Boy who helped catch a thief still chasing after dreams

MOST pedestrians who cross the intersection on N. Bacalso Ave. risk being cited for jaywalking during the early morning rush, but that didn't seem to bother one young man.

Keybird Padilla clutched his backpack in one arm, sweat rolling down his face as he made his way to the Asian College of Technology.

Hinay-hinay lang gud, maabot ra bitaw ta sa atong padulngan. Dili bitaw ni lumba (There's no rush. We eventually get to our destinations. After all, it's not a race),” he told SunStar Cebu.

As he entered the school's main gate, one of the security guards welcomed him with a wide smile.

“You're finally graduating, friend,” the guard said.

Keybird smiled back before joining the other students, who were waiting for the elevator to take them to the venue of their graduation rehearsal.

“The security guard was my classmate in high school. He seems happy for me,” he said in Cebuano.

The 24-year-old is graduating on Friday as a scholar of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi). This was his reward when, as a child, he helped a robbery victim.

In August 2003, Keybird ran after a robber in Carbon market, and led barangay tanods and policemen to arrest the suspect. He was 11.

For his bravery, Rafi promised to shoulder his college tuition and other authorized school fees, including his book expenses, among others.

Looking back, he admits it was a risky thing to do. On top of knowing the robber, the tanods were wary of him.

“The suspect even tried to deny it and spat out the earring he snatched from the victim. Luckily, a barangay personnel, who was sweeping the floor, found the jewelry and the robber was put behind bars,” Keybird said.

He explained that when he was eight, he, too, used to steal food from vendors while his mother Rowena looked for work.

At night, the mother and son would share a rickety bamboo bed on the streets of Barangay Ermita with no blanket to keep them warm.

With no one to watch over him during the day, Keybird admitted hanging out with the wrong crowd.

When he was 10, he and some of his friends were arrested for stealing.

After a series of interventions from social workers, he was returned to his mother, who toiled day in and day out to send him to elementary school.

Keybird, though, has no regrets, saying he is grateful for the experiences that shaped the man he is today.

He said he is dedicating his diploma to his mother, who has been his source of strength and inspiration.

“My mother is the best person in the world. She raised me all by herself and because of her, I never tried drugs or alcohol despite our poverty,” he said in Cebuano.

Rowena has been working as a street sweeper under the Cebu City Department of Public Services since City Hall recognized her son's feat 14 years ago.

The mother and son also traded their bamboo bed for an apartment in Barangay Day-as.

Barely two days from now, Keybird will receive a baccalaureate degree in Information Technology.

He encouraged everyone to never give up and to be optimistic.

“Life is a marathon, not a race. We all have our own finish lines. I'm still halfway there, but I am happy,” Keybird said.
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