In the busy street of Valencia in Puerto Princesa City where a variety of vendors line along the sidewalk – street foods, accessories, watch and shoe repair – two young siblings can be seen in their school uniforms sitting beside a pile of footwear under a huge umbrella.
Another school year has just started and usually, students like them kill their time after school inside the malls but not these two.
Emmanuelita, 13, and Meco Borbon, 12 years old, spent the afternoon of their first day of school in the shoe repair stall of their family friend, Ruel.
On that same afternoon, the sight of the siblings repairing shoes caught Jernnanie Jethro Juaton’s attention. He took photos and posted on Facebook with the caption, “First day of school, pag-uwi pahinga agad pero sila hindi. Nagtatahi sila ng sapatos. Pinaghirapan nila ang baon nila. Hindi katulad ng karamihan sa atin. Sa totoo lang pinagtitinginan sila ng mga schoolmate nila na dumaraan din sa bangketa. Grade 7 and 8 students ng Palawan Nat’l School.”
The post quickly reached thousands of shares in just a day and many commented that they were inspired and amazed by the hard work of the siblings.
In a Messenger chat, Jernnanie Jethro said that at first, he was skeptical to post it, “Naisip ko marami ding nagsisikap na katulad nila. Pero sabi ko para na rin makatulong sa kanila at magandang halimbawa na rin. Nagpupursige talaga sila. At maswerte ang mga magulang nila sa kanila,” he added.
True enough, their parents are lucky to have children who willingly help them in their own little way.
“Pag meron na silang kinikita doon, binibili na ng pagkain, medyas, notebook, ganon,” said their mother, Mary Ann.
Mary Ann and her husband, Emmanuel, repair shoes and watches in their small shift shack at Wescom Road as a source of income for their family of six. She admitted that the usual P300 that they get in a day is not enough to make ends meet.
When asked how they came to know how to fix shoes, Manuelita said that they watched their parents do the job and learned by mimicking it. “Nakikita lang po namin kila papa at mama,” she said. She started repairing at the age of 11.
Meanwhile, Meco proudly said, “Ako Grade 3, marunong na kaso mabagal,” while effortlessly stitching a black sandal.
Their mother explained that they didn’t force the kids to learn the skill that sustains their livelihood. They really wanted to help and it is very evident. The two would persistently ask, “Ma, anong dapat gawin?” when they see the heap of shoes their mother needs to repair.
She also narrated how the two talked to Ruel, their uncle, into letting them help in his stall, a block away from their school to get extra money for baon.
“Uncle Ruel, ‘pag marami kang tahi, magpaextra kami,” they said. Luckily, Ruel was kind enough to allow them.
The post of Jernnanie Jethro that received positive feedbacks from the netizens was only discovered by Manuelita and Meco when they went to a computer shop to do their homework. As what Mary Ann told, her eldest quickly went home to tell her that they were posted on Facebook and that they might end up in jail or taken away by DSWD.
“Sabi ko naman, ‘Bakit ikukulong? Di naman yata masama yung pinost sa inyo?’ Sabi kong ganon, ‘Wala naman kayong ginawa. Hindi ko naman kayo inutusan magtahi ng sapatos.”
Manuelita explained that they ran out of money for their fare. “Naubos daw kasi ‘yung binigay ko sa kanilang baon, binili nila ng pagkain,” Mary Ann laughed.
Manuelita and Meco’s story may not be one of a kind and it’s just one of the many inspiring stories out there but it is apparent that these two, at a young age, already possess qualities many do not have — resilience and determination. It is remarkable that they are not ashamed to sit in a sidewalk, under the searing heat of the sun, holding a needle and a thread and a shoe they do not own instead of gadgets, and making a little money to help provide their needs.