MANILA — For a boy who used to dream nothing but surviving the next day, finding his fortune in trash was surely something beyond ordinary.
Riel Gomez used to think college was nothing but an unreachable dream. And the day his mother said they could never afford to send him to school was also the day he stopped dreaming.
“Habang abala sila sa pagpili ng scholarship ako walang pakialam kasi di din naman ako magka-college, magta-trabaho naman ako. Bakit pa? Di din naman kayang gastusan yung araw-araw ko. So nawala talaga sa isip ko yung mag aral,” Gomez told ABS-CBNnews.com
(“While all of them are busy choosing their scholarship, I never cared because I already know I won’t be going to college; I will be working. What for? They can’t even afford to spend for my daily needs. So, that’s why I never thought of studying.”)
Gomez graduated in high school by selling ‘ice tubig’ and ‘ice candy and collecting scrap metal to sell to junkshops.
He stopped dreaming about college till one day, he was convinced by a friend to apply for a scholarship, but couldn’t find any form.
“Till one time, may nakausling papel na may ‘SM’ sa basura. Ito ata yung fini-fill-up nila,” he thought to himself.
(“Till one time, there was a piece of paper in the trash bin with “SM” labelled on it. This was the paper they were filling up.”)
His dreams came to life again.
Gomez became one of the many beneficiaries of the SM Foundation’s College Scholarship Program, which was established to help the underprivileged but bright public high school graduates to get quality tertiary education.
Worried about his daily expenses specially, as he travels from Novaliches to Far Eastern University – Institute of Technology in Morayta, Gomez started working on part-time tutoring jobs.
After years of struggling to maintain his scholarship while working, Gomez eventually earned his degree in Computer Engineering at FEU Tech and became one of the 29 SM Foundation scholars who graduated cum laude.
In a celebration last Wednesday, Gomez, with other SM scholar graduates, was finally able to meet and personally thank SM Founder Henry Sy Sr. and his family.
With reports from Maria Aleta Nieva Nishimori