• Two Ordinary Families Are on a Mission to Educate Underprivileged Kids

    The inspiring stories of these families prove if you can dream it, you can make it happen.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
  • Heroes are everywhere. We see them every day on television, on the big screen, in the pages of a magazine, or read about them in the news. However, heroes also exist within our own spheres, and many of the people who do noble things are nameless and faceless until their good deeds are put on the spotlight.

    These two families are ordinary people doing extraordinary acts of service for others. They serve as a reminder that the ripples of goodness we create can make a lasting difference.

    Education is a legacy

    Despite his youth, 12-year-old Mico (standing, left) led his parents, Michelle and Alexander, and sister Michaela, to a mission of teaching the less privileged kids in their hometown.

    Mico Rubico is already an achiever at a young age. Only 12 years old, he has already competed in various contests in the Philippines and in the International Math Olympiad. In 2015, he was one of the 17 outstanding young students recognized by the Philippine Center for Gifted Education. 

    Unknown to his family, however, Mico found a way to share his gift with others when he was just 8 years old. After school, he would leave home for a few hours to tutor kids from underprivileged areas near his home, while his parents, Michelle and Alexander, thought he was out playing.

    Michelle found out about it during a tricycle ride. She recalled, "May isang incident na nag-tricycle kami, tapos hindi kami pinagbayad nung driver. Ang sabi, 'wag na daw kami magbayad kasi yung anak daw nya tinuturuan ng anak ko [kaya] tumaas yung grade. Sabi ko, sinong anak ko? Kasi syempre bata pa yung anak ko."

    That's when Mico's parents discovered he had been teaching the kids for almost a year already. 

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    "Kaya pala, 'pag lumalabas sya, may dala syang plastic. Akala ko pagkain lang. Later on nalaman ko na bukod sa pagkain na biscuit, meron na ring pencil, ballpen, papel. Ginagamit nya na materials sa pagtuturo. Minsan meron din tsinelas, minsan sapatos, minsan damit," she adds. 

    Alexander and Michelle were so inspired by their son's selflessness that they decided to support him to create a bigger impact. "Maganda naman yung gusto nyang mangyari kaya sinuportahan namin," she adds.

    They set up a mini-tutorial center in their home, holding free tutorial programs during the summer and holiday breaks in barangays in their hometown. This advocacy earned for the Rubicos a special citation for youth empowerment in the 2018 Jollibee Family Values Awards. 

    "Nung grade 3 sya, nag-start na kaming mag-outreach sa iba't ibang barangay, sa tabing ilog. Nagtuturo, nagpapalaro, saka may dala ding merienda. Kahit sa bahay namin may nagpupunta. At kahit sino, tinatanggap nya, tinuturuan nya," Michelle says, adding that even Mico's younger sibling Michaela does her part to help by donating unused clothing to the less-privileged kids.

    Asked what drove him to help the kids, Mico replied, "Kapag umaakyat po kasi sila Mommy at Daddy sa stage para mag-award sa akin, nakikita ko po na natutuwa sila. Gusto ko rin po na marami pa pong parents ang matuwa sa mga anak nila."

    Mico is only in his first year at the Philippine Science High School, but his dreams are bigger than himself. Says his mom, "Ang sabi nya sa amin, kung tuturuan ko ito, at yung tuturuan ko may tuturuan din sya, pasa-pasa kami, at dumami nang dumami, kahit na wala na ako nung panahon na yun, yung mga naturuan ko, buhay pa. Magtutuloy-tuloy lang."  

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    Paying it forward

    Ryan and Maricel's shared vision towards literacy led them to marriage. They now have three daughters: Rhian, Alleyah, and Rosalie (not in photo)

    More than a decade ago, young kids had to go on foot for two hours to get to school in San Jose in the province of Sorsogon. So rather than send their kids to school, parents would have them help harvest copra instead. Getting an education was not a priority among them, so many of them didn't know how to read or write. A lot were deeply impoverished.

    Though he grew up in San Jose, Ryan Homan knew something better lay ahead of him and his townspeople. He knew education was the only way to achieve the dream. "Malayo kami sa syudad, so magastos, magbibiyahe, magbo-board. Mahirap talaga. Yung tatay ko, gusto talaga akong patapusin kaya nangungutang sya. Yung mga kapitbahay naman namin, pinapahiram ang tatay ko ng pampaaral ko."

    He eventually finished his studies and became the first person in San Jose to attain a degree in college. But rather than being content with his achievement, he pursued an almost impossible task.  

    "Education cannot wait, so ang ginawa ko, nag-volunteer ako sa isang community na walang school," Ryan said.

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    Armed with nothing but passion and purpose, he worked with the local government and persuaded the Department of Education to re-open a run-down school in their town that has been closed for a long time. "Sabi ko sa Kapitan, 'Kap, buksan natin itong eskwelahan.' Nag-try na daw sila dati pero walang nagre-respond, kaya ang ginawa ko, nag-enroll na ako ng 23 students sa Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, kaya napapayag ang DepEd."

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    Ryan recalls the difficulties they faced when they were starting out. "Lahat out of pocket. Ako yung janitor, ako yung teacher, ako din yung nag-aalaga ng mga bata." He also had to remain firm despite the criticisms he received from those who didn't believe in his vision.

    Thanks to a fellow teacher-volunteer from another town named Maricel, Ryan was able to carry out his plans. Their shared vision eventually led them to marriage, and they have since been blessed with three daughters, Rhian, 7, Alleyah, 5, and Rosalie, 3 months.

    "Pag may passion ka, gagawin mong lahat kahit na marami kang maririnig na negative. Ang kagandahan ngayon, nabago yung mindset nila. Sila na ngayon ang nagvo-volunteer. Ngayon they can read, they can also teach their own kids, they can do storytelling, they are also educated now," he says.

    In 2013, the Homans developed "Balsa Basa" and "Lantsa Eskwela" roving mobile classrooms that give tutorial sessions to beneficiaries living along riverbanks and coastal areas where access is difficult. Even rough waters do not stop this dedicated family as they also provide Walks of Knowledge, where they hike up and down hills and wade through rivers just to reach their students using carts.

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    The family has had a great impact on the society with 35 home-based reading centers set up out of the 121 households in San Jose. Their efforts have not only affected the lives of students but also of their entire families. For this reason, they have been recognized as one of the winners in the 2018 Jollibee Family Values Awards held recently at Blue Leaf Cosmopolitan in Quezon City.

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    "Usually yung mga teachers doon, taga-ibang lugar. Para makapunta sila sa amin, kailangan nilang maglakbay. So naisip ko, what if may maka-graduate dito para yung mga kabataan meron na silang sariling teacher?" From 23, the school in barangay Old Maguisa now has more than 70 students and 4 teachers of their own. 

    "Nung nasa college ako, hindi ako natanggap sa isang university dahil hindi ako umabot sa quota. Pero yung Dean, binigyan ako ng pagkakataon, binigyan ako ng slot. Yung Dean na yun parang angel ko din sya. Isa sya sa mga tumulong sa akin. At dahil maraming tumulong sa akin, ibinabalik ko lang."

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