In rural provinces, the concept of a "working student" takes on a unique sociological perspective, distinct from its urban counterpart. It diverges from the traditional narrative of balancing academics with white or blue-collar jobs for survival.
Instead, it involves relentless work from dawn to night within extended or middle-income families, in exchange for their education.
For Celso Vergara, 28, the current Public Relations Officer II of the Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Information Section - Department of Agriculture-Davao Region (Rafis-DA-Davao Region), breaking the chains of poverty requires dreaming big, consistent perseverance, and finding silver linings amidst life's chaos.
A decade ago, when his mother passed away, he became the breadwinner at a young age.
Despite being thrust into a life of responsibility while others enjoyed their post-coming-of-age years, life-changing opportunities awaited him.
As the son of a farmer in Barangay Hoyohoy, foothills of Mt. Malindang in Misamis Oriental, Celso questioned his upbringing but never discredited his father's work. He faced judgment from his community but remained more than a doer and dreamer.
Understanding his father's job and the hard work of those contributing to the economy led Celso to a comfortable life. He supported his siblings' tertiary education, alleviating their burden.
“Una wala ko kasabot sa trabaho ni papa. Naga-ingon siya nga dili musundog sa iyaha kay ang kani nga trabaho init ug singot, Pagmakita nako unsa kahago ang iyahang trabaho, isip usa ka anak lamang sa tig-uma, isip anak sa bukid nga halos ang tanang mga tao didtoa wala nakahuman og eskwela sa college, kinahanglan nako maningkamot kay ako ang ginasaligan (At first, I didn't understand my father's job. He said not to imitate him because the work exposes one to too much heat from the sun. Seeing how hard he worked for us, as a son of a farmer in a mountainous place where almost everyone didn't finish school in college, I had to do my best because they put their trust in me)," he told SunStar in an interview.
Growing up, Celso engaged in various agricultural tasks, exposing him to rural life. Residents in his community judged him as just a farmer's son, questioning why he would dream of an education.
Despite enduring antagonistic words, Celso made history as one of the first individuals in their isolated community to earn a college diploma in 2015, majoring in English at the Central University of Mindanao (CMU).
However, torn between practicality and passion, he found himself working in a Business Processing Outsource (BPO) company to settle family debts after leaving the institution.
In 2017, Celso passed the Career Service Professional (CSP) and Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) in his first attempt. This served as his ticket to government service, becoming Administrative II of the DA-Davao Region. DEF