Jerrynold during his graduation.

PANABO CITY, Davao del Norte (DSWD XI) -Third time’s a charm for 21-year old Jerrynold Escote. Growing up from a brood of fourteen, Jerrynold saw his parents struggle every day to put food on the table.

His mother, Sabina, 45, peddles cigarettes while his father, Nelson, 48, was a cook at a local barbecue joint. He stopped working a few years ago when he contracted tuberculosis.

When he was in elementary and high school in Barangay Cagangohan, Panabo City, he remembers helping his mother peddle food before going to school. He usually wakes up 5:00 a.m. and sells food until 7:30 a.m. His classes start at 8:00 a.m.

Sa una dili gyud ko maapil sa mga honors kay sige ko’g absent aron motabang kay mama baligya (I would not be included in the list of honor students because of my constant absences as I was helping my mother peddle),” recounts Jerrynold.

He passed a scholarship exam in college and was admitted at a private university in Panabo City. His elder sister who works as a cashier at a local department store took care of his daily allowance.

Dili pud kaayo ko ka-focus sa pag-eskwela kay halos every two weeks ang exam ug tingbayad (I could not also focus on my studies because of the almost bi-weekly exams which would also incur fees),” recalls Jerrynold.

To help his sister, Jerrynold worked as a crew at Minute Burger earning P 150.00 per day. He worked graveyard shifts from 10:00 until 6:00 p.m. He attended his class from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. This has been his daily routine.

Usahay ginabaklay na lang nako gikan sa balay padulong eskwelahan, mga 4 kilometers aron makatipid. Ang sweldo nako sa pagpanrabaho ginagahin nako sa akoang pang-panihapon ug ang sobra ginahatag nako sa akoang mama para makatabang sa galastuhon sa balay (There were times I walked the daily route from our house to the school, around 4 kilometers, to save on fare. I allot the salary I received at Minute Burger for my daily dinner budget. I gave the rest of the amount to my mother to help on our daily household expenses).”

Truly, third time’s a charm for Jerrynold. He heard of the Students Grant-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (SGP-PA), a grant given to incoming college students of Pantawid Pamilya household beneficiaries.

The grant was originally offered to his sister, since her sister could resign from her current job as cashier, the grant was transferred to Jerrynold’s brother. His brother, however, only finished Grade 4.

As luck may have it, the grant was given to Jerrynold. He was accepted at the Davao del Norte State College as an SGP-PA grantee in January 2013. He took up Bachelor of Science in Information Technology.

Dako kaayo og natabang ang Pantawid Pamilya sa amoa. Kung sauna mag inilugay pa mi sa pagkaon ug sud-an, karon kay naa na juy sud-an ug kan-on para sa tanan. Karon nakaeskwela na akoang mga manghod. Naapil pa jud ko sa SGP-PA ug mo-gradwar na sa kolehiyo. Hapit na nako makab-ot akoang mga pangandoy (Pantawid Pamilya has been a great help to us. When before, we scampered to get the meatier piece of viand or get the bigger portion of rice, now, there is enough food for everybody. My younger siblings are now in school. I was even included in SGP-PA ad now a graduating student. I am now a step closer to my dreams),” shares Jerrynold.

To add more feathers on his cap, Jerrynold was a 2014 National Excellence Awardee as one of the students with the highest General Point Average.

Wala namo gihuna-huna nga tungod kay Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries mi, luoy mi. Sa amoa dako kaayo ni nga pribilehiyo nga gihatag sa gobyerno. Kay kung wala ang SGPPA asa man mi karon? Siguro wala ko kahuman eskwela ug nagatrabaho pa siguro ko karon sa Minute Burger (It never crossed our minds that since we are beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya we should be pitied upon. This is a rare privilege accessed by government. If not for SGPPA, where would I be now? Perhaps I would not have finished my studies yet and maybe I would still be working at Minute Burger),” he retorts.

When asked what his dreams are for his family, the ever hopeful Jerrynold replied, “Makapa-eskwela sa akong mga igsuon ug maka-undang nag pamaligya si mama kay matagaan nako siya’g iyahang sari-sari store (I want to help my younger siblings finish their studies and for my mother to graduate from peddling as I will provide for her a small sari-sari store).”

Jerrynold is one of the 503 SGPPA grantees in Davao Region who graduated this year. (DSWD)