Testimonies

Capital Investment: Screwdriver (Erwin Cortes)

Believing firmly that poverty is not a reason to become hopeless, as Fr. Al taught me, plus of course prayer and sacrifice, saw me through a life of ups and downs. My parents were widow and widower, each with children of their own, while my sister and I were of this third family. It would have been a good combination of sorts but they separated when I was twelve.

Mother brought us to Manila, not knowing what would happen to us. We lived in a squatters’ area in Novaliches, Quezon City. I sold fish balls, dyaryo’t bote, became a kargador at the Novaliches market, all to help us survive. I felt irritated and helpless at my situation, even contemplating suicide. I wanted to continue my studies but my busy mother showed no inclination to send me back to school.

Once she spanked me because I was too lazy to go out and sell fish ball. I told her my feelings. But there was a good neighbor who saw me and told me about the Sisters of Mary School and that her daughter was studying there. For free! With almost everything, from food and lodging to clothes and school supplies and much more. It seemed too good to be true. My mother needed no convincing and let me go with the neighbor. I was interviewed by Sr. Teresita Prudente and she gave me a small pamphlet to read aloud. Then she told me I had passed and was accepted.

For four years I learned so much. Boystown gave me a high quality education, from academics to vocational courses, such as automotive, electronics, refrigeration and air conditioning, repair and maintenance of industrial sewing machines. And the best teachers were hired for us, too.

It was just the training I needed for employment even immediately after high school. But then the Sisters of Mary Boystown was even more generous. After graduation, I was hired as an assistant electronics teacher. I had a job at once. But my rather independent disposition urged me to look elsewhere and to work on my own. Meanwhile, life was about the same. We were still in the squatter’s area and when it rained, our beds floated on the rising water. But I never complained to God. I believed he would never abandon me.

Then my prayers began to be answered. I began work washing empty bottles in a wine factory, with a daily wage of P50. After a month, I became a refrigeration and air-conditioning technician. I was using my training. Then I transferred to another company where they made a specialist in automatic door systems. In these two companies I learned a lot about the fabrication and installation of glass windows, automatic doors, gates, and many more skills related to building construction.

As I learned skills and handled responsibilities my personality developed but I retained the virtues I learned in school with Fr. Al: work hard, be honest, be humble. I learned, too, to deal with different people and professionals like architects, engineers, contractors, managers, and suppliers. My appreciative boss encouraged me to have self-confidence even if I was “only” a high school graduate. In time I became a sub-contractor for the installation of automatic door systems and glass windows. When I had enough funds I put up my own contracting business in Manila. For almost two years it was failure but I did not lose hope, I always prayed and worked hard.

I went back to Masbate where I met my wife, Maria Cristina. She is a very devout lady who is always there beside me in all my efforts. I worked odd jobs until we felt ready to revive the business that had been suspended. With a capital investment of a screwdriver and some small tools for installing window glasses, coupled with lots of perspiration and inspiration from my wife and three kids, we restarted. This is now my company, Green Glass and Aluminum Supply, with main office in Masbate City and a branch in Minglanilla, Cebu.

At home, we live the way I learned at the Sisters of Mary. I am the founder and my wife is my sister-in-charge. My little boy and my two girls are my Boystown and Girlstown respectively. We attend the Holy Mass every Sunday and are members of the Christian Community Couples for Christ. I will always remember one of Fr. Al’s homilies, which said, “The most powerful weapons to overcome fear, trials, obstacles, and temptations are prayer and sacrifice.”

***

Erwin Cortes
Batch 2, 1987-1991
Sta. Mesa, Manila

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