Born fifth among 10 siblings to a family of farmers in Pangasinan, Joey Padilla experienced a life of hardship similar to that of many Filipinos across the country. However, at age 13, he decided to leave home for Manila in search of greater opportunities—the first of which was a job as a busboy in an upscale café.
As fate would have it, the real opportunity was not the job itself, but rather in the form of a regular customer of the café. “Maybe she saw potential…or maybe she was just kind…or maybe she was God-sent,” said Padilla in his graduation address. “But twice a week she would go to the café and teach me English.”
Three years later, however, things took a turn for the worse. When the café at which Padilla worked decided that they no longer needed busboys, he was transferred to a mall in Divisoria, where he worked long hours as a janitor. “A typical day for me is this: I would be issued five garbage bags and would go around the mall picking up garbage and when the bags were full, I would go to the tipping point, empty the bags, and then wash the bags so I could use them again.” Of all his low days, Padilla will forever remember these as the lowest of all.
Then in 2005, opportunity came knocking. Padilla would continue to work as a housekeeper, but this time at the then newly opened Enderun Colleges in McKinley Hill. Despite working full-time, Padilla never failed to make education a priority. “I would work from six in the morning until three in the afternoon, after which I would rush to school to attend class from three-thirty until nine in the evening.”
Compelled by his tenacity and obvious potential, Padilla was offered a full scholarship at Enderun—an opportunity to finish his studies while working as the school’s Housekeeping Supervisor.
Today, he is a fresh graduate of the school's International Hospitality Management program with a specialization in Hotel Administration, ready to take on greater horizons. As for what’s next, Padilla tells us—“Enderun has many partnership hotels, so I’d like to open myself up to helping them.”
With this part of his life behind him, but never forgotten, Padilla offers a word of advice to aspiring college graduates just like him: “There’s no age limitation for education. You have to pursue your dream no matter what, and you have to believe in it.”
Read the complete transcript of Padilla's speech below:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Joey Padilla. Housekeeping supervisor here in Enderun. Ever since I was young, it was my dream to finish college and work in the hospitality industry. Born to a family of farmers in the province of Pangasinan, I am the 5th among 10 siblings. Out of ten, only three of us had the opportunity to go to college. The first to graduate…was our youngest. Such is our way of life, to postpone our dreams, so others can reach theirs. Well… Today is my turn. To be standing here, as an Enderun graduate, is the fulfillment of a long-held dream and truly a privilege. It was a long road getting here, but it was a journey that was made easier by the contributions of others.
If you would allow me, I would like to share with you my story.
My parents both had elementary level education but they can neither read nor write. They did the best that they could for us, but very early on, I had to start looking out for myself. Over 13 years ago, I stopped school, left Pangasinan, and got a job in Manila as a busboy in an upscale café. While there, for reasons I still do not fully understand, I had a regular customer who saw in me something. Maybe she saw potential…or maybe she was just kind…or maybe she was God sent…but twice a week she would go to the café and teach me English. Twice a week, I would go to work early, read her books and practice. I’ve long lost track of her, but I would have loved for her to see me delivering this speech today…in English…and be able to thank her in person.
After three years, the café decided that they didn’t need busboys anymore so I was transferred to a mall in Divisoria, and worked as a janitor. A typical day for me is this, I would be issued 5 garbage bags and would go around the mall picking up garbage and when the bags were full… I would go to the tipping point… empty the bags… and then wash the bags so I could use them again.
Then in 2005, opportunity came knocking. I was transferred to a new school that was opening in Ortigas Centre. Why me? It was not because I was the most hardworking. I was transferred…because I could speak English. The seed that was planted in that café years ago, was now bearing fruit. In Enderun, I was still a housekeeper…but at least I didn’t have to rewash garbage bags anymore.
In 2009, Enderun transferred from Wynsum in Ortigas to McKinley Hill. And then that was when opportunity came knocking again.
All this time, I had not let go of my dream of finishing college. My boss at the time encouraged me to continue my studies, and so I did, and enrolled in a school nearby. Two years later, my other department head called me in for a talk. She was surprised to find out that I was a working student. She asked me, “How do you handle that?” I said, I would work from six in the morning until three in the afternoon, after which I would rush to school to attend class from 3:30 pm. until 9 in the evening.
More time passed. Soon after, I was shocked to find out that my department head had arranged for me to have a scholarship so I could finish my studies in Enderun. If I was working hard before, I was motivated to work even harder. Because now, I was living my dream.
Six years later…here I am, at the end of one road and looking forward to the road ahead. There are so many people to thank. Ms. Jenny Frumm, my English tutor from long ago, Ms. Carmelita Saculo for pushing me to go back to school, Ms. Ruth Hung for helping arrange for my scholarship, and to Sir Jack, Sir Javy and the Enderun Management for allowing me to finish my studies and to stand here together with my classmates…an Enderun Titan. Because of all of you, I can have new dreams. Thank you to my classmates, the Enderun faculty for the gift of education… and last but not least, thank you to my family. (Nanay/Tatay maraming Salamat po sa suporta nyo sa akin.)
To my batchmates, please allow your Kuya Joey one more minute to deliver a final message…and make a request. First my message is—do not just wait for opportunities. Rather prepare for them instead. So, when opportunity knocks…you will be ready. Second, it is not enough to have a dream. Be prepared to fight for your dream. We will all have garbage days…but don’t let these break you.
My time in that Divisoria mall was truly a low point…but it was there where opportunity found me and turned my life around. My time there, led me here. Now I can look ahead. After I graduate, I want to handle more responsibilities, so I can maximize all that I’ve been given here at Enderun. I’m eager for something new. And am sure, so are all of you.
So now… my request… it is not enough that you be a dreamkeeper… please be a dreammaker. Help others realize their dreams. Be passionate about fulfilling your own goals but also find happiness in sharing your blessings to help others become successful.
In parting, this farmer’s son would like to quote what another farmer told his son on his graduation day… Nelson Henderson said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” May we all strive to do things in this life that will benefit people long after we have passed.
Congratulations Titans and maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountry.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.