IT IS never easy to study and work at the same time, but it is way harder to do both while providing for a family of seven.
Manuel Alibong Jr., 33, of Sitio Nangka, Barangay Tungasan, Olango Island in Lapu-Lapu City, can attest to this, as he had to juggle work and his studies to give his family a brighter future.
Last March 24, Alibong finished Bachelor in Elementary Education Major in General Education at the Lapu-Lapu City College.
"Gikasakripisyo gayud nako akong kaugalingon sa akong pag-eskwela ug trabaho. Halos wala nay tulog kay gusto nako akong pamilya matagaan nako og sakto nga suporta, sakto na edukasyon sa akong lima ka mga anak (I really sacrificed to manage both my studies and work. I even lacked sleep, but I really wanted to support my family and provide my children good education)," he said.
Alibong's father, Manuel Sr., was a fisherman, while his mother, Catalina Mencede, was a fish vendor at Pasil Fish Market in Cebu City.
He said life in the island was tough, as most of the men in their hometown either work as a fisherman or a construction worker.
He said that when he was eight years old, he was left alone at home, as his father decided to look for better opportunities in Cebu City, citing the fish catch in Olango was not enough for their family.
Alibong, though alone, struggled to survive every day and managed to graduate high school in 2002.
"Ang usa ka laki nga di gayud mutiwas sa pagskwela, bisag sa high school lang, maglisud gayud pangitag trabaho. Kung wala kay grado, kung wa ka kahuman sa high school, wala gayud kay kapilian, managat, construction, mag-uma ka (A person who will not work hard to finish school will only end up working as a fisherman, construction worker, or a farmer)," he said.
His mother then encouraged him to become a teacher, but he refused as he wanted to become a civil engineer. He enrolled at the University of Cebu, but he was only able to study for four months due to financial constraints. This prompted him to work as a security guard.
"Pag-undang nako, nananghid ko ni mama nga mag-security guard ko kay para magtigum ko kay muskwela ko (I stopped studying and I told my mother that I will work as a security guard so I can support my studies)," he said.
In March 2004, he started working as a security guard at Colonnade Supermarket in Cebu City. After his shift, he sold fish at Pasil Fish Market from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. with the help of his wife, Iris.
"Akong hunahuna atong maninda ko og isda ug sa akong pagpang-gwardya nga nagprepara ko sa akong kaugalingon nga samtang nagtrabo ko, magtigum ko atong kwarta unta para sa among kasal ug maka balay mi (I have to sell fish and work as a security guard at the same time, so I can save for our wedding and build a house for us)," he said.
In 2011, he went back to school -- this time at the Lapu-Lapu City College (LLCC), where he took up Bachelor in Elementary Education Major in General Education.
He works from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., then he goes to class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"Ang lisud gayud kaayo i-balance ang skwela, trabaho, samantala naa pay pamilya. Kay sa trabaho alas sais sa gabie hangtod alas sais sa buntag, dose oras. Kinahanglan inig out nako sa dutyhan... mu-travel nako padung sa skwelahan kay may gilay-on man gud (It's really hard to balance between studies and work while supporting a family at the same time, since I have to work from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and after work, I have to travel to school)," he said.
Alibong was then assigned at the warehouse of Colonnade Supermarket in Pier 4 at the North Reclamation Area in Cebu City. He was assigned there from 2005 to 2013.
On his first year in college, even if he lacked sleep, he would travel from Pier 4 to Barangay Basak in Lapu-Lapu City on his bicycle.
This, he said, resulted in a sudden weight loss, which eventually prompted him to temporarily stop studying.
Challenges did not stop to hound him, as on December 4, 2013, on his second year in college, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. His doctors decided to remove his right kidney.
"Nakaingon gud ko ato, 'Lord, pirti man daghana mang mga lalaki, mga amahan nga abusado ug daghan ug bisyo, ako paman gyud imong gitagaan aning sakita nga naa man ta koy pangandoy sa akong mga anak nga tagaan unta maayong kaugmaon' (I asked God, why me, when there are a lot of men out there who are abusive and have a lot of vices. Why me, when I have dreams for my children)," he said.
After his recovery, he was re-assigned to a lot owned by Colonnade Supermarket in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City. He then resumed his studies at LLCC.
He said he had to make his assignments and school projects in the dark, as the area where he was assigned has no power supply.
Guard, soon-to-be teacher
But Alibong kept on going to achieve his dreams so he can send his children to school and give his family a better future.
"His will to really finish his studies is beyond what we could expect from a student," said Dr. Ma. Noeleen Borbajo, dean and vice president for Academics at LLCC.
Dr. Alma Ycong, one of Alibong's college professors, also admired his determination to finish his studies.
"He is very determined to finish. In fact, sa kadaghang sa mga projects, mga portfolios, ug assignments, wala gayud na siya ma delay sa submission," Ycong said.
During his graduation last March 24, Alibong received an Outstanding Student-Teacher award from the school where he had his practicum.
After graduation, he said he plans to review in preparation for the next board exam for aspiring teachers. And when he becomes a teacher, Alibong said he may just stop working as a security guard.
"Kung ma-maestro nako puhon, willing ko biyaan ang pagpang-gwardya...Usa akong tuyo ana nga mausa nami sa akong pamilya diri sa isla (I am willing to leave my work as a security guard when I become a teacher... I want to spend more time with my family here in the island)," Alibong said. (SunStar Philippines)
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