In the Leyte region of the Philippines, the Pearl S. Buck Foundation is celebrating the success of a young man who triumphed over poverty and abandonment.
Paul was born to an American father and a Filipino mother. When his father left to return to the United States, his mother likewise abandoned her son believing that the challenges of raising an Amerasian child on her own were so great that they could not be surpassed. Paul was then left in the care of his grandparents.
Uneducated and poor sugarcane farmers, his grandparents’ income was not enough to support their basic needs, let alone the nutritional requirements of a growing boy. In just a few short years, Paul’s grandparents had become too old to farm, leaving the young Paul with no other choice but to begin working as a sugarcane farmer. He was bullied by the other workers at the farm and called “Kanong Hilaw” which means “a lost American” because they believed he belonged in the United States and not in their community.
Heartbroken by the plight of her nephew, Paul’s Aunt Mary Jane searched for organizations that could help him. She was referred to the Pearl S. Buck Foundation which has a long history of helping children in Leyte particularly Amerasians. Paul was accepted into the sponsorship program which helped ease the burden of ensuring that his educational needs were met. Through the school attendance support program, Paul was able to buy new clothes, a school bag, and school supplies. However, since Paul had no parents to provide for his other needs, he had no choice but to continue to farm to earn funds for other necessities.
As a young child, Paul suffered from poor health and was absent from school frequently due to illness. Working and studying at the same time also proved to be tremendously challenging. There were several occasions when he had to miss his classes in order to farm. These cumulative absences for illness or work often prohibited him from advancing to the next grade level. At age 17, he was still in Grade 5. Being much older than his classmates, Paul was teased and called “Tatay” which means father, for according to his schoolmates, he was old enough to be their father.
Worried about Paul’s future, the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Philippines encouraged Paul to participate in the Department of Education’s acceleration program known as ALS or Alternative Learning System. If he successfully completed the program, he would immediately be given a diploma equivalent to a high school degree and wouldn’t have to spend four years in secondary school. Through a generous grant from Reed Elsevier, Paul was provided with a
special tutor to help him review for ALS’s assessment and comprehensive exams. He was strictly monitored by the Philippines staff in the area. Thanks to generosity of other donors, a monetary allowance was also set up to meet his daily needs so that he didn’t have to farm during his review period which spanned almost six months.
The day the final examination results were released would prove to be one of his happiest as he saw his name listed among those who had passed. Paul received his diploma during the ALS Recognition Ceremony last spring. He was not able to hold back his tears as it was a day that he thought would never come. According to Paul, “God is really good, though I have never (been) given a chance to see my father since birth, but this doesn’t mean that God has neglected me, because he gave me the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Reed Elsevier, and my sponsor.”
In June, Paul enrolled in a professional driving course using a cash gift from his sponsor. This new skill will significantly help Paul increase his income and become less dependent on sugarcane farming.