Thanks to the dishwashing sponge — yes, you heard us right — Melvin Chua graduated from the University of Makati, and he had a couple of people to thank.
In a now viral Facebook post, Melvin, who roamed the streets of Makati, rain or shine, to peddle the common household item, humbly thanked and attributed his accomplishment to his "suki," or his loyal customers.
“Sobrang maraming salamat po. Dahil sa pagbili niyo ng paninda ko, isang araw, isang linggo, isang buwan at isang taon ang nadadagdag para mapagpatuloy ko ang pag aaral ko at matulungan ko ang pamilya ko,” he wrote.
At 8 years old, Melvin was already on foot selling wares door-to-door. In a big plastic bag, he carried the brightly colored sponges. “Nilalakad ko lang po talaga papunta at pauwi para nadadaanan ko lahat ng pwede bentahan,” he told ABS-CBN News.
Starting in Makati, Melvin would reach as far as Taguig and Parañaque City to sell sponges at Php5 each and earn Php300 to Php500 a day. The money went to support his schooling and helped his mother with the household expenses.
In a separate post, Melvin shared his love for his mother and all the sacrifices she's done for their family. “Alam kong nasasaktan at nag-aalala ka kapag nakikita mo kaming nagtitinda, pero, Ma, masaya ako na matulungan ka at mga kapatid ko. Lahat 'yun para sa ating lahat,” he wrote.
Along the way of his paglalako, Melvin has also grown to know his customers and they, in turn, have grown fond of him. Melvin shared that he would hear kind words like, “Oh! gabi na, naglalako ka pa! Ingat ka diyan sa daan” and “Naulan, bakit nagtitinda ka?”
Thirteen years later, Melvin now holds a degree in Office Management and is the first to graduate college in his family. He also currently works as an operations specialist in Bonifacio Global City. He has not forgotten his sukis who have seen him grow from a child to a 22-year-old young professional.
“They witnessed my elementary, high school, and now my college graduation. Sila yung mga taong, kahit anong antas sa buhay, bumibili ng tig-5, -10, -15, at -20 kong paninda na panghugas ng plato,” he wrote.
Last Tuesday after his graduation practice, Melvin again took his usual route of selling sponges but he was bearing the news of his graduation this time. “Medyo mangiyak-ngiyak nga po ako nun kasi 'yung mga suki ko po wala pa akong sinasabi tinatanong na nila ako sa graduation ko. Sinasabi nila sa mga kaibigan nila na ga-graduate na ako tapos puro congrats po sila sa akin,” he told ABS-CBN News.
He wrote the Facebook post to thank those he didn't get to do so personally. The celebration is not his alone, Melvin said. “Para din po sa inyo ito.”
“Lagi po akong tatanaw ng utang na loob at malaking pasasalamat sa inyong lahat. Sana dumating ang panahong ako naman ang makatulong sa iba tulad ng pagtulong nyo sa akin. Marami pa akong gustong pasalamatan, pero sa ngayon, kayo muna mga mahal, magaganda at nag-gaguwapuhan kong suki.”
And, to other students striving to reach their dream, Melvin sent a message of hope. “Masayang damhin ang tagumpay lalo na kung pinaghirapan at pinagsumikapan sa mabuting paraan. Dasal ko ang sabay nating pag-unlad sa buhay! Patuloy ang pangarap!”