Written by: Patrick Camara Ropeta
Published at OFWorld Magazine, 2013

Interesting and Inspiring Stories of 100 Juan Dela Cruzes in Europe

I grew up in the Philippines with a very practical upbringing, My father was a driver while my mother earned a little from a small business. Life was never easy. My father decided to go abroad to sustain the needs of our family. He started to dream big. But, as luck would have it, he was the victim of illegal recruitment and was immediately sent home. To make matters worse, he suffered from severe illness and needed heavy medication. This became my motivation, seeing my family go through all this has made me determined to work hard and to pull them out of poverty.

I was lucky enough to have aunties who supported my education, finishing secondary level at an exclusive private school for boys. Aquinas School in San Juan. where I was also a scholar of the Dominican Order, I studied hard at school and was active with extra-curricular activities. I was a varsity player, a council president, a theatre actor, and was even involved in music and arts. I was grateful for the opportunities and support that I wanted to graduate with flying colours, and I did.

I worked just at hard in college where I studied nursing. To support my studies, I applied for government  scholarships, worked part-time in a call-center, and even worked as an extra on a few commercial shoots. I am also interested in business and, at the time, started selling mobile phone accessories, tshirt printing, ending up with my own small store for school supplies.

As a student, I was engaged in social functions and activities for youth all over the country. I was even featured on television at one point, and became an anchor at Armed Forces of the Philippines radio station through the Confederation of Student Government of the Philippines. I also represented the country at different youth activities around Asia.

Despite a busy schedule, I managed to maintain a good scholastic standing, I graduated cum laude with several awards, and I soon received my license as a qualified nurse, I then moved to United Kingdom at the age of 21 to try my luck abroad, where I now continue to work hard to support myself and my family. I have also recently started campaigning my younger sister Myla, who was diagnosed with cancer, by raising funds and awareness through events and social media. She has become an inspiration through her steadfast spirit and positive attitude in the face of illness.

It is important to support other people too. I continue to help youth charities and events in the Philippines, and I always try to find time to reach out to anyone in need. I also engage with different Filipino organisations in UK to explore life, meet people and help out. It’s my little way of expressing gratitude to those people who have helped me in the past.

Poverty is never a hindrance to success. All we need is the will to work hard, the courage to take risks, and the audacity to go beyond limits.

Elija Paul Villanueva hails from San Juan City. A graduate of Nursing from Dominican College in the Philippines, he works as a private nurse, photographer, senior health care assistant while pursuing his passion in arts and photography, He recently launched his solo exhibit, “Kulay”. At the Philippine Cultural Centre in London, in aid of his sister’s battle for cancer. An active member of the overseas Filipino Community, he won the title of Mr. Philippines UK 2011, invested as the youngest knights of Rizal in Europe, and is currently hosting a radio show about the lives of Filipinos abroad. He is also pursuing an honour degree in business management at Glyndwr University London.






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