Son of junk collector graduates from UPLB, dedicates achievement to parents

Alessandro Alfred Perez

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Son of junk collector graduates from UPLB, dedicates achievement to parents
27-year-old Thomas John Tenedero says he owes his success to his parents, who exhausted all means for his studies

LAGUNA, Philippines – 27-year-old Thomas John Tenedero proved that his loved ones’ many sacrifices were worth it.

In a Facebook post, Tenedero shared how his parents, especially his father, worked hard as a scrap collector to support him in achieving his dreams. 

He said his father would usually work for 12 hours a day to make ends meet, earning P200 to P700 per day. 

“Nakakarga na sa kaniyang trolley ang sako-sakong mga kalakal. May mga bote ng mantika, bote ng gin, bote ng ketchup, sirang batcha, mesang walang paa, bakal, sirang electric fan, karton, at kung anu-ano pang pwedeng ibenta sa junkshop para mapakinabangan,” Tenedero said in his Facebook post. 

(My father’s trolley would be loaded with sacks of scrap materials. There were empty bottles of oil, gin, ketchup, broken basins and tables, steel, electric fans, cartons, and anything that could be sold at the junk shop.)

Not ashamed to be poor

Despite being raised in a poor family, Tenedero was never ashamed that they lived in an informal settlers’ area. Instead, this fueled his passion to dream even more.  

Mahirap tumira dito. Ilang beses na kaming sinabihan na papaalisin kasi aayusin na daw ‘yung Philippine National Railways (PNR) pero buti naman hindi na natutuloy. Binigyan kami ng option ng relocation sa Kay-anlog, Calamba, pero dapat daw bayaran pa namin,” Tenedero told Rappler.

(It is difficult to live here. There were a number of times when we’re asked to leave to make way for the PNR renovation. Good thing it never pushed through. They offered us a relocation at Kay-anlog, Calamba, but we would have to pay for it.) 

In 2005, he started to dream of studying at the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños, so after finishing his secondary education, he took the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT). Unfortunately, he failed. (READ: For UP hopefuls, the struggle starts with UPCAT

This didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream, however. He then applied for a reconsideration and eventually got accepted to UP Los Baños.

Tenedero recalled the time when his father sold whatever he could to pay for his enrollment. 

“Nagbenta agad-agad si Papa ng mga kalakal nang malaman niya ‘to. Mas excited pa siya sa’kin. Binenta ni Papa ‘yung dati naming poso. Saka iba pang kalakal para makapag-enroll ako,” he wrote. 

(My father immediately sold scraps when he learned that I was going to UP. He was more excited than I was. He sold our old water pump, as well as some other things, just so I could enroll.)

Braving the challenges

Despite getting in, life in the university was still filled with challenges, as his family struggled to financially support his studies and their household on the whole.

“Sobrang hina ng kalakal tapos kahit nanghihinayang na siya, kailangan niyang ibenta ang kalakal dahil wala kaming pambili ng pagkain, o pambayad ng kuryente noon, o kaya naman wala akong pambaon noon,” Tenedero wrote.

(Despite the cheap rates he received in exchange for the scraps, he sold them anyway because we had no money to buy food, pay for electricity, or give me an allowance.)

To ease the burden, Tenedero worked as a student assistant in UPLB’s Department of Humanities from 2012 to 2017. While he said the work itself had been easy, it still took 30 to 40 hours from him per month – time he could have spent studying. 

However, he continued to juggle his studies and work because it earned him at least P4,800 a month. It was barely enough to cover his daily expenses at home and school, but it was something. 

Success dedicated to his parents

Tenedero said he owes his success to his parents who exhausted all means for his studies. Despite everything, they remained hopeful and supported him in every way possible. 

“Walang ama na hindi kayang tiisin ang lahat ng sakripisyo para sa pangarap ng kaniyang anak. At walang anak na hindi nakikita ang hirap ng kaniyang magulang para sa kaniyang pangarap,” Tenedero wrote on Facebook. 

(There is no father who wouldn’t be able to endure sacrifices just for his child’s dreams. And there is no son who could ignore the hardships his parents have gone through for him to reach his dreams.)

On June 22, Tenedero will be graduating from UPLB with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics. He also works as an administrative office assistant in the university’s Department of Social Sciences. 

“Noong 2005, nagsimula ang pangarap kong makapasok sa UP. At ngayong 2019, lalabas na ako (In 2005, I started dreaming of entering UP. And this year, I will be graduating from it),” Tenedero said.

Alessandro Alfred Perez is a Rappler intern. He studies BA Sociology at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

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