MANILA, Philippines - One of the 3 "bangkang papel" boys during the Arroyo presidency wants to become a field reporter when he graduates college.
Erwin Dolera said he is just a year away from graduating Communication Arts at Trinity College in Quezon City.
"I will graduate next year, sa awa ng Diyos. I want to be a field reporter. I don't want to spend 4 years in college just to work in a call center. That is not my goal," the now 19-year-old journalism trainee said in an interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com.
Before he can realize his dream, Dolera again was placed on the spotlight after having doubts if he could continue his education.
Dolera is one of 3 children from Payatas, Quezon City who wrote their wishes on paper boats and let them sail on the Pasig River towards Malacañang Palace in 2001.
The paper boats never reached the Palace, Dolera said, but the activity, organized by urban poor group Kadamay, caught the attention of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Arroyo invited the boys to the presidential palace and gave them scholarships. And every year without fail, the President would invite the children to Malacañang to touch base before presenting them to the media.
Dolera said Jayson Vann Banogon, one of the 3 "bangkang papel", eventually declined the scholarship and dropped out of school. He said Banogon's family is more well-off than other families in Payatas since they own a carwash and several jeepneys.
On the other hand, fellow "bangkang papel" boy Jomar Pabalan is still a sophomore or in his junior year in college at AMA Computer University.
No to Study Now, Pay Later
Last year, Dolera and Pabalan met with Arroyo for the last time in Malacañang. There, Arroyo said the scholarships, which were funded by the Office of the President, would have to end when she steps down from office.
She told the 2 boys that they could continue their studies under the "Study Now, Pay Later" program of the Commission on Higher Education.
She also offered to talk to the head of St. Luke's Medical Center and ask him if he could convince the head of Trinity College about offering Dolera a full scholarship. The two institutions are sister companies.
Dolera said he refused to take the "Study Now, Pay Later" option since he would only get P7,500 per semester. He said his current tuition is at P27,000 per sem.
He said he already got a scholarship at Trinity since he is the president of the central student council. The scholarship cut about P11,000 from his payables for the first semester of 2011, leaving him P16,000 short.
Last January, Dolera sent a letter to the Department of Social Welfare and Development to ask if he could still get a scholarship. What he got was a response letter signed by DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, saying that the department would look into the matter.
"Sumulat po ako sa kanila at nagresponse sila. Ang sinabi po - sa lalong madaling panahon gagawa sila ng solusyon. January 11 pa yung sulat sa DSWD. Sa Monday kasi pasukan na e saan ako kukuha pambayad ng tuition? I already took summer classes, which the DSWD did not pay for," he told radio dzMM.
On Monday, Dolera went to the Batasang Pambansa and submitted a letter to the office of now Pampanga 2nd District congresswoman Gloria Arroyo to ask for her help.
On the same day, Arroyo's spokeswoman, Elena Bautista-Horn, called him up and said the former President would pay for Dolera's tuition.
On Wednesday, a member of Arroyo's staff accompanied Dolera to Trinity College and paid the P16,000 balance for the boy's schooling for the rest of the semester.
Horn later told reporters that they were surprised that Dolera's scholarship was discontinued.
Dolera said he is thankful to Arroyo for helping him out for the past 10 years. He denied that he felt used, saying the former President was always friendly.
"Kahit hindi na siya ang nasa posisyon, siya pa rin ang tumutulong sa akin. Kahit nung dati, nangungumusta siya," he said.
PNoy to continue support for schooling
Edwin Lacierda, spokesman of President Aquino, meanwhile, assured Dolera that the Aquino government would continue to pay for his schooling until he graduates.
"I want to assure Erwin that his scholarship will continue and I want to explain that it is not because there was a change in administration. We don't want to politicize these kids because we are talking about their education," he told radio dzMM.
Dolera shrugged off the seemingly slow action of the DSWD towards his plight. He said he personally met DSWD Secretary Soliman during the Arroyo administration because she personally handled their needs while she was still Arroyo's social welfare chief.
For now, he said he just wants to graduate especially now that both his parents are dead. "Yun talaga ang dream ko, na makatapos. Yun kasi ang makakatulong sa akin," he said.