Published 5:04 PM, Aug 04, 2014
‘His remarkable journey from the mountains to the great halls of a state university is a feat of endurance and determination of the human spirit’
LEYTE, Philippines – Marlon Crobe, a 20-year old Manobo from the mountains of Biliran is charting a rewarding career in seafaring. Now on his last year as a Marine Engineering student at Naval State University, he is a step closer towards his dream of joining the ranks of thousands of Filipino seafarers.
He will also be the first in his family to earn a college degree.
His remarkable journey from the mountains to the great halls of a state university is a feat of endurance and determination of the human spirit.
Growing up among his people in Sitio Palayan in Biliran Town, Marlon was destined to continue on with his tribe’s traditional way of life. His father is a hunter, and so were generations of men before him.
But as a young boy, Marlon has been drawn to the classroom. He took to school with such enthusiasm that he preferred his teachers’ lesson over his father’s teachings on their traditional hunting methods.
“My father would take me with him to the forest to teach me how to hunt wild pigs and deer and to chop down rattan that he would sell to the lowlanders,” he recalled. “We would be in the forest for days and sometimes weeks. I was always excited to go back to school.”
Marlon’s family – along with 18 other Manobo families – have lived in relative isolation in Sitio Palayan since the 1990s. They fled their homes in Mindanao to escape the violence prevalent at the time.
They survive on planting abaca, selling rattan, and hunting wild animals. It is a life marked with poverty and isolation. “My parents and those before them survived through hunting. There were plenty of animals in the wild then. Times have changed, nowadays, it is difficult to survive on that kind of life,” he said.
Unlike their parents, Marlon and his sister were offered a chance to choose a different path in life. A school was built in their village and they were able to attend classes. They had access to books that gave them a glimpse into a world beyond the mountains.
Marlon proved to be more determined; he completed his primary education and moved on to high school. His sister, however, quit after graduating from elementary and got married at 17.
When he completed his second year at 16, he knew he would be older than his peers by the time he finished high school. He then signed up for the Alternative Learning System (ALS), a ladderized, modular non-formal education program offered by the Department of Education. With perseverance, he passed the program and received his high school diploma.
Like the enchanting stories of early seafarers, a twist of fate would change the course of Marlon’s life. Soon after he received his high school diploma, he met Jun del Rosario, a local philanthropist, who offered to sponsor his college education.
Marlon saw his chance to continue on with his studies and decided to pursue Marine Engineering at Naval State University.
His journey towards his dreams would create a difficult transition of living in relative isolation to living among strangers for the first time.
“When I was in my first year, I was very shy around my classmates. I hardly spoke a word and just sat quietly in a corner during classes,” he shared.
With his dark complexion and short curly hair, Marlon feared being mocked and picked on. He thought that he would be safer in his silence. It took him a while to finally warm up to them when he realized that they were genuinely friendly.
Marlon overcome that difficult period of adjustment with sheer determination. He also received plenty of encouragement from his friend Jezreel, a member of a local church who had been keeping an eye on him since he started school in Naval.
Today there’s hardly a trace of the painfully shy freshman. In his white school uniform, Marlon exudes a quiet confidence of a regular college guy.
His journey is far from over. After graduation, he will continue on with an apprenticeship program.
There will be new challenges ahead, but with hard work and dedication, Marlon hopes it will all pay off in reaching his seemingly impossible dream of one day sailing the high seas. – Rappler.com
Karen Rivera is a communications officer of World Vision’s Haiyan response. She was enchanted by Marlon’s story and believes that it could inspire many indigenous people (IP) youths to never give up on their dreams despite the challenges that confront them. She encourages IP youths to take education seriously as it could be their way out of poverty.