Carlo Belmonte, 22, had lived in the shanties along Estero de Magdalena in Tondo, Manila with his family most of his life, carrying with him the dreams of lifting them up from poverty and out of the estero (canal).
“Doon na po kami lumaki sa Estero de Magdalena mula noong pinanganak kami, kaya mahirap din po. Lalo na po noong namatay ang nanay ko (We have lived and grown up at Estero de Magdalena since we’ve been born, that’s why it’s difficult. Especially when my mother passed away),” he says. His mother passed away when he was in first grade.
Estero de Magdalena is one of the poor and polluted communities in Metro Manila. The congested canal is home to many families living in extreme poverty, with makeshift houses made with plywood as their home- a fire hazard to the looming knots of electric cables over them.
“Magulo talaga, kaya parang mahirap. Hindi stable lahat tulad ng kuryente saka tubig…tsaka yung environment hindi talaga maganda para sa bata (It’s really chaotic, that’s why it seems more difficult. Everything is unstable like electricity and water supply…and the environment is really unsuitable for a child),” Carlo says as he recalls what it was like living there.
Virlanie Foundation arrived at Estero de Magdalena in 2005 to implement its Family Program in assistance to disadvantaged families in Manila’s poorest communities, aiding them through subsistence, financial support for their children’s education through Raise the Future, and provision of basic social services.
Raise the Future is Virlanie’s sponsorship program, and one of the most sustainable ways of ensuring quality education. It also provides the necessities of children and families such as school supplies, school uniforms, and daily food and transportation allowance.
Carlo was in grade three when he became a Virlanie sponsored child. Virlanie has sponsored Carlo’s education from grade three until he studied in the Philippine Polytechnic University (PUP) Manila.
“Sobrang laking tulong noong (naging sponsored child) po ako. Mula nung nawala po yung nanay ko bale yung tumatayong nanay ko na lang po yung mga tita ko na taga-roon din po sa estero. Kapos din po sila pero ‘di naman po nila ako pinapabayaan (Being a sponsored child really helped me a lot. Since my mother’s death, my aunts from the estero served as my mothers. They’re not well-off but they never neglected me),” he says, “Kaya napakalaking tulong po noon kasi (dagdag sa) pambaon po, tsaka mga pang-project, mula elementary hanggang college. Sobrang laking tulong po noon. Mahirap po talaga ang buhay ‘don, kaya kahit maliit na (tulong) po, sobrang laki na po sa’kin no’n. Tsaka kung wala po yung Virlanie, baka hindi ko po alam kung naka-graduate ako (It was a big help because it gave me additional allowance for everyday and projects since I was in elementary until I was in college. It helped me a lot. Life there was really hard, which is why even the smallest help is already significant for me. And if Virlanie hadn’t been there, I don’t know if I could even graduate).”
He also faced challenges in his journey in college. There are times when the allowance plus their father’s salary could not suffice for his and his siblings’ educational needs- this pushed him to apply for part-time work at a fast food restaurant in his second year.
“Marerealize mo yung halaga ng pera at edukasyon, kaya nagsipag po ako (You will really realize the value of money and education, which is why I worked hard),” he says.
Just this August, Carlo had been one of the 3,092 out of 5,084 who passed the Mechanical Engineering board examinations, finally making him a full-fledged engineer and most recently, he joined the other passers at their oath ceremony last September 25 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). . With the help of his educational sponsorship, he was provided not only with resources but also confidence in turning his dreams into reality.
Currently, his Carlo’s family is residing in Bulacan, he has also begun to look for a job. His older sister had also graduated college and is a licensed teacher, while their youngest sibling is still in school.
“Utang na loob ko po sa kanila kung bakit ako naka-graduate, kung bakit ako nakapasa, at kung bakit ako nandito. Ang laking tulong po sa pamilya ko (I owe it (why I graduated) to them (sponsors), why I passed (the exam), and why I am here. They have helped my family a lot),” he says.
Impact in the lives of other children like Carlo by sponsoring a child today. Help us raise the future by extending your love and care by sponsoring a Virlanie child’s education, a home, or a community. Through this, you help us sustain them through educational support and basic needs for each beneficiary.
Sponsor a child now and help raise the future! Visit Raise the Future’s FAQ page to know more about the program, or contact us via email at [email protected]