September 9, 2021
Homeless for years, Tzu Chi scholar now looks to the future with hope
By Joy Rojas
For Dharma Master Cheng Yen, filial piety—that is, showing the utmost respect to parents at all times, obeying them without rebelling, maintaining the honor of their name by conducting oneself well in society, and doing our best to keep them happy—is “the most rewarding thing in life.”
Filial piety explains why Ron Matthew Solar planned to surprise his parents with the 20kg sack of Taiwan rice and assortment of groceries he received as a scholar of the Tzu Chi Foundation. Filial piety also explains the why the 22-year-old carries himself with a pleasant demeanor and quiet dignity—bearings that reflect a proper upbringing. But they also belie his family’s hardships in the last five years.
Originally from Valenzuela City, Solar was 10 when his parents sold their place and moved to Caloocan. There, they stayed with relatives in the house of a grandmother. In 2016, the relatives sold the house, forcing Ron, his siblings, and parents to live on the streets.
“We stayed next to the garbage bin that my father scavenged for things to sell,” he says. A wooden pushcart carried whatever little possessions they had; to sit or sleep, they laid cardboard on the ground.
From time to time, Solar thought about how unlucky he was and why his life had to be this way. But the struggles of his harsh reality also made him grow up fast and resolve “to work hard, stand on my own two feet, and be independent so I can help myself and my family,” he says.
Solar, who credits the kindness and generosity of friends for helping him survive his life’s trials, has been a working student for years. In high school, he was a vendor in a sari-sari store; today, he’s a stockman in a warehouse. With his salary and sacrifices, he and another sibling were able to support the family, enough to move them out of the streets and into a home in February 2021.
Indeed, luck continued to be on Solar’s side when the Philippine Normal University sophomore taking up a Bachelor in Filipino Education read an announcement in his school’s Facebook page about scholarships offered by the Tzu Chi Foundation.
“I was very happy to be accepted,” says this new scholar. For a working student who once received a miserable P100-P120 for 12 hours of work, a Tzu Chi scholarship “is a big help. Now that my education is being taken care of, I can give my salary to Mama and Papa.”
After college, Solar would like to get into teaching or writing. Not surprisingly, filial piety is part of his plans. “I’d like to give my family a decent life, to repay Mama and Papa for what they did so I could finish my education. If they didn’t raise me right, I would not be here today,” he says. “I hope to be able to give them a comfortable life with luxuries they haven’t experience.”