The Bucketlist That She Never Wanted

The millennial generation is constantly on the lookout for things to do to unmark whatever is on their bucket list. The most common goals that we hear from the millennial today are about travelling, going on vacations, attending a concert, and owning a car. But these things are far from what really fulfills the heart especially of someone who had nothing from the start.

Jeselle Buen, like many of us, had a bucket list of her own. But hers is a little different. Instead of listing down material things that she would like to own or happenings that she would like to experience, hers is about having a complete and intact family –a family that she never had with her parents back then.

As a little kid in an urban community in Ayala, Zamboanga City, Jeselle experienced being bullied for being in a situation that is not commonly understood by the society. They belong to what we call a “second” family. Growing up, she barely has seen her father as he was always with his first immediate family.

Things did not get better when her mother united with another man who they later knew had a severe vice. In Jeselle’s memory, this was when they were in the most unlikeable situation.

Jeselle remembers having to ask her classmates for food because she did not have any baon in school. At this point, she never has seen nor talked to her father anymore. She did not know where he was nor how to contact him for support. What she only knew was that they needed to strive very hard to survive a day and not die in hunger. There were even days when they only eat 1 meal.

Needless to say, this is not part of the bucket list that anyone would want to experience. She just bore in mind that as the eldest in the siblings of 7, she had to stand firm and be strong for her brothers and sisters and her single mom as well.

She helps her mother prepare kakanin at dawn that she would later sell in school. When asked about how this very tedious job affected her studies, Jeselle said that she would fall asleep in her first or second subject because she had to wake up early to prepare their commodities. She added that her teachers understood her because they knew about her situation. But she knew that it negatively affected her status and she understood that she did not perform well in school.

“How could I? How can I be an honor student if I regularly fall asleep during class? I couldn’t help it because my body was so tired every day from doing school works, doing household chores, watching over my 6 siblings, helping my mom prepare kakanin and selling them. All of those things did not allow me to perform better in school,” Jeselle said.

To sum it all, Jeselle did not have an intact family, did not have decent food on the table, and did not perform well in her academics. Basically she couldn’t put a check mark to any of the bucket list of needs. But she had one thing, she had a dream. She wanted to finish her studies and be a teacher someday.


Education: A Pipe Dream (or I thought so)

Jeselle was totally driven by her dream. But it seemed a little hard to reach when you have less access to it. She understood that her mother couldn’t even provide for their adequate meal. What more a college education?

After finishing high school, she accepted that she can never go to college. She stopped schooling for a year. Jeselle used her time and energy to look for work and earn to help her striving mom. Fortunately, she was hired in a canning factory where the only qualification is to have at least a high school diploma.

Looking around her community, Jeselle felt somewhat fidgety.

“Parang di ako mapakali. Nakita ko yung mga kapitbahay ko nagkaroon na ng anak at an early age, walang trabaho, nasa bahay lang. So sabi ko sa sarili ko ayokong manatili sa ganon. Gusto kong makapagtapos. Gusto kong makahanap ng mas magandang trabaho,” Jeselle uttered.

In 2013, her family’s religious compliance to the conditionalities of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program paved the way for Jeselle to secure a slot in the program’s Expanded Students’ Grant in Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGPPA).

As an ESGPPA grantee, Jeselle was entitled to receive a maximum of P60,000  grant per school year for her tuition and other school/college fees. She also received 2,500 monthly stipend to support her other educational expenses such as book fees and an additional 3,500 as monthly allowance.

She mentioned how Pantawid Pamilya has helped her family understand the value of education and its role in uplifting the lives of poor families from poverty.

Jeselle admitted that she was not really focused on education when she was in elementary and high school because to her, there were a lot more important things to think about at that time like food for their empty stomach. But this time, she says, it is different.

“Nung elementary at high school wala akong naibigay sa mama ko na something na ikakaproud niya. Kaya nung napasok ako sa ESGPPA, ginusto ko na sa pagkakataong ito, may maiabot ako sa kanya. Nandyan na eh. May pera na para sa tuition, sa project. Effort ko na lang ang kailangan,” Jeselle added.

One of her bucket list items is now checked.


Your Determination Is Bigger Than Poverty

Jeselle Buen was a remarkable student as reflected in her report cards in college. She became a consistent Dean’s Lister from first year until fourth year. It was probably a bit surprising for Jeselle’s mom to see how determined her daughter was. The former did not even believe and have never attended any of Jeselle’s recognition day activities because she thought Jeselle was just joking around when she said that she was a Dean’s Lister.

But before her graduation day, Jeselle made sure that her mom will witness the fruits of all of her hard work and that she will make her mom proud. Without saying anything about her being a Cum Laude, she asked her mom to go to school saying that her teacher wants to see her.

“She thought that I got in trouble in school that’s why she was called. Little did she know, she will be attending my recognition day where I will deliver a speech. And she cried a river the entire time that I was delivering my speech,” Jeselle proudly recounted.

A month after her graduation, she was immediately hired in one of the private companies in Zamboanga City and 7 months later, she was recruited to work as a visiting lecturer at Western Mindanao State University (WMSU-External Studies Unit).

Perhaps the universe wanted to repay her for all of the hard work that she has done for her family. So in addition to her stint at WMSU which schedule is from 5pm to 8pm, she was also hired in the local government unit of the Municipality of Mabuhay, Zamboanga Sibugay as an Agricultural Technician where she works from 8am to 5pm.



One year later after her graduation as an ESGPPA  grantee, Jeselle was already able to chec

k majority of her bucket list items to include a house renovation and extension, additional appliances for the convenience of her siblings while studying at home, a piggery business, and they also recently started building a boarding ho

use for rental services. She is also supporting the education of her 6 siblings in Zamboanga.

“Poverty is really not a hindrance to success. It may sound cliché to many, but it speaks truth. As long as you are determined, you can achieve your dreams and aspirations. You just have to remember that your determination is bigger than poverty.”