Pong, the youngest of the six children of a tailor and of a dressmaker never thought that he would be more than just a houseboy and a construction worker. Truly, life is a wheel where one’s lot comprises an experience on all sides. One’s destiny depends on his choices. A man, who once served the then college President, is now the University President.
Sir Pong, as he wants to be called, is a real Filipino, a simple man of humble beginnings and rich in crisis and melodramatic life. He was born in Dapawan, Odiongan, Romblon on May 23, 1965, but his parents were separated by poverty when he was only 7 months old in his mother’s womb. His father returned to his own town in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, while his mother was left to take care of their kids. Life was quite difficult so Pong was left with their grandmother in Dapawan, the former Concepcion Formon or ‘Lola Epion’ as many call her. He was taught responsibility at an early age – tending their carabaos and horses, recording their share from the produce during harvest time, and drawing water from a spring found on a hundred feet high mountain which he had to do every day. At the age of five, he was fetched by his mother, for he has contracted ‘El Tor’ (a water-borne disease). He survived and from then on stayed with his family in Brgy. Bangon. In 1971, Lola Epion who became ill stayed with them. By then, almost all the properties were sold or mortgaged including the land where their home stood. His ‘lola’ died in his arms during their sleep. Such grief was followed by a strong typhoon which forced their family to move from their old house to Brgy Liwanag. Misfortune unfortunately kept following them that they have to move from one place to another almost every year or two. In the end, they stayed in Budiong, Sitio Cota and Timbaon. Their mother could hardly make both ends meet that his elder sisters decided to leave for Manila to serve as housekeepers to support their family.
With the small amount from his sisters, he, as a working student selling firewood and running errand for teachers in exchange for food went through high school in 1976 at the then Romblon Agricultural College (RAC). He would even catch “dalag” on his way home from school to have some savings for future use, as he recalls those times. His perseverance to finish his studies had caught the eye of the then Principal, Mr.Victorino L. Aguila, who asked him to be his houseboy. In 1981, he was offered a college scholarship by the Firmalo Clan Foundation. He was given two thousand pesos per semester which he used not only for himself but also to support the studies of his elder sister. He took up BS in Agricultural Education in RSC, major in Animal Husbandry. He also registered as a Naval Basic Officer trainee in 1983 while still being a houseboy to Mr.Aguila, who by then was already the President of the Romblon State College (RSC). He became the ROTC Brigade Commander while still in college and was also one of the first Off-campus Practice teaching trainees who were assigned in Looc National High School. After graduation in 1985, he served as the Officer-in-Charge of the ROTC and a substitute teacher in RSC. In 1986, he also graduated as Probationary Ensign in the Philippine Navy Training Command in Fort Bonifacio, Makati. He served as a permanent secondary teacher for fifteen years and twelve years as PMT Commandant in RSC since 1987 after passing the PBET. He was also voted as the youngest President of the Secondary School Teachers’ Association and Romblon State College Faculty and Employees Association (ROSCOFEA) at that time.
In 1995, he finished his Academic Requirements for Master of Science in Agriculture in RSC. He applied for a two-year leave to write his thesis, but he was recalled in a year’s time by then OIC President of the College, Dr. Ricardo Wagan and was assigned as Security Supervisor and Director for Alumni Affairs. He was promoted to Instructor 1 position when the conversion of 24 secondary teacher items took place in 1999. In less than three years, from Instructor 1 he was promoted to Assistant Prof. II.
In May of 2002, he was designated as Officer-in-Charge of Sawang Campus in Romblon, Romblon and became its Campus Director after a year prompting him to move his family there. He had brought about great improvements in the campus, such as the construction of the Main Building up until the second storey with twelve rooms, the IT Building, the acquisition of almost 2 hectares of land donated by private individuals, the facilitation of the grant of 171 x 30-meter right of way, and the gymnasium which is a 16.5M project of Gov. Budoy Madrona. After eight years of staying in Romblon, he decided to finish his long overdue Master’s degree. In 2008, he finished his Master of Science in Agriculture, major in Agronomy. By 2011, he completed his Doctoral degree in Agriculture at the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija under a DOST-PCARRD scholarship.
He was the Presidential Assistant for Institutional Development under Dr. Jeter Sespene’s Administration, the first University President, and that was his last stint before the Presidency.
Sir Pong, a man of adversity had proven that though life consists of things given and uncontrollable, one thing remains: “One’s persevering hope for change will always be rewarded.” He is the man who believes that the best way to develop a place is to develop its people – that being a leader is not about making yourself powerful, but about making the people around you more powerful, are words simple yet deep. He is a pedagogy of a true man in uniform, who stands up for what is right and heads on strong amidst the noises and rumblings on the background and back alleys. He is a model of simplicity – simply selflessness – the man whom you would see early in the morning in the school fields, conversing with the workers or in the evening in the school gate scanning the entrants. A man you would constantly mistake as someone other than the President. That is our man, a true Filipino, our University President.