“Mahirap mag-aral pero mas mahirap ‘yong walang pinag-aralan.”
(It is hard to study but it is even harder to be uneducated).
This was Ronel Desales’ motivation to finish his studies and realize his simple dream of providing a better life for his family.
The 23-year-old Ronel grew up in a poor family living in the town of Maayon in Capiz. He is the youngest among the seven children of Casilda Desales, a widow.
Even though he lost his father at a young age, it did not stop Ronel from achieving his cherished dreams. He studied hard through elementary and high school, eventually finishing his collegiate course and graduating magna cum laude.
Overcoming life’s challenges
Ronel was in Grade 4 when his father died. His mother, Casilda, raised him and his siblings single-handedly.
Aside from his mother, Ronel’s older brother was the main breadwinner of the family. Ronel and his siblings were dependent on their brother for their school needs and tuition fees.
There were times that his mother had to borrow money to sustain their family and to enable them to continue with their schooling. Ronel felt hurt every time he heard stories from other people that her mother was in debt.
The difficulties they experienced as a family became Ronel’s motivation to study.
It was in 2012 when the Desales family became a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which is being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The 4Ps is a social protection program that focuses on human capital development by providing cash grants to eligible poor households subject to their compliance with education and health conditions, particularly for children aged 0-18.
It was institutionalized through Republic Act No. 11310, making the program the flagship poverty reduction strategy of the Philippine government.
Three of the Desales children, including Ronel, who was in Grade 7 at that time, were monitored by the program.
Due to some unfortunate circumstances, however, Ronel’s siblings were not able to continue with their studies. It was only Ronel who pursued his schooling until he graduated from college.
No matter how hard his situation was, with Ronel short of money most of the time, he persevered with his studies. Ronel had always wanted to grant his mother’s only request — for him to finish his college education.
To fulfil his mother’s wish, Ronel took multiple jobs, working as long as he could to earn money for his studies and provide food on their table.
At one time, Ronel experienced harvesting rice under the blazing sun and on another instance, he endured the cold from the rain in the middle of the sugarcane field just to earn a meager amount of 80 pesos for a full day’s work.
Ronel’s diligence and hard work, however, paid off when he graduated from college in 2022 with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management, Magna Cum Laude, at the Colegio de la Purisima Concepcion in Roxas City.
Ronel was also chosen as the Leadership and Service Awardee for being the vice president of the Supreme Student Pastoral Council.
For excelling in his academics, Ronel also received several awards, including the Congressman Emmanuel Billiones Award for Academic Excellence, Governor Esteban Evan B. Contreras Award for Academic Excellence, Mayor Ronnie T. Dadivas Award for Academic Excellence Award, and the Eligibility of Civil Service Award.
Ronel and the whole Desales family were very grateful to 4Ps and the DSWD. He said that the program has been a big part of their lives.
Ronel is now working in a private company in Roxas City but continues to pursue his simple dream of becoming a seaman.
He has now completed his required documents and is only waiting for his schedule this coming July to board the ship that will bring him several steps closer to his dream of providing a better and comfortable life to his mother and his siblings.
The Desales family is among the more than 4.3 million beneficiaries of 4Ps nationwide whose journey towards an improved quality of life is marked by their sheer determination and strong belief on the importance of education, complemented by the modest help from the government.