Balut vendor turns himself into web developer

One of the real-life heroes who took the spotlight in the recent State of the Nation Address of President Aquino once roamed the streets of Rizal vending balut (fertilized duck embryo).

Emerson Paguia hails from Zambales, but had to go to Manila to look for a job. He had tried various odd jobs, but what he earned was not enough to feed his family.

“I was willing to take on any type of job. I didn’t want to be idle,” he said. For additional income, Paguia sold balut at night. The little money he earned from it was used to help him with his daily expenses.

“I finished high school, and I heard that some call center companies accept high school students, but I realized that my weak communication skills would not afford me to land such a job,” he said.

Paguia, who is in his late 20s, knew he was keen on technical matters and wanted to pursue training in a course related to information technology.

Although financially hard up, he always saved a few pesos for a trip to the Internet shop to look for job openings and training opportunities. That was when he chanced upon the announcement for a web development scholarship while surfing online.

The training was under the Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) of Tesda in partnership with computer school Informatics.

“The information on the website said they will give us training on data programming and PHP server-side encryption. It’s one course I want to specialize on, but the free website tutorial were not very helpful,” Paguia said.

Getting in the training was not the end of Paguia’s woes. The challenges of sustaining and attending his classes were not an easy task. Money was again the problem.

To save on transportation expenses, he sometimes walked to the Informatics College in Eastwood in Quezon City. It was no easy feat as he lived in Angono, Rizal, or a three-hour walk.

After class, he continued selling balut to get by. He said it was difficult, but he knew the scholarship was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity he should not let slip away. Each day in school was a step closer to his dreams, Paguia said.

After completing the program, he emerged as one of the top scholars in the class. Discovering his potential, Informatics immediately hired him for its Web development team.

Paguia is now embarking on his first big IT project – the school’s online student portal.

He has since left the streets and has retired his balut basket, but always mindful that it represents his humble beginnings. Unlike that duck embryo, his journey to a career was not aborted. —