By Pinky Colmenares
“They gave me a new life. They gave me opportunity (Sila ang nagbaliktad ng buhay ko; sila ang nagbigay sa akin ng oportunidad).”
To Rommel Pajarito, 28, “they” is the Toyota scholarship program where he had earned the skills to be where he is today – a professional technician at the Toyota Santa Rosa City, Laguna dealership.
About five years ago, he was working in back-breaking jobs in construction and manufacturing where the next food on the table was always on his mind.
For 90 minutes, the young man talked about life now and before he entered the Toyota Motor Philippines School of Technology (TMP Tech) as a full scholar.
After completing the two-year Toyota General Job Automotive Servicing Course and getting employed by a Toyota dealership, Pajarito is now like any salaried employee, shopping for food at the grocery store, and walking around the mall to look for things to save for.
It is a good break for Pajarito, a child of adversity.
He was only a teenager when he went through various jobs that built a township.
He’s carried cement bags on his back, mixed and poured the thick substance into roads and drainage systems, moved on to work with copper sheets, then operated a furnace.
His lightest job was being a timekeeper.
Things began to change when his family was awarded a housing unit at the Toyota-City of Santa Rosa-Gawad Kalinga Village.
After high school, he learned about the scholarship in TMP Tech sponsored by TMP Foundation and passed the entrance exam.
He graduated from the two-year course in 2017 and was hired by the Toyota Santa Rosa City, Laguna dealership on Dec. 16, 2017.
The Toyota school, which marked its sixth year April 10, has graduated about 1,000 students, 60 percent of the scholars.
When he became a regular employee in June 2018, he went shopping at a grocery store for food that would last until the next payday.
“I bought frozen food,” he said.
That was an achievement. He said he used to survive on buying food on credit from the tiange — when he was not paid on time, which was often.
On those days, he would drink water to appease pangs of hunger, he said.
There’s a smile on his face when he told us that with his first salary, he purchased a television set for his mother.
“Mabait si mama. Pag-uwi nyan galing sa trabaho, nilalaba niya damit ko at nilulutuan ako ng pagkain (My mom is kind. When she comes home, she would wash my clothes and cook my food).”
His journey to today when he does not worry what he and his family will eat tomorrow, is already part of his dream life.
“Okay na ito sa akin na hindi ako nag-alala kung anong kakainin namin bukas (It is okay for me that I don’t worry about what we would eat tomorrow),” he said.
Like everyone, he has small and big dreams. His first answer to “what are your dreams in life” was “to be a service advisor.”
It’s a position he’ll likely reach in three to five years because his performance is quite promising, said Van Gilbert Aniceto, parts and service manager of Toyota Santa Rosa.
He is now a professional technician, a step higher from the entry-level auto service mechanic.
And he is already training as a diagnosis technician, another step up the ranks.
“He’s someone I would like others to emulate. He does not work for the clock but for the customer. He never leaves a job unfinished,” Aniceto said.
Not yet even 30, Pajarito talks — and dreams — like an old family man.
He does not plan to marry until his 12-year-old sister finishes college.
That’s about eight years from now. He is paying for her education.
In between work and his dreams, Pajarito’s youth shows.
His early purchase was a Huawei 3i — for his games — and a motorcycle.
“I bought that from my Christmas bonus,” he said.
His salary — and incentive pay — has also brought home many conveniences.
The refrigerator, electric fan, gas range and TV come from his savings.
Now he’s saving for his dream to give his mother a sari-sari store.
“Tipid lang (Be thrifty). I avoid going out with friends.”
It’s regular life for Pajarito now — all because he met Toyota’s scholarship program along the way.