Geraldo Galoy is a native of Mahaplag Leyte. Born to a family of 7, he understood poverty in its true sense early in life.
“My parents' salary was barely enough for food. There were times when we could only eat once or twice a day. Sometimes we would just look for rootcrops.”
More than once, poverty had led him to the verge of hopelessness.
“I really wanted to go to college. I had a dream. But because of poverty, I just disregarded the notion.”
But he did not stop believing in the power of education.
“For me, education is what will solve your problems. Maybe not fully but it will help lighten your burdens. And if God will allow me to really succeed, that would be a blessing.”
As we sat by the bamboo benches, the sincerity and the sense of accomplishment in his voice spoke to me. It was then that I realized how blessed and fortunate I was. It was then that I learned these things:
Do not be afraid to dream
For kuya Galoy, his dream of
raising himself and his family from poverty was everything.
“My motivation was really my family; I always took to mind the poverty we were in.”
Times came when he was driven to just let everything go and continue to live in his former sad state. But he was awakened by the importance of what his dream could achieve.
“When I stopped schooling, I became a loafer. Vices and frequent drinking and partying were my ways to escape the sad state of life I was living. But that was wrong. God had a better plan for me.”
And sure enough, throughout his college life, what kept him going was the dream to really finish. He took numerous odd jobs from people he scarcely knew just for the sake of graduating. Keeping in mind the phrase “bahala na, basta mu human jud ko”.
Take the risk
“Go to Visca, you will be able to study even if you don't have money,” a friend told him. This was the motivation that led kuya Galoy out of Mahaplag and into the university.
Trusting his friend and his guts, he traveled to VSU (LSU at that time) to pursue his dream once and for all.
“I was ready to fight despite how hard it would get, I was already a working student in highschool and it was my mindset that I could really do this”.
"I came here through my friend's help. I had 300 pesos from a previous job. I did not know how I would pay for food when that ran out, I did not know where to get my enrollment fee. I just went with him.”
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help
Help will be available, if not readily then you have to seek it out. Begging was never an option for him, but throughout his struggles Kuya Galoy always sought the people he felt would be able to help him.
“Basta para ni sa kaayuhan, dili dautan ako tuyo nga mangayo ko ug tabang” (My intentions are pure. This is not for some evil scheme so I will not be ashamed to ask for help). This was Kuya Galoy's mindset.
“A man named Dr. Alkuino agreed to give me a job in his coconut plantation. I ended up harvesting 3000 coconuts for copra, and he gave me enough for my enrollment fee and for my living expenses.”
“After that, I went door to door at the Warner apartments, looking for laundry or other jobs. But the instructors didn't trust me because maybe I looked like an addict to them, or I just didn't look trustworthy. But that was nothing to me, as long as my intentions were for good.”
“I finally approached someone who would help me, he was from Mahaplag too, and he told me he would sponsor my food, but I would have to look for my allowance. So what I did was I went to him and cooked food, then went to class, and for my allowance I did laundry for a different instructor. I didn't care if it didn't seem very masculine to do laundry, as long as I could go to school.”
“After one semester, sir Allan could no longer support me because his siblings were also going to school. So I looked for a different racket. I went to sir Bacusmo. I knew he was the president of the university, but I did not know him personally. I did not care how thick faced I seemed, for me, my intentions were pure. I just thought he would be able to help me. The very next day, sir Bacusmo recommended me to the Department of Economics where I was accepted as a student assistant”
There will always be a solution
“Naa gyuy pamaagi basta mu salig lang ka unya positive imo huna-huna. Set your mind nga kaayuhan imo tuyo.” This is what kuya Galoy told me.
From 300 pesos and a dream to one day come home and raise his family from poverty, kuya Galoy's hopes were materializing, though not without struggle. Working and going to school at the same time, he was in danger of overstaying.
“If you are a student assistant in a department, you cannot take more than 17 units. You will really lag behind in your classes.”
Hopefully a solution presented itself soon enough.
“I was advised to become a student assistant in the dormitory so I can take a full load. My salary as a student assistant was what I used for food and other expense.”
But perhaps the most challenging part was conducting his thesis with no funding.
“It was a big problem, but thankfully I was able to ask my adviser to shoulder my thesis under the ACIAR project. I provided labor and wrote my thesis, I did not pay anything, It was just labor. The deadline for submission was 12:00, and I submitted my requirements to the administration at 11:30. I was crying when I went down to from the administration building. Because the last stop was the USSO, where the only thing left was to sing the LSU hymn.”
Struggles will always bepresent, but they will yield a reward
Kuya Galoy was given the 'Endeavor award' by the University for completing his degree despite the seemingly insurmountable odds. His adviser nominated him for it and even processed the papers in the USSO for him. Looking back, kuya Galoy retold some of the most difficult circumstances he went through, and how he overcame them.
“When I was working for my first enrollment fee, I slept on Dr. Alkuino's kitchen floor, no mats or cardboard boxes. When I was in my first year, I was ashamed to eat with my dorm mates. I went to the room and brought the rice pot with me, there I sliced a seniorita banana, which cost only 1 peso at that time. That was my food. Sometimes there will be no rice. If anyone offered some to me I would gladly accept it. I had a garden so I harvested camote tops and okra and that was what I ate. When I had a can of sardines, I would ration it for one whole day. And when there was a pack of noodles I would put lots of water and malunggay leaves. I didn't care if my food wasn't nutritious anymore; my goal was really just to finish school.”
Kuya Galoy was awarded the 'Endeavor Award' by the University on the honors recognition program, where he fondly recalled:“grabe jud lamano sa mga faculty nako, gihapak pa gani ko ni sir Bacusmo sa ulo unya gi ingnan ko nga 'grabe imo kaagi dong', di gyud ko kalimot ato” (The faculty had firm handshakes when they gave me an award, sir Bacusmo even tapped my head and remarked that he was really impressed with what I went through).
After graduation, Kuya Galoy rested for one month. Then he was accepted as a Research Assistant at the National Abaca Research and Training Center for 1 year and 3 months until he was transferred to OXFAM, an NGO currently working on the Yolanda relief program. He now enjoys the full fruit of all his hard work.
“I am now sending my sister to school. I have given my mother a sari-sari store business which is doing well. And I have recently purchased a small patch of land and some pigs now”
“I do not blame my parents for not being able to send me to school”, says kuya Galoy. “Will you work hard just for yourself and not think of your parents?”
Kuya Galoy also greatly acknowledges the work of God in his life.
“If not for the Youth for Christ movement that reached out to me, I would not have pursued my dream and I might even be a drug Lord today.”
For those who are also going through tough times like that of kuya Galoy, for those who also want to break the chains of poverty and finish school, he has these three things to say:
"Set a goal, have patience and trust in God."
Over our talk by the creaky bamboo benches I have been humbled. Kuya Galoy's life not only inspired me to do more with mine, but also to realize how fortunate I was.
I have always eaten three times a day, and never have I had to shift between being a student and a worker. Yet I still find myself complaining, or judging challenges as 'impossible' right away.
His life is a standing example of the power of education, and that a dream and the guts to fight will really take you far. So long as you are patient, so long as you persevere, so long as you have faith.
I now know a story that will encourage me to get through my remaining years of college, with the spirit to keep overcoming whatever obstacles I encounter.