Sun-kissed skin tattooed with hard work and struggles; tirelessly chasing the tennis ball under the hot blaze of the sun; running from one side of the court to the other.
He is John Aldrick Agravante, “Besty” to his friends.
Aldrick lives in the Zea Mays Men’s Hall of the lower campus, just a few streets away from his workplace: the tennis court.
“Naa ko every day sa court 5PM to 7PM. Unya kada Sabado pud kay 6PM naa nako sa court.”
[I am at the tennis court every day from 5 to 7 in the evening. On Saturdays, I come to work at 6 in the morning]
As a ball boy, Aldrick’s job is to retrieve and supply tennis balls while the athletes play. Every day, he must be energetic and attentive to make sure that each game is active.
Student at daytime, ball boy at night. His daily routine is a mix of physical exhaustion, mental stress, family problems, scolding at work, and the everyday uncertainties.
“Usahay naa’y mga gagmay kasaba pero okay ra man pud kay ako man sad sayop.”
[Sometimes, I get scolded at work for a few mistakes but that’s okay.]
But these are just few of what he has been through and his harder struggles
The little father
Aldrick is a native of Mahaplag, Leyte, and the youngest in a family of five. Before his family settled in Leyte, they used to live in Manila where his father’s former job in a steel factory was. Their struggle doubled when his father caught a lung illness, forcing him to stop working.
“Okay ra man unta to amo kinabuhi sa una sa wa palang jud nasakit si Papa. Si Mama magpabilin na lang sa balay para magbantay ka Papa.”
[Our lives were fine until Dad got sick. My mother had to stay home to look after him.]
As young as he was, Aldrick’s reality were opened to the fact that that life is not just a walk in the park.
They then moved to Mahaplag, Leyte. This will be the pivotal event that would create a dramatic shift in Aldrick’s life.
His mother was forced to stay home to look after her sick husband. The medicines his father need, forced the young aldrick to serve as a ball boy in their local tennis court.
“Nagsugod ko pagka ball boy elementary pa lang ko ngadto sa tennis court sa Mahaplag, para tabang pangpalit og tambal ni Papa ug pang allowance pud nako.”
[I was an elementary pupil when I first worked as a tennis ball boy in Mahaplag tennis court. I had to help buy my father’s medicines and provide my own allowance.]
In fifth grade, Aldrick’s father died, and even then the young boy did not have the time to properly grieve his loss. Being the only male remaining in the family, he assumed the responsibilities left by his father. He knew his father’s meager pension would not suffice, so he doubled his work and started juggling between being a ball boy and selling products his aunts supplied, all while going to school.
The Viscan Ball Boy
When he discovered VSU through his neighbors, he knew he found the right place for him.
“Naimpluwensyahan ra pud ko sa mga tawo sa amoa. Daghan ko’g nadunggan nga kini kunong Visca kay taas kaayo’g standards, lisod kuno kaayo diri, daghan daw nang give up, pero bisag lisod, nindot man daw gihapon mu eskwela diri kay high standards lage.”
[I heard a lot of good things about VSU. My neighbors said that VSU has high standards for education, that to study here is difficult that many students gave up. But they said that all the difficulties are worth it because of the high quality education it will give you.]
When he was in high school, Aldrick used to sell banana cue, peanuts, and other products. All of those bore good fruit when a religious organization offered to support his college education after learning about his interest to study in VSU.
“Libre man kog tuition sukad pa sa una kay scholar man ko sa simbahan. Nailhan ko nila kay sikat-sikat man pud ko sa amoa tungod sa akong paglibod og mga bisag unsa pag high school. Kasagaran banana cue, usahay mani, or bisag unsa ra jud. Nahuna-hunaan siguro nila nga ako jud ang mas nanginahanglan, mao tong gitabangan ko nila. Allowance nalang jud ang akoa problemahon.”
[I didn’t have to pay my tuition fees myself because I have a scholarship in our church. They knew me to be selling different food products in our school. Maybe they thought that I deserve the assistance so they did help me. In that, I only have to think about my daily allowance.]
His two sisters working in Manila would sometimes send him money for his daily expenses, but even then, their salaries hardly feed the whole family. This situation pushed Aldrick to help himself and become a ball boy once again. This time, at the VSU Tennis Court.
“P25 jud na kada game, pero usahay kay pasobraan man pud nila. Usahay hatagan ko nilag P50 or P75, mga ingon ana.”
[They give me 25 pesos per game. Sometimes, they offer additional tips and give me 50 or 75 pesos.]
People’s kindness and their willingness to help motivated Aldrick to continue. He knew that as long as his intentions are good, seeking help from other people is never shameful.
“Para kaluy-an ka, kaluoy pud sa imong kaugalingon. Dawata nga nanginahanglan ka og tabang.”
[People will show compassion if you accept that you need help.]
Aldrick’s fuel are his struggles. Despite difficulties, he knew he survive the day.
“Ingon sila, lahi ra jud daw ang makahuman sa wala kahuman. Mas hayahay kuno ang trabaho sa mga nakahuman maong naningkamot jud kog eskwela. Ug para sad sa ako pamilya para makatabang ko nila ig tiwas nako.”
[Life is different for someone who has graduated college from one who did not. I am striving hard to finish my studies to have a stable job in the future. Not just for me, but most of all for my family.]
Upon coming to VSU, his original plan was to pursue a degree in Education. Due to some circumstances, he decided instead to enroll in Agriculture. Aldrick didn’t mind though, Agriculture was also one of his choices. He has always been fascinated with the art of developing food products that sustain life.
Presently, Alrdick is in his last year in college. He aims to finish his 4-year undergraduate study this June.
He will, hopefully, be the first in his family to finish college, and while it allows him to carry a sort of pride, Aldrick is posed with another problem: finding a job. For Aldrick, finding a job immediately after graduating is a must. Unlike other people who can afford a few month’s rest after graduation, Aldrick has a family to support.
“Bisag asa nga trabaho basta maka sulod lang. Okay ra og sa private, okay rapud kung sa gobyerno. Di napud nako kaya mag aksaya og oras kay daghan pako og pangandoy sa kinabuhi, unya aron pud maiban-ibanan na ang pagkalisod sa among pamilya.”
[I would accept any job, private or government. I won’t waste a single minute because I still have many dreams to achieve and I need to aid my family’s difficulties.]
As a person who received a lot of help and support in his arduous journey, Aldrick hopes to give back by helping other people going through the same battle as him.
“Siyempre og ako mu-asenso, dili nako kalimtan og tabang ang mga tao nga nagkalisod pud. Gitabangan ko, mutabang sad ko. Pero sa karon kay wa paman koy mahatag, ako lang sa sila i-motivate nga di mo-give up.”
[If I become successful, I will never forget the people who have the same struggles as mine. When I was having a difficult time, people helped me. So I must help too. For now, since I am still incapable of giving anything, I can motivate them to continue and not give up.]
The adversities that Aldrick faced yesterday shaped who he is today. As he is moving closer towards his dream, he can’t help but thank his experiences.
“Kung nagkalisod ka, ayaw lang jud og surrender. Pangitai lang jud na og paagi para maka survive kay wa man say problema nga magdugay.”
[In the midst of struggles, you must not give up. Look for ways to survive for no problem lasts forever.]
His story isn’t done yet. This is the story of John Aldrick Agravante. He believes he can, and so he will.
Editor's Note: This was featured in the 2018-2019 magazine