I’ve heard it many times that education is the key to success and also the only way to get ahead in life. As an educator myself, I often stress out among my students how lucky they are by being able to attend free public education in a state where most citizens are liberal enough to believe that “it is all for the education of the children”. Thus, the bulk of taxpayers’ money often support the public education system making it truly accessible to every single student in the socio-economic ladder to afford education. There are various programs readily available for all types of students including daily reduced or free breakfast and lunch, waived fees to sports and club participations as well as provision of educational supplies such as pens, papers, books, etc. When I look at it from an immigrant’s point of view, I know that the US public education really tries to adhere to the No Child Left Behind act in so many ways. For many US citizens, there are still holes in fulfilling the rudimentary rules of NCLB but from somebody who is from a Third World Country, the US public education is a glorious learning environment for anybody who has the brains to grab such an opportunity.
In the Philippines where scholarships, grants and financial education aid are rarely available for college students, one must be either: a. born to parents who have saved enough college education plans to be able to afford a four-year college degree; OR b. have parents who choose to work hard to send their children for education. If a student isn’t lucky enough to have either one of the options above, then too bad, the chance of finishing a degree is out of the question. It is also important to note that it is customary among Filipino parents to pay for their children’s education from kindergarten all the way through college. It is the utmost responsibility of Filipino parents to send their children to the best schools possible in which the family can afford.
And why, do I have such a long introduction about education?
It is not because my heart has always been set in this field but because it is important for everybody to know that not all people are born with a given choice to access free education, especially when you are born in the Philippines with limited resources.
This week’s Saturday Success Story proves that with motivation and the will to have that once-in-a-lifetime chance to achieve education, nothing can get in the way to success. His story is dear to me such that I’ve known him since second grade but was oblivious and maybe ignorant enough to know his real story. It was only recently when I approached him if he could share his story to us that I realized how much he’s been through to afford an education and from which, has afforded his current lifestyle. When he started relaying some of his memories, that was the only time that occurred to me that never had I seen him complain nor showed signs of distress or frustrations about his predicament growing up. I’ve sat next to him, ate lunches, walked home with him from school many times throughout our school years- but he was cool about everything he had in his life. He didn’t seem bothered about it. He seemed motivated and broad-minded about where he was and what he needed to do. He was very responsible and has the attitude that “no-matter-what-I-can-do-it!”. But above all, he was humble.
And he is still humble, even after these years.
Even after he has already what most average people might still be longing to have.
And why wouldn’t he be?
He is a man of integrity, of intelligence (did I mention that he was ranked 13th in the CPA board examinations) and a strong believer that everything is possible when you have dreams (think big, though!), hopes and a can-do-attitude to your education!
In the last email that we exchanged prior to the publication of this post, he said and I quote “Really hope this will help inspire students especially those who are struggling to find resources to finance their education.”
Those were the words of MR.ISRAEL D. BASILIO – accountant, dreamer/doer, a bad farmer and a believer that 100% or nothing!
Here is his story:
1. Tell us about yourself. What brought you to where you are now? Who are your inspirations in life? What motivated you to become who you are today.
After passing the Board Exams I worked in one of the BIG FOUR Audit Firms in the Philippines. I am now living and working in Luxembourg and also happily married to Ami. Before I got to Luxembourg, I actually worked for two other companies.
Immediately after I passed the CPA Board, SGV (Ernst & Young) in Makati invited me to work for them in the Audit Department. I think it was one of the best professional decisions I have ever made. I spent three years working there. But it wasn’t easy at all. It was the fastest, most difficult three years of my professional life. But thanks to all that! Working for SGV really helped turn things around and molded me in my profession. There was a bonus, too, because I met my wife there.
After SGV, Ami (his wife) and I decided to leave and move somewhere else. We both got accepted in Deloitte (Jakarta) without having to pay any moving expense. There, we experienced a much better life, better benefits. We have started reaping the fruits of our sacrifice in SGV/E&Y.
But then we searched for something more. We asked ourselves if that was the place we wanted to settle down and build a family together, but the answer was “no”. We were looking for the best places to live in the world. Among our choices then were Australia, the United States and Luxembourg. We just made our applications on the Internet. Once again, thanks to our experience in E&Y and Deloitte, companies were interested and willing to sponsor our costs.
We then moved together to PWC Luxembourg after Jakarta. Sometime after Ami and I got married, we left audit. I am now a Manager for Real Estate clients of an International Management and Finance Firm. Much less busier than audit and I have more time for Ami, myself and for our future chikitings (children).
