon ng bagsak sa high school para makapag-apply ako ng scholarship sa college,” noted Gabriel when he learned about the scholarship being provided by the local government unit (LGU) of Real.

Despite having scholarship offers from universities in Manila, he decided to study Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in the province as he knew this would be cheaper.

Through the help of the scholarship from the LGU and also from Puerto Real Transport Corporation, Gabriel was able to go through his college education with less burden.

“Kung ‘di dahil sa mga scholarship na sumalo sa pag-aaral ko, ‘di ko alam kung ano ang mangyayari sa akin. Sobrang laking tulong hindi lang financially, pero emotionally at psychologically na rin,” he shared. 

When he graduated last August 2023, he decided to prepare for the licensure examination on his own. He supported his needs on securing review materials through working as a tutor.

All his hard work paid off when he passed the licensure examination and finally fulfilled his dream of being an engineer.

Currently, he is working as an online real estate analyst and is confidently looking forward to securing better employment opportunities in the future.

“Ngayong apat na kaming nakapagtapos sa kolehiyo sa aming pamilya, malaking tulong ito para unti-unti ay patuloy na mabago ang aming pamumuhay,” he shared.# [with reports from ATMercado]


*Gabriel’s family graduated as a beneficiary of the 4Ps last December 2023 due to their improved level of well-being.