After surpassing seemingly impossible hurdles to finish college, the girl who once begged and sold sampaguita on Manila's streets is looking to conquer her next challenge: the job market.
Khay Ann Igle, the 21-year-old garland vendor who just obtained her Tourism degree this March, is raring to dive into the competitive world of employment. She hopes being street-smart will help her stand out and land her a job.
Igle recently graduated from the Eulogio "Amang" Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology with the help of donors through Childhope Asia Philippines' Educational Assistance Program (EAP).
"Gusto ko po sa mga hotel mag-work, pero kung ano man po 'yung darating na trabaho iga-grab ko na po (I would like to work in hotels, but whatever job may come my way, I will grab it)," Igle told ABS-CBN News.
"Kahit ano po. Hindi naman po ako mapili basta po kaya ko 'yung trabaho (Any job. I am not choosy, for as long as it's a job I can do)," said Igle.
Asked what lesson she could take from the streets to the workplace, Igle said: "Ang natutunan ko po ay 'yung pagiging madiskarte po (I learned how to know my way around things)."
Working at a hotel would be major a change of environment for Igle, who grew up in a shanty built around tombs at the Manila North Cemetery.
Living among the dead all her life has motivated Igle, the first in a brood of five, to aspire for a better life for her family.
"Mula nang pinanganak ako, 'yung tirahan namin dito pa rin sa lugar kung saan marami ang natatakot, nandidiri (Since I was born, our home has been this place that for many is scary, yucky)," she said in a lengthy Facebook post on March 29 after her graduation, dedicating her achievement to her parents.
"And hindi nila alam, 'di lahat ng nakatira dito ay katulad ng iniisip nila: magnanakaw, walang mararating sa buhay, adik o iba pa (What people don't know is that not everyone who lives here are like what they think: thieves, slackers, addicts etc.)," said Igle, who had to start begging and selling sampaguita garlands at age 5 to support her family.
Igle's graduation photos and diploma now rest on top of their improvised shelf, undoubtedly the centerpiece of their cramped home.
"...[A]ko na 'yung isang patunay na hindi lahat ng nakatira dito ay ganun... proud po akong maging ako at tanggap ko sa sarili ko kung ano at sino ako ( I am proof that not everyone who lives here is like that. I am proud of myself and I accept myself for what and who I am)," she said.
"Masaya ako sa ganitong buhay ko kasi, dahil sa paghihirap ko, nagkaroon ako ng pangarap sa buhay, hindi lang para sa akin kundi para sa pamilya ko at sa mga taong nakapalibot sa akin (I am happy with this life because, due to difficulties I've faced, I dared to dream, not just for myself but for my family and for people around me)," she added.
To dreamers like her confronting adversities, Igle gave a piece of advice: have faith in God and in yourself.
"..[S]ana isipin palagi nila na habang may buhay, may pag-asa. Hindi pa nag-uumpisa ang kwento ng buhay sa mga hirap na nararanasan, kasi ang tunay na panimula nito ay kapag natapos na ang pag-aaral. Dun pa lang mag-uumpisa ang journey (I hope they keep in mind that for as long as they live, there is hope. One's life story does not begin with the challenges you face, because it begins once you finish school. That's where the journey begins)," Igle said.
"Ang problema ay kaakibat ng pag-aaral 'yan. Huwag na huwag magpapatalo sa mga problema (Problems are part of studies. Do not let yourself be defeated by problems)," she said.
"Lagi lang manalangin kay God at magtiwala sa kanya, at syempre sa sariling kakayahan (Always pray to God and have faith in Him, and of course in your own abilities)," she added.