2. Did you have a mentor or a teacher or somebody in your family who has given you some words of wisdom? Can you tell us about this person and how he/she impacted you?
If there is one thing that I would pass on to my future children, that would be parental guidance at its best. I can not imagine how hard it was for my Mom, Dorotea to stay very positive and raise three kids on her own!
When I was still in elementary, I can still clearly recall having regular chats with my mother before sleeping in our “papag”, (a typical Filipino bed made from wooden bamboo slats) together with my two younger brothers. When I was still in the elementary school, she used to tell us, “Pagbutihin nyo pag aaral nyo, kasi malapit na kayong gagraduate ng elementary, tapos, papasok na kayo ng high school; tapos mabilis lang ang panahon, papasok na rin kayo ng college at makakapagtrabaho na rin kayo.” (“You better be good at school because you will soon graduate from elementary, then you will go to high school, then time will just fly by, pretty soon you will be in college then you will be able to get a job.”)
I remember complaining to my mother a few times “ Ma, sobra ka naman, elementary pa lang ako, college na pinag-uusapan natin.” (Ma, you are too much. We are only in the elementary we are already talking about college!”)
But she kept talking about them, anyway. Little did I know that her words stuck to my head, and as I grew older, went to college, studied for the board exam, started to work and even when she wasn’t with me anymore everyday, I remembered her words so clearly in my head, and I just knew what I had to do.
I’ve always recalled my mother saying that if we finish school, we would have a better life and we would not have to work in the farm anymore. She was right.
I’m lucky I have a mother like her. She led the way and dreamed my dreams for me even when I was still too young to comprehend the world.
The other person too who was helped me get through my education was my aunt,Mamang Lisa. Mamang Lisa (my Aunt) – helped me finance my high-school and college education until my review period. I will be forever grateful to her. I remember asking her how could I repay her and her response was – “Pag aralin mo muna mga kapatid mo” (Send your siblings to school first) and that’s what I did. She taught me the value of giving and how a simple act of kindness could make a significant impact on somebody’s life.
3. When you were trying to achieve where you are right now, did you experience some disappointments and failures? What are they? Can you explain how you overcome these circumstances?
I would rather call them difficulties, I guess.
I guess I will have to repeat what I said above about my childhood days when life was difficult and daily basics like food were difficult to come by for my family. I learned the value of hard work too early, I guess. At a young age, my brothers and I had to help our mother sa bukid (at the farm) , wake up at 5 AM to do some farm work before going to school , so we will have something to eat, and we will have baon (lunch/food money) for school. But I never regretted that. Knowing how hard life was, it pushed me to pursue my dreams to have a better future.
4. What would be your next goal?
I think I’m ready to build my own family now. Before it’s too late! I think I kind of worked too hard and waited too long.
And because of this, I am now starting to look far ahead, plan for my future children’s future, prepare for retirement, so my children won’t have to worry about me and my wife as we grow older.
I want to be as financially free as possible when I reach 65 and until I turn 100 years old. That is 35-70 years from now but it is never too early to start.
5. Has anyone of your friends, relatives ever told you what qualities they admire about you? What are they?
I don’t know. I’m sure they always thought I was a bad farmer! But for everything I choose to do and become, I put my 100% focus and effort on it.
I remember when I was preparing for the Board Exams – and I badly needed to be a CPA to find work easily. I developed my own 6-month review program before attending a formal review in Manila. I had to review 14 hours a day – with only a break day during Sundays. I recall one day there was a flood in Camiling which was very common =) but I forgot to get my book from my Lola’s
(Grandma’s) place. Lumusong ako sa baha para makuha yung (I trudged through the flood) book. I did not want to ruin my own schedule. Nastranded tuloy ako sa bahay ng lola ko mag-isa (I then got stranded in my Grandma’s house alone) for a couple of days – reviewing. I thought it was a blessing so that I could concentrate, my relatives thought it was crazy. =)
6. Can you share to us your philosophy in life and how this affected your success.
Plan carefully and stay committed to that plan until the end.
7. Do you have any advice to get better and be more successful in whatever we are doing?
As my wife always tells me – be the pilot of your own life and make things happen to you . There is no limit to what we can achieve. Nobody is too poor to dream to be rich, in the same way as nobody is too good to be better.
8. Finally, what is your definition of success.
If I am 100 years old and about to wrap up what I have done in my life, I could give a better answer to this. Until then what I have are my plans. To be rich and to share my wealth, to be the best father, to see my children do good in their lives, the best husband to my wife, among other things, and lastly a 100 year old guy without a beer belly =) .
Daily with you,
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