In this season of graduation, it would be normal to see waves of people in black togas throwing their caps in the air. This speaks of a celebration of reaching a new milestone.
Out-of-school learner Franuel Follosco, 24, has found satisfaction in simply being a mere spectator to this time of festivity—for three times now.
“I set aside my dreams and aspirations just to see all my siblings graduate college,” Franuel admits with a genuine smirk.
Being the eldest of five, Franuel took it upon himself to quit school and find work to help defer expenses of sending his three younger siblings to college. His mom had been a domestic worker in Taiwan for six years and his dad was a freelance electrician, but Franuel felt sending four kids to obtain a degree was still too heavy for the family income.
So, Franuel wore other kinds of caps and took on different stints including being a janitor, a timekeeper in an internet café, a room boy, a seller for bottled soft drinks, and a fruit vendor. He also earned money by designing and selling anime costumes and accessories on the side and participated in online game trading—all this at the expense of giving up his own education.
“I’ve seen my classmates graduate, wearing togas and smiling with their diplomas. It gets to me sometimes, but the regret immediately goes away when I see my sisters wearing their own graduation togas and wearing that same smile with the diploma,” Franuel says.
And true enough, nothing has warmed Franuel’s heart as much as seeing his siblings obtain their degrees in Aquaculture, Food Technology, and Education. Now that Franuel has helped his siblings achieve their own goals, his siblings insist that he stop working and finish schooling.
“It would be too embarrassing to enter high school at this age,” Franuel quips, “and my body keeps on looking for work.”
When applications came out for the SUGPAT Arts for Youth Development project for out-of-school-youth in Zamboanga City, Franuel’s family did not delay in encouraging him to join it.
He was not at home when the invitation to the program came, out hunting for another job, but after a few weeks of screening and a hundred applicants later, Franuel became one of SUGPAT’s 30 art scholars.
Franuel was enrolled in the Visual Arts track as part of SUGPAT’s 8-month Alternative School for Peacebuilding and the Arts (SUGPAT-ALSPA), a special alternative learning center for artistically inclined and talented out-of-school adolescents.
The SUGPAT-ALSPA implements a special secondary alternative learning system curriculum integrating the DepEd ALS curriculum and the ADZU Peace Education Curriculum through two major art tracks: Visual Arts (Painting) and Theatre Arts.
“This is my happiness. This relieves me of my stress—the colors, the paint, the landscape,” Franuel says about being enrolled in SUGPAT.
Ever since he was a child, Franuel would sketch drawings of his dad sailing a boat with the ocean and the sunset as the backdrop which his dad kept copies of. He wanted to further develop his hand in art but was unable to because of the “difficulties of life” disabling him from buying materials.
As a graduate now of the arts track, Franuel has made several artworks that have found their home in the walls of his fellow graduates’ houses.
“In SUGPAT, I was made to realize that we limited our imaginations to the bounds of what we could do as artists. But our mentor told us constantly, ‘You can do so much more, be so much more. Explore the universe,’” Franuel reminisces.
Besides his immense talent and grit for hard work, Franuel also exemplified true leadership and was eventually elected as president of the first batch of SUGPAT scholars. Franuel was pressured at first to set an example, but eventually handled the job of keeping everyone closely knit. In fact, he would go house to house to knock on the doors of his classmates and encourage them to attend the SUGPAT classes.
“It was hard for some of my classmates to go to the sessions: some of them didn’t have food to eat, or were looking for stable jobs. But I encouraged them to go to class still by telling them that there’d be more opportunities after attending the program,” says Franuel.
And opportunities did come. Scholars who completed the program took the Acceleration and Equivalency (A&E) exam of the Department of Education in March. If they pass this exam, they would be awarded a Certificate of Completion for Junior High School.
Franuel managed to work as a sales representative in KCC Mall while reviewing for the exam. Depending on his shifts and days off, he would run to the center just to catch up on the topics for review that he missed for the week. In spite of all of these, Franuel is now a proud passer of the A&E exam.
“SUGPAT taught me how to dream, and dream big,” Franuel concludes.
Now that Franuel is a passer of the A&E exam, he’s moving forward to finally achieving the dreams that he once set aside for his family. He dreams of being a pilot and his first steps include getting into the Philippine Air Force.
Pursuing his dream of course doesn’t come without reason. His desire of being in the air force arose from simply wanting to save up for his sister’s debut in November, which Franuel’s family wanted to make grand—the only grand celebration that all siblings agreed to give their youngest. Franuel says he’s taking care of the cake.
For Franuel now, after finishing the program, he feels that the world is at the palm of his hands. Whether it be piloting an airbus, or creating masterpieces worth of gallery exhibitions, Franuel knows that his dreams are meant to happen.
Armed with his certificate, unparalleled vigor, and positive outlook in life, it is only a matter of time until Franuel takes to the skies. #