AS CHILDREN of a farmer who does not own the farm he plows, life must be twice as hard for Marlon and Leizel Vargas.
Poverty is thus enough reason for them to pursue their education and strive even harder to change their status in life.
Marlon is the eldest in the brood of six while Leizel is the fourth child.
The Vargas family lives in a coastal barangay in the Municipality of Patnongon, Antique. Living near the valley and the seashore, the family can either do farming or fishing. The father used to go fishing but due to his poor health condition he concentrates on farming while the mother sells ice drop or “ice buko” in public market of Patnongon and in nearby towns.
In 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda hit the Visayas Region and the Province of Antique was one of the hardest hit provinces in Region 6. The house of Vargas family, being made of light materials was severely damaged.
With six children to feed and to send to school, the couple’s earnings are not enough to support the entire family. Marlon was thus forced to quit for a year after he graduated from high school. His family decided to send him to his aunt in Manila so he could pursue his dream of going to college. He enrolled at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) as a scholar taking up Bachelor of Science in Physics while working as a part time tutor to sustain his school allowances and daily needs. However, he only stayed for a year at the PUP due to financial constraint.
He was then forced to go back home and transferred at the University of Antique (UA)-Sibalom where he shifted to Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering.
Marlon became a student leader and he was very active in school activities. His family’s economic status did not dissuade him to excel in school.
In 2011, he was able to avail of the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Special Program for Employment of Students (SPES) through the Local Government Unit (LGU)-Patnongon where he was assigned at the Office of the Municipal Engineer. His short stint in that office broadened his knowledge and skills on the field he had chosen while giving him a meaningful experience of working in a government office. It also helped pay his tuition fees and other school requirements.
Marlon successfully completed his college degree in Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering in 2013 at the said university. After graduation, he landed a job in a private company and, later, in a government agency.
Like her brother Marlon, Leizel Vargas also went through a lot of hardships just to finish her college education.
She pursued Bachelor of Science in Special Education at the University of Antique – Sibalom. In summer of 2012, she was one of those students employed by the LGU Patnongon under the SPES. The program did not only give her an opportunity to learn but also to earn and help her parents.
After graduation in 2016, she was also engaged by LGU Patnongon as one of its interns for six months under the Government Internship Program (GIP) and assigned at the Accounting Section.
Currently, Liezel is teaching in a private school in the Municipality of Belison, Antique.
Poverty might sometimes appear insurmountable but with unwavering faith in God, perseverance and strong determination one could always weather the storm and come out victorious. The Vargas siblings have successfully survived life’s twists and turns and they are grateful to the Department of Labor and Employment for the opportunity given to them as beneficiaries of both the SPES and the GIP programs.
“The DOLE did not only give us a choice but a great opportunity to develop our skills and knowledge through the SPES and GIP programs. Through these, we were able to help ease our parents’ financial burden. Thank you DOLE for continually transforming the lives of the poor but deserving students and unemployed graduates,” they said.
In 2016, on SPES, DOLE Region 6 provided short-term employment to 7,694 poor but deserving students wherein 912 are from the province of Antique.
On the other hand, under the GIP, the region engaged a total of 2,224 young and unemployed college graduates wherein 244 are from Antique province.