Education: Changing Lives

At times (or perhaps, most of the time), as a parent, I realize that it can be a pain to get my kids to study as much as I would want them to. More often, also, I feel that children who have it relatively easy -- like those who need not worry about where their next meal will come from or who need not wonder whether they can still continue with school next year, have a tendency to appreciate their material blessings less.

Education is important. To this day, I firmly believe, that life is all about learning. Learning and education guarantee that a person will grow and move on. You don't learn to walk, as a baby, for example, then you will just stay where you are forever and what could be more ridiculous than that?

I also believe that one of the best ways to teach about anything, any topic, is by way of stories. Today, I share with you the story of my boss (actually, the story of my boss' father), Mr. Rene Peronilla, from whom I have obtained permission so I could share this story with my readers.

This is actually his speech delivered during the 26th Commencement Exercises of UpSouth School, held at the Philippine International Convention Center last March 24, 2010. He shared his speech with us at the office and I asked for permission to let my kids read it and to also share it with my web readers as it teaches a very important lesson. Here it is:


When my favorite college classmate and “kumadre” Yolly invited me to be the speaker at your commencement exercises, I almost begged off when I learned that I would be addressing kindergarten, elementary and high school graduates all at the same time. When I told my wife that despite my predicament I still accepted the invitation because I could not say no to Yolly, my wife told me…”Good luck dear.”

The topic given to me by Yolly was “EDUCATION: CHANGING LIVES”. Anyway, what you are about to hear now is what came to my mind after some reflection and prayer. Today, I will relate to you a true story of a poor boy whose life was changed by education, together with “sipag, tiyaga at maraming dasal”.

Felix was born in 1909 in Pototan, a small town in Iloilo. His father was a carpenter who was paid on a daily basis as a house construction worker. His mother took care of the four children and did the household chores. When Felix graduated from a public high school, his father had a heart to heart talk with him. He told Felix that he could not afford to spend for his college education. His father, however, also told him that he had religiously saved a small portion of his daily wage over the years and had accumulated almost P100.00. His father then told Felix (a father never asked the opinion of his children during those times) that he had saved the money so that his son would have a chance to go to Manila to pursue a college education there and to have a better life than him.

His father told him to use part of the money to buy a boat ticket to go to Manila. Once in Manila, he should try right away to look for any kind of job so that he can support himself and later on earn enough money to go to school in the evening. He also told Felix not to spend all of the money but to leave enough for his boat fare back to Iloilo just in case he could not find a job in Manila to support himself. His father said that if that happens, he will teach Felix to also be a carpenter like him.

Fortunately, Felix was able to find a job as a messenger in a small company. He also did odd part-time jobs in the evening and on weekends to augment his little savings in preparation for his plan to go to college. After a year, he was able to enroll at the Institute of Accounts (now FEU). He went to evening classes to pursue a commerce degree, major in Accounting. After his evening classes, he would heat some of his left-over food in the small house where he stayed as a bed spacer.

It was a proud and happy day for Felix, his parents and family when he graduated from FEU with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Commerce, major in Accounting. He immediately attended review classes in the evening in preparation for the CPA exams. Unfortunately, due perhaps to poor diet and lack of sleep, Felix contracted Tuberculosis (TB), a fatal illness at that time (our late President Manuel L. Quezon died of TB). Felix then had to abandon his review classes and also stopped working so that he could rest and recuperate from his illness.

His prayer was answered when he was able to meet a very kind doctor who did not only charge Felix any medical fee but also introduced him to his relative in Paete, Laguna. The weather and fresh air in Paete was ideal for persons sick with TB. The doctor assured his relative that Felix would repay him for the cost of his board and lodging during his stay with them, while he was recovering. The doctor also requested his relative to allow Felix to pay them on installment and that he would personally guarantee his obligation with them.

Felix recovered after almost three months and was able to return to work in Manila with the same company he worked for prior to his illness. The owner of the company told him that since he liked Felix as an employee and as a person, he just hired someone to temporarily do the job that Felix left vacant. Since he had to pay for his debt in Paete and work to support himself in Manila, Felix could not afford to continue with his CPA review classes anymore. In fact, Felix had to moonlight in the evening to be able to meet his financial needs. He decided to try his luck in Bacolod, where he met and married his wife. After getting married and starting a family, he was never able to pursue his ambition of becoming a CPA.

Felix joined a government bank, the Philippine National Bank (PNB) as utility clerk when he went to Bacolod. After the war, he rejoined PNB where he retired as acting President, having gone up the ranks, after 38 years of dedicated and loyal service. Throughout his stint as a banker, he refused to compromise his principles, integrity and good name.

Felix always stressed the importance of a good education to all his children, relatives and even to undergraduate employees who worked with him. He sent some of his relatives to school. Unfortunately, their lives never changed because they never realized the value of education, despite the opportunity given to them by Felix. Sad to say, they did not even finish high school.

In closing, allow me to relate an incident between Felix and one of his sons, who used to be “easy going” or “hindi seryoso sa pag-aaral”. He always reminded him to take his studies more seriously. On the first working day of his son, he gave him an advice… “I have worked very hard to protect and keep our good family name up to now. Don’t be the one to destroy it.” I would like to think that I did not disappoint my father Felix. “Tama ka Dad, education does change lives”.

Finally, remember that education does not stop after graduation. It continues all throughout our lifetime. Listen to your parents. They only want what is good for you. Always do your best and leave the rest to God. Pray every day.

Thank you for your kind attention.

My warmest and heartfelt congratulations to all the graduates and to your proud parents, lolos and lolas!

Good luck and God bless!


Mr. Rene Peronilla, the author of the speech, is at present, the President and Chairman of the Rating Committee of Philippine Rating Services Corporation (PhilRatings), the company that I work for. Mr. Peronilla was with the banking sector for 39 years, with a focus on Credit, Corporate Banking, Business Systems, among others. He spent 33 years at PCI Bank where he rose to the position of being only the second Executive Vice President since the bank was organized in February 1960. After his stint with PCI Bank, Mr. Peronilla was founding President of Dao Heng Bank (Phils.) Inc. and also became President and CEO of Traders Royal Bank. Mr. Peronilla is a Certified Public Accountant and is a 2009 Most Distinguished Alumnus Awardee of the College of Business Administration, U.P. Diliman.

Needless to say, although I will still say it here, Mr. Rene Peronilla is the son of Felix and is the grandson of the daily-wage earner, construction worker from Iloilo in the story.

So you see, education does really change lives and realizing the value of education is the key to our lives and that of our countrymen truly changing for the better.

I hope all kids who are in school today realize this sooner than later.

[By Angelica Viloria | Saturday, August 7, 2010]

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