By Alissa Z. Lacson and Winona C. Agir
Benjie Pacas, a senior education student who majors in MAPEH, was just an ordinary boy. He lived simply and enjoyed the company of friends. He loved to laugh, play, dribble and run.. And as he grew older, he continued to play, join events, and compete in track and field, volleyball, and basketball. “Sports is my life and my life is nothing without a sport,” he said.
He began his athletic career when he shockingly beat all his competitors by a mile during his third year in high school. Since then, he ran for the city, provincial, and regional meets—all the way to nationals. Throughout all his track and field races, he enjoyed training on his own. Benjie would wake up at 2 AM to jog to school then jog back home after class and run back and forth the hanging bridge near his home. After days of intense training, he was able to run a 100-meter dash in 10.8 seconds — his best time throughout his career in track and field. People then recognized him for his ability; he gained a lot of friends and he became the student government president in his high school without him personally filing for candidacy.
It seemed as if Benjie’s life was going smoothly. He enrolled in Silliman in 2012 and competed in track and field during Intramurals. It was his first year competing in Silliman and he became the Most Valuable Player. He was then sent to represent the university during the Philippine National Games. He ranked 10th. He kept his legacy but, at the same time, he was struggling to support himself in school. Since his high school life, his education was being funded by the Christian Children’s Fund. He was given books and his tuition was free — until he transferred to Silliman. His family had only so much to continue enrolling him and he, too, was battling to support someone new in his life: his daughter.
“Natural, nag-remorse ko na dapat human na ko…but, at this point, okay ra pud ko na wala pa ko nahuman kay naka-learnko’gmore…at least ni-mature na ko…(Naturally, I felt remorse because I should have finished college by now…but, at this point, I realized it’s okay because I learned more and I matured), the athlete said. “But siyempre, kapoy siya in the sense na ganahan kang mu-improve sa imong self; at the same time, ikaw ra usa(But of course, it’s tiring in the sense that you want to improve yourself; at the same time, you’re all alone),” he added.
Three years passed since he enrolled in Silliman and continued his athletic life, yet his problems grew. He separated from his daughter, he barely had food to eat, he had no home to sleep in, and he felt more lost as the days went by.“Atona time na lost kaayo ko..ako rang gisalig sa Ginoo na muhuman ra ni(That time when I felt really lost, I just prayed to God that all of these problems would end),…” he said. “God would arrange everything. He would put back my life in order,” he added.
Now, a 23-year old volleyball varsity player and the basketball captain for the College of Education-School of Basic Education Intramurals team, he decided to earn a living for himself. Every weekday morning, Benjie wakes up at 4 AM and makes buko juice. Not for him to drink, but for him to sell. He goes to the different schools around Dumaguete and sells until 8 AM — making about 400 pesos each day. Although he admits to losing hope sometimes, he would always look up to God to give him the strength to work hard—not only for himself, but also for his daughter.
“Kapoy uy.Imagina mu-skwela ko, MWF practice pa mi 7-10 PM….akong tulog ana kay 11-3 AM…pag 4 AM make napud ko buko juice. Pero di na ko huna-hunaon kapoy kay kabalo man jud ko na kapoy man gud na siya(Yes, it’s tiring. Imagine, I’ll go to school, then practice from 7-10 PM every MWF, then sleep from 11 PM to 3 AM…by 4 AM, I have to make buko juice again. I just don’t think about how tiring it is because I’ve accepted the reality that it will really be tiring to live like this),” he expressed. Benjie also said that he never expected to have gone so low only to finally reach the point wherein he is months away from graduating.
When asked if he was willing to quit sports to rest, he quickly said no. He enjoys being part of the volleyball varsity team and has never been absent in all their practices. In fact, playing volleyball is his stress reliever, he said. “Anad gyud ko og hard life. Mao nay usa sa advantage na ko sa uban nga mo-give up…ganahan ra jud ko nga mag sige’g dula kay maka-learn man jud ko(I’m used to the hard life. That’s one of my advantages compared to those who give up…I really like to keep playing because I learn from it), Benjie said. The athlete added that life is simple; it should not be made complicated. It might just be Benjie’s attitude, a trait that only a few might have, but if there is something he cannot achieve, he does not stop until he gets it. He believes that “prayer + hard work = success.” Thus, with his key to success, he hopes to graduate, take the board, and teach.