Magna Cum Laude Jairo Bolledo: An epitome of a ‘bullied guy gone better’

Shara Mae Balce
PUBLISHED May 29, 2018 10:44 am | UPDATED May 30, 2018 02:46 pm

(Inside Manila) To be successful in life, to have his own car and a house and lot and to live at ease with their loved ones are, normally, a part of a less fortunate one’s dreams.

The Philippines is one of the developing countries in the world where thousands of families living below and on the country’s official poverty threshold. One of those who experienced to be one is the family of John Robert “Jairo” Bolledo, 20, a graduate in Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Sta. Mesa.

The lack of basic needs in life did not become a hindrance to Jairo to finish his education, deliver a Valedictory speech and graduate Magna Cum Laude.

Photo courtesy of Jairo Bolledo

In a face-to-face interview with Inside Manila, Jairo shared his inspiring story and his tough experiences when he was little that have been the foundation of his virtue and principles in life.

Bullied “sardines kid”

It is quite an every day roller coaster ride to those who are not so privileged like Jairo’s family getting something to eat from a decent, but low paying job.

Jairo, the youngest, is the first in his family to finish a four-year course in college after his two elder sisters entered into early marriage.

Photo courtesy of Jairo Bolledo

His mother had to work extra hard as a tailor from Monday to Saturday, with Php500 to Php1,000 income per week, and as a laundress every Sunday, since his father died of liver cirrhosis when he was 11 months old.

Living with less resources, his family usually has a can of sardines for a meal of five—him, his mother, two sisters, and grandmother—and sometimes, a pack of instant noodles with egg to ease away their hunger.

“When I was a kid, before ako mag-turn into 1 year old, my dad died of liver Cirrhosis so my mother took the full responsibility of working for us. Nagtrabaho siya, kayod-kalabaw, literal,” Jairo said.

Sakto lang iyong kinikita niya as a mananahi na pangkain namin everyday at the same time pambayad doon sa tuition ng ate ko, pambaon namin saka pambayad ng bills. Other than that, wala, hindi kami capable. Example no’n is bumili ng gamit for school. Laging luma, bigay, pinaglumaan or hingi lang from someone or malalayong kamag-anak. Iyon ang ginagamit ko,” he added.

“May mga tumutulong naman na mga kamag-anak, kaso ang mabigat ay ‘yung daily expenses,” he said.

Jairo experienced bullying by his classmates when he was in third grade. He remembered being browbeaten with insulting words by colleagues, and even friends, for eating sardines for a meal.

“Noong Grade 3 ako binully ako kasi sardinas lang daw ‘yung ulam namin for lunch. Mayroong mga instance na isang can ng sardines or ng tuna lima kaming kakain, pagkakasyahin namin ‘yon. Tapos (instant noodles) , itlog—‘yong the usual na pagkain ng talagang less fortunate talaga,” Jairo recalled.

But, amidst all the bullying, one that remained unforgettable for him is when one of his classmates in 3rd Grade told him that his mother is so embarrassing to think that she did not finish primary education.

“No’ng 3rd Grader ako sinabihan ako ng classmate ko na nakakahiya ‘yong nanay ko kasi hindi siya nakatapos (ng elementary) kasi ‘yong parents niya nakatapos, maganda ‘yung trabaho,” Jairo said.

Photo courtesy of Jairo Bolledo

Truly, harsh experiences change people. The consequences of growing up in a poor family led Jairo to revitalize, “change these things,” and prove something not just to himself, but to all those who bullied him.

“Mula no’n, talagang in-instill ko sa sarili ko na kailangan kong makatapos to change these things, ‘di ba? overcome these obstacles,” he said.

“Para sa akin every pasukan, it’s a chance for me to prove myself and to learn something new. Most expecially noong nag-High School ako. That’s my turning point in my life, eh. Doon ko narealize na, ‘uy I can excel naman pala and I can overcome bullying,” he said.

Positivity and Goodwill

Unlike other more privileged kids who grew up with all the things they need, Jairo has nothing but unconditional love and care of a family.

Amid the tough journey, Jairo said he never felt the burden from his mother in finishing his education even though at times they fail to pay school fees and buy supplies for their schooling. He strived hard not just to get a diploma in college, but also to be the best that he can be.

Carrying his optimism to just be a Dean’s Lister in college, Jairo did not expect to excel more and graduate with honors when he studied Journalism in his “sintang paaralan.” He sees his chosen field “more than a profession” and “as a tool to help the Filipino people and to magnify, implicit, and explicit conflicts in our society.”

Aside from bringing the pride of being a Magna Cum Laude, Jairo also became the President of their Journalism Guild wherein he launched community journalism workshops for free in different schools in Luzon when fake news and disinformation became rampant.

Cliché, but as true as it can be, education for Jairo is something that cannot be stolen from someone. He believes that it is the key for one’s success and a basic requirement to survive in life.

Not expecting the video clip of his touching valedictory speech to reach a lot of audience online, Jairo said his speech was initially intended for his alma mater, PUP, who instilled in him the true value of education. Nevertheless, being able to inspire more people by his story is one of his greatest achievements so far.

He claimed that PUP taught him to give gratitude towards all factors that helped him finish college, including his loving and hardworking mother who died of hyperthyroidism and heart complications a month before his graduation.

The bullied-sardines-kid-turned-Magna-Cum-Laude even left people in tears after he showed the photo of his mother on stage during his valedictory speech. He said he owed his achievements to his mother who did not give up and sacrificed all things for their family.

“PUP-Pangakong Uunahin ang Pilipinas.” Jairo made this acronym to leave “a legacy not just in my university, but in the whole country na maaappreciate ng lahat ng Pilipino.” He said that his alma mater made him realized that “we should put our country first before ourselves, before our dreams because as an iskolar ng bayan, we owe our degree, our learnings, our wisdom to our country.”

“The moment we receive our diplomas, that’s when we also receive the responsibility to use our education for the betterment of our society. Bilang iskolar ng bayan, we give justice to those Filipinos who can’t send themselves in school,” he added.

One good point, Jairo did not let himself be buried by those unfriendly experiences in the past. It is easy to be inspired but hard to inspire other people’s lives. Jairo’s story may not be one of those from the best-selling books, but will, and will always be, an inspiration to many.



The Best Thing About the MIBF Wasn't The Books

It wasn't a glorious blue-skied September day when I attended the Manila International Book Fair.