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News - March 2008

Prevailing Over Poverty: The Saga of Edgardo Sitjar

Date Posted: Mar 2, 2008 at 02:45:20 AM


Born in Kalamansig, a small town in Sultan Kudarat, Edgardo Sitjar, the second of eight children, was the first to attend school because his eldest sibling had polio. In reality, his father could hardly make ends meet for the big family with driving a tricycle for a living, let alone spend for his schooling. Such that, by the time he made it to public high school, Edgardo was pretty much on how own up to when he graduated in 2001.

 

Obtaining 12 medals—though not securing academic honors—he qualified for a scholarship for the national college a town away, courtesy of a local congressman. He wasn’t keen on studying in the province however. Edgardo had set his sights to what he, like others before him, believed to be the land of real opportunities: Manila, Manila!

 

Edgardo let go of the scholarship, and instead wrote to an uncle who resided in Parañaque—summoning everything he had to dare ask for a ferry ticket into Manila, which his uncle was kind enough to send.

 

With nearly nothing but a rosary and a packet of Magic Flakes, his first trip out of Mindanao was somehow full of hope and promises. For three days and two nights, he faced hunger and a turbulent storm at sea when the ship reached Visayas, but he never regretted his decision.

 

Edgardo never had illusions that he would magically land a scholarship to college as soon as he got here. He knew it would be a long haul and, while he was under his uncle’s care, he needed to somehow fend for himself like before. A small venture selling barbecue lasted around six months. Edgardo also wrote for help from Noli de Castro who then had a top-rated public service radio and TV Program.

 

Then he inquired for a job at the NAIA extension office which was just near his uncle’s place. He was directed to Homeland Janitorial Services in Intramuros which was the hiring agency for its maintenance personnel. He passed all qualifications, but there was no vacancy at the NAIA. There was, however, a slot available at Adamson University. And this is where the series of serendipitous events took off.

 

He was assigned to Adamson in January 2002. His first post was at the ST main entrance, just outside of which is the informal smoking lounge of the University. As it was accreditation period for Adamson then, he had to make sure that the area was clean of cigarette butts all the time.

 

Never losing sight of his dream, Edgardo soon got wind of the University’s Ozanam Study Grant Program (OSGP), whose office was, as luck would have it, just a short walk up on the second floor of the ST Building. By February, just over a month of working as a janitor in Adamson, he had filled out an application for the OSGP.

 

Fr. Gregg Bañaga Jr., CM, who, as a Student Affairs VP and director of the scholarship program, headed the panel that interviewed applicants, would never forget Edgardo for what he said during the interview: that he didn’t want to be a janitor all his life. This, on top of his high school merits, was more than enough to secure him a spot among the scholarship grantees. When the next school year opened within a few months, he was enrolled in Adamson as Mass Communications student.

 

At around the same time, his appeal to Noli de Castro also came through with another offer for a college grant. But since this would only secure tuition and related fees, Edgardo wisely opted for the OSGP scholarship which was supplemented by a setup wherein scholars can work as student assistants on campus and receive an allowance of Php 2,200 a month.

 

And Edgardo would end up with so much more when his never-ending saga took another sad turn. A conflict with his uncle ensued—forcing him to move out of his home in Parañaque. As a student assistant, he was assigned to the Institute for Religious Education. Mr. Jan Navallasca, who headed the department then, at once offered to share with him the room he boarded and acted as his foster father during his whole stint there. To top it all, the entire faculty and staff he was working with dutifully poled fifty pesos each month to augment Edgardo’s lodging expenses.

 

With untold opportunities and blessings coming his way, Edgardo made doubly sure he measured up to everyone’s expectations. He returned the favor with unparalleled diligence and dedication to his studies and his work. From eighth to twelve o’clock, he would attend his classes, and an hour after, he’s off to his duties as student assistant. Right after work, he would still manage to hear mass and stay on for church-youth activities which often lasted till midnight. When he got to the boarding house, he would devote three hours to studies before calling it a day.

 

He became Vice President for External Affairs of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul (SSVP), the organization of student assistants, and he was cited as outstanding officer in the recent recognition rites for student organizations. He was also awarded most outstanding student assistant for apostolic work and best editorial in his capacity as editor of Dyaryo ni Enteng, the official publication of the SSVP.

 

Edgardo finished his course in less than four years. He graduated cum laude last October 2006. Qualifying successfully for immediate employment at a PLDT Business Center by way of an Adamson placement tie-up with the company. He is currently under training as a Sony products customer care representative.

 

His saga secured closure when his father made it to his graduation and stayed to spend Christmas holidays with him. Even his estranged uncle in Parañaque hosted a party of sorts for him. Still and all, Edgardo counts as probably the most eventful part of his life, the moment Fr. Gregg cited his story in the speech he delivered during his investiture as president of Adamson University: stressing above all the Institution’s commitment to provide quality education for the underprivileged. KCP/MGC

 

Source: M.G. Chavez, Adamson University Touchstones at 75, p.82-83,

 

“We want the poor to have access to quality education the same way Mr. Edgardo Sitjar, a former contractual janitor, who now enjoys a scholarship grant and serves as a Student Assistant in our Religious Education Department. By the way, the faculty members of the Department, inspired by his determination, support him by chipping in P50 every quincena to pay for Edgar’s monthly board and lodging of P1,500” –(Rev. Fr. Gregorio Bañaga Jr., CM during his Inaugural Address as 5th President of Adamson University, December 10, 2004, p.4.)