A success crispier than chicharon

·3 min read

GETTING a Bachelor of Elementary Education degree is a kind of success that is crispier than chicharon that Jesus Tiwan Fuentes has been selling for eight years.

Despite what life had thrown his way, the 42-year-old father of four did not stop chasing his dream of completing his studies. Fuentes’ years of sacrifices and hard work have paid off as he is set to graduate from Talisay City College (TCC) on August 17, 2022.

Fuentes’ life story seemed tailor-made for a television drama: The youngest in a brood of four lost his mother when he was still six years old. His widower father remarried and bore two more children with the new wife. After his mother’s death, Fuentes grew up in his aunt’s care.

When he was in high school, he realized he must finish his secondary education so he could do something good for his future. At the time, he resorted to selling puto and lumpia to survive and continue his studies.

Fuentes graduated from Punta Princesa Night High School in 2004. He was 24 at the time.

Selling chicharon

At age 38, he decided to pursue the elementary education degree at TCC. Despite being in a rough patch, he never gave up and he shifted to selling chicharon (fried pork rinds) so he can put food on the table and continue his studies.

Fuentes never pretended to be a person who is well-off, saying doing so would only lead him to nowhere.

“Ang-ang magpaka-aron ingnon ko nga dato mi nga pobre man jud kaayo mis tanan,” Fuentes told SunStar in a virtual interview Friday, July 8, 2022.

(I should not pretend I am rich because my family is poor.)

Fuentes uses his bicycle in selling his packs of chicharon from Barangay Tabunok, Talisay to Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City, making him earn around P400 to P500 every day. With his daily income, Fuentes said he’s able to provide food for his wife and four children, the oldest of whom is 16 years old and the youngest is still nine months.

After buying rice and other necessities, Fuentes said sometimes he’s left with P50. Then, another day awaits for another grind.

To sustain his family’s needs, he had to sell chicharon to his classmates at TCC before the Covid-19 pandemic reached Cebu.

Studying amid pandemic

When the pandemic was declared in 2020, TCC resorted to holding classes only three times a week. He spent the rest of the week selling chicharon.

Mindful of his tight budget, Fuentes said there were days when he had to buy fried fish that cost P40 in a carinderia and split it twice for breakfast and lunch.

The pandemic somehow helped Fuentes manage his time, as he attended a modular class setup.

Fuentes said some people thought he was crazy as he often mumbled while memorizing his lessons while selling chicharon.

He said he had tried to save money for security and emergency purposes but he could not sustain it, saying he had to use his earnings to buy food for his family.

In tears, the chicharon vendor said he felt bad for his four children as he failed to provide them a good life.

Hopeful one

Fuentes’ upcoming graduation has given him courage and hope to continue for the sake of his family who is residing in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City.

He said now that he is close to graduating from college, he could not help but cry almost every night out of joy.

Fuentes is hoping someone can help him find a permanent job after graduation, so he can continue to support his family.

On his Facebook account, Fuentes has asked for help from anyone who has the capacity to help him.

One of his wishes is to be able to live in Talisay City with his family, saying somebody offered him a teaching job in the city but he has no place yet.

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