The things that matter the most in this world are not the ones that can be touched but those that can be felt by the heart. Material belongings and riches of this impermanent world would soon vanish but the love and relationship that has been built will remain forever.
Queenie Eligoyo, 23, grew up in the impoverished community of Dreamland in Rosario, Cavite. She had learned early in life the virtue of resourcefulness and creativity.
“My family’s income came from scavenging when I was in elementary. Our school supplies were used notebooks and bags. That was how we learned how to sew and recycle bags,” shares Queenie.
With seven children to raise, Queenie’s parents did everything they could to provide for all that their children needed. But with poverty holding a tight grip on their family, educating them seemed almost impossible.
When Queenie’s father, Jaime, quit scavenging, he turned to fishing to feed his family. Every day, he would spend almost an entire day in the middle of the ocean, hoping for a good catch. The life of a fisherman was hard. There had been times when Jaime would stay in the ocean for 15 days, fishing. But no matter how hard he works, money was just difficult to come by.
In 2007, Tzu Chi Foundation’s volunteers set foot in Dreamland. They were conducting their relief operations for the victims of Typhoon Dodong (Wutip) in the province when they discovered the plight of Dreamland residents.
With the firm belief that education is a family’s ticket out of poverty, Tzu Chi assisted Dreamland youth with their daily food at school. Queenie, being an elementary student at that time, was among the beneficiaries of the daily food stub from the foundation. She used the stubs to purchase snacks in the canteen.
“The stub was really a big help because we were already able to buy food from the canteen unlike before when we just stayed inside the classroom since we didn’t have the money to buy anything,” recalls Queenie.
Queenie became a Tzu Chi scholar when she was in second year high school. She received monthly cash allowance from the foundation.
Tzu Chi’s relief and compassion to their family did not stop as they also became a beneficiary of the Quarterly Relief Program for Dreamland residents. The assistance they received every month was not only used for her school expenses but also for their daily food.
In college, Tzu Chi supported Queenie’s tuition and miscellaneous fees until she graduated in 2015 with a degree in Technical Teacher Education from the Cavite State University.
Today, Queenie works as an elementary and high school teacher at the Saint Augustine School in Tanza, Cavite.
“I started to develop the will to be an educator with the help of the teachings from Master [Cheng Yen] every Humanity Class. I have decided to inspire other people,” says Queenie.
With her monthly income, Queenie is helping renovate their house and buy food for the family. She makes sure to keep her expenses under control, prioritizing the things that she only need.
According to Maria Alma Arnesto, Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) coordinator in Saint Augustine School, Queenie brings her own food to school instead of buying in the canteen to save up money. Queenie also stays at the school after working hours to finish all her errands since they don’t have internet connection at home.
“Her determination and sense of responsibility as a teacher is something that a school needs. She is very diligent and I could see that it is not about the salary that’s why she works so hard. It is about her passion,” says Arnesto.
The former scholar does not only stand as a teacher but also as a shoulder to lean on and guardian to her students. In fact, Karuma Ai Kawasaki, one of her students in her Grade 4 class, describes her as a kind and approachable teacher.
Love for one’s parents and humility are two of the most important things that Queenie has learned from Tzu Chi scholars’ monthly sessions of humanity classes. For her, values such as love and respect must be also taught to her students to mold them into good individuals in the future.
Of the good things that are happening in Queenie’s life, her parents are the ones who are most proud.
“This is the dream of a parent – to see a good future for their children. [Back then,] I would even stay 15 days in the sea to fish and earn for my family, and I would always feel so happy whenever I give them the fruits of my labor and I would see the happiness in their faces. Now it feels so good to receive blessings from your children,” shares Queenie’s father, Jaime.
As her way of paying forward Tzu Chi’s help, Queenie gathers recyclable materials from their home and donate them to the foundation in support of the latter’s environmental protection program.
On Queenie’s part, she is not only grateful to Tzu Chi for the financial help to finish her education but also for the lessons from Master Cheng Yen that made her realize how blessed she is for having people around her who constantly support her dreams.
She may not be rich in material things but the love from her parents, the determination to achieve her dreams, and the compassion shown by Tzu Chi Foundation are more than enough to live a contented life.
Queenie Eligoyo’s mother prepares her daughter’s lunch. Queenie brings home made lunch to school to save money. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Queenie Eligoyo on her way to school. She wakes up as early as 6 o’clock in the morning to prepare for her work as a teacher at Saint Augustine School in Tanza, Cavite. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Saint Augustine School is located inside the Diocesan Shrine of Saint Augustine or commonly known as Sta. Cruz Parish in Tanza, Cavite. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
A student of Queenie Eligoyo shares his knowledge about what other things can be created using recyclable materials. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
A greeting banner from Queenie Eligoyo’s students last teachers’ day celebration in Saint Augustine School. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Queenie Eligoyo’s high school and college graduation pictures displayed in their house. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Jaime Eligoyo, Queenie’s father, is the one in charge with the renovation of their house. Queenie funds the reconstruction of their house using her monthly salary as a teacher. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
Graduate scholar Queenie Eligoyo tries to put cement on the wall of their house. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】
After working hard as a teacher, Queenie Eligoyo happily hands the money she earned to her parents. 【Photo by Luisa Cabato】