A 16-year-old boy from Victoria, Laguna is selling turon in school so he can earn some extra income and help his mother who works as an OFW in Saudi Arabia.
According to an episode of "Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho," Nico Vergara, a Grade 11 student, has been selling turon in his neighborhood and eventually thought about bringing it to school.
He gets his turon from his godmother and he offers it to teachers and students alike.
"Papasok po ako sa room nila tapos tatanong ko po kung bibili po sila. Nakakahiya po nu'ng una kasi hindi ko rin po kilala 'yung mga teachers dito tsaka po 'yung mga estudyante," Nico said.
("I enter their room and ask them if they want to buy. I felt embarrassed at first because I didn't know the teachers and the students.")
"Nakabenta po ako ng 160 pesos. Ibibigay ko po ito kay Ninang tapos bahala na po siya kung magkano ibibigay niya sa akin," he said.
("Sometimes I earn 160 pesos. I will give it to Ninang and it's up to her how much to give me.")
Aside from selling turon, Nico also serves as a helper on his father's construction work when he does not have classes.
"'Yung bakasyon po na-ekstra po kami ng Papa ko diyan sa labas. May tatawag po sa amin na magpapagawa ng kuryente. Naghe-helper po kay Papa," he said.
"Nandun na po kasi 'yung mapapagod talaga. Pero pinipilit ko pong magtrabaho. Mahirap naman po talaga. Sinusubukan kong tumulong," he added.
("During vacation, Papa and I do extra work. Someone would ask us to fix their electrical lines. I usually help my father out. It's tiring work, but I endure it. It's really difficult. But I want to help my family.")
Despite helping his family earn an income, the teenager does not neglect his studies and remains active in class.
Nico studies in a private school, but according to his teacher, many of their students do not come from rich families and depend on the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
As for Nico's family, his mother Arlaine has been working as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia for six years now to support him and his siblings.
"All around po ako rito. Maglilinis ng bahay. Mag-aalaga ng bata. Tapos magluluto. Akin po lahat. Gawa po sa hirap ng buhay sa Pilipinas e hindi ko po kayang tustusan lahat ng mga pangangailangan ng mga anak ko. Kailangan tiisin," she said.
("I clean the house, take care of the children, and cook. I do everything around here. Life is difficult back in the Philippines, so I could not provide for my children. So I have to endure life here as an OFW.")
"Kailangan po talaga dito lakasan ng loob. Kasi 'pag mahina ang loob mo dito wala pong mangyayari sa 'yo. Masakit po sa loob kasi dapat 'yung kalinga ng ina dapat po sa mga anak. Kaya lang naibibigay ko sa ibang bata," she added.
("You need to be strong here. If you don't, you won't survive. It hurts because a mother should be able to care for her children. But I can't do that. I have to take care of other people's kids.")
Nico feels his mother's absence keenly. From birthdays and graduations, when he gets sick, to the everyday moments he and his siblings do not get to have their mother by their side, he misses her so much.
"Kung may pagkakataon gusto ko po sana makauwi na 'yung Mama ko na sama-sama na po kami dito," he said.
("I wish my Mama can come home so we can be together again.")
To help Nico and his family, the provincial government of Laguna offered him a scholarship. A private organization gave some cash assistance and groceries while his father Nestor was offered a regular job. The KMJS team also extended some financial help.
A TikTok video of Nico selling turon in school has since gone viral, with over 1 million likes and 12,000 comments on the platform. Many expressed their admiration and respect for his determination.
"Gusto ko pong maka-inspire ng ibang kabataang tulad ko na hindi po hadlang 'yung kapos sa pera para po pumasok sa school," he said.
("I want to inspire other children– that in these small ways, I can help my parents to send me to school. ")
For those who wish to help Nico and his family, you may send your donations to:
LANDBANK OF THE PHILIPPINES: Sta. Cruz Capitol, Laguna Branch
ACCOUNT NAME: NICOLE KEITH L. VERGARA
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 2226 2579 37
—MGP, GMA News