I am Emerson Latigay, a proud Children International graduate. Today, I am 24 and work at the CI field office in the Bicol region in a position I love. This is my story of survival amidst the difficult circumstances in life.
As the eldest in a brood of four, I was responsible for caring for my younger sisters when my parents were not around and for making money to help with the daily expenses. I sold ice candies and yema in our elementary school to help pay for school supplies.
But my parents also recognized the importance of education. They told us that education is the only thing they can leave to us as their legacy.
School was hard for me. I was bullied as a child — my classmates always told me that I was fat. I also was not a high achiever academically. But I worked hard to pass all the subjects in elementary school. My high school journey was definitely more challenging but also more fun. I made friends there and joined a dance crew called “The Magnificent” that regularly entered dance competitions.
My dance training continued when I joined CI's ballet group. Despite being so involved in dancing activities, I made sure that my studies and chores were well-balanced. I always helped my parents in washing our clothes, cooking our food and cleaning the house. I also still found time to participate in the free leadership trainings for the youth at CI.
I decided to pursue physical education at Bicol University, a government-subsidized school, after graduation in 2007. It was the only option I had. My parents could not afford tuition, and my average grades made it difficult to get a scholarship.
Luckily, I found out the university dance crew was searching for new members. Thanks to ballet training through CI and my dance experience in high school, I was accepted into the group. Unexpectedly, I got a 100 percent scholarship grant. It was a great help to me and my family.
During my college days, CI also gave me an opportunity to boost my skills as a leader. I was recruited as a facilitator of the Youth Health Corps. I am proud to say that I was one of the Peer Educators who became part of the pilot batch. I learned how to talk in front of people, how to deal with problems and how to make good decisions.
I graduated from Bicol University with a bachelor's degree in physical education in 2011 and passed the licensure examination for teachers. I couldn't believe that I had reached this stage in my life. I never expected that I could be a professional teacher someday.
I am so thankful for Children International and my sponsor! CI not only gave me important life skills, but it offered me many opportunities to be a successful person. I landed a job in 2013 as the tutoring program facilitator at CI's community center in Homapon. While there, I worked hard to teach every child how to be an independent learner. I was finally receiving my first salary, which I gave to my parents.
Recently, I have turned my photography hobby into a job. In fact, it is another position at CI! Now, I am a photographer in the Sponsorship Relationship department.
I am so happy that I am able to help my family now. Amidst the difficult times that I encountered in life, I remained strong and was able to achieve my humble dreams.
That's why I have this message to the youth of today: Grab the opportunities that you have today because you don't know where it will lead you in the future.