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BORONGAN, Philippines – Striving to get a better job, a 31-year-old polio survivor pedaled at least 77.8 kilometers back and forth from his home in Quinapondan to reach Guiuan town on Eastern Samar where he is studying. He did this each week.
But on Thursday, June 1, after four long years of sweat and tears, he finally earned the fruits of all sacrifices – he received a college diploma at the graduation podium of the Eastern Samar State University (ESSU) Guiuan campus.
Jay-Ar Abuda graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology majoring in Food Technology and officially accepted his diploma at around 11 am Thursday, with his friends and relatives cheering for him. (An earlier version of this story stated that Abunda graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree. This has been corrected. – Editor)
“I am very happy (with this graduation) because all of my sacrifices in biking back and forth, for about 38.9 kilometers, one-way, paid off. I succeeded!” Abuda told Rappler while waiting for his name to be called on the stage.
Asked about his next plan, Abuda responded: “To look for a better job – that’s my next plan.”
He said his planned employment would partly help his family, especially his mother.
A few days before his graduation, Abuda posted a photograph of himself wearing a toga beside his bicycle, and a board with the caption, “Hangos pero nakatapos (gasping but finished).”
Abuda said he contracted polio when he was seven years old, while he was in second grade, and it took him a few years before he was diagnosed free and cleared of the disease.
Amid his condition, Abuda said he has endured so many sacrifices in life, including some humiliation from the public. He said he was riding his bicycle to move around daily because he didn’t have enough money for travel fare.
Every Sunday, he pedaled 38.9 kilometers to the place where his school was, and back home on Friday afternoon.
“Every week po yan, rain or shine,” he said while laughing.
In Guiuan, Abuda lived in a boarding house for free by one “Lola Telding.” In exchange, he served as a housekeeper.
Occasionally, Abuda posted on social media stories about his bicycle experiences and how he endured the travels, especially during bad weather conditions.
In Quinapondan, Abuda lived with his 70-year-old mother, who had been widowed since he was two years old, working as a market vendor to provide for the family of seven children. Abuda is the second oldest among the siblings.
Abuda said all of his siblings have their respective families already, except for their youngest who just finished a tourism course in Tacloban City.
To help support his sister’s studies and his mother, Abuda said he also drives a pedicab during his free time, giving him a modest earning of about P300 per day.
At the age of 14, he began driving a pedicab and continued doing so until his high school graduation in 2017. With the support of various benefactors, including his sister who worked in Manila, he managed to complete his college education as well.
Today, he proudly stands as a college graduate. “Thanks to God for providing me good health and perseverance to continue this life amid suffering. I finally made it. I am proud of myself. Despite the hardships and my physical condition, I was able to complete my studies and make good in the food industry,” the teary-eyed Abuda said.
Abuda said plans to apply for work in some hotels in Guiuan town after graduation. – Rappler.com
Ricky Bautista is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.