AS St. Theresa’s College (STC) security guard for almost two decades now, Erwin Macua has witnessed several commencement exercises.

Kuya Erwin, as he is called by students, teachers and parents, has seen how thousands of students enter the school as freshmen and leave donning their graduation gowns.

“I feel happy for the kids. I’d sometimes imagine myself donning a toga and how would it feel,” he told SunStar Cebu.

Yesterday, three years of juggling work and studies as a scholar paid off as he received his diploma for a baccalaureate degree in General Education, cum laude.

“I’m so happy, I can’t stop smiling. This is so surreal,” he said.

While most graduation candidates spent their last night as students with family and friends, Macua was on duty on the eve of his graduation, working the night shift.

“It wasn’t new. It is tiring, but this profession made me who I am today,” he said.

For the past 17 years, Macua worked from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. But this didn’t stop him from getting a full study load, attending classes from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

He recalled how the pressures of work and school sometimes wore him out and that at one point made him consider quitting.

“It was during my sophomore year when I thought of quitting. I felt I lacked time for my family,” he said.

But because of his wife, Irenea, and their children, Macua survived each semester as a consistent dean’s lister.

He said he would have wanted to pursue a degree in social work, but the guidance counselor advised him to take up education so he can inspire more young people.

Macua credits his passion for teaching to the lessons he learned from observing the diversity of students in school, which had him looking forward to having his own advisory class in the future.

For now, Macua will continue guarding the gates of STC as he prepares for the licensure examination for teachers in September.

He said he has received offers from private and public schools. But his focus now is to pass the exams before he teaches, he said.

“It’s one thing to graduate with honors and teach. But I’d be happier to be teaching with a license. That way, I can inspire my future students to work harder,” he said.

His mother, 60-year-old Aproniana, who just came from their hometown in Trinidad, Bohol, held back tears as she watched her eldest son with the rest of the graduates.