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A servant-leader in the cooperative movement

Updated: Jan 31

He is the only one in his family to have finished a collegiate degree. His may be the typically conventional household that gives credence to work in order to support one’s parents or younger siblings.

For Kerwin T. Catubig, one of the increasing number of work students at Foundation University who have made their mark in the professional world, it was a bold step that he took after his high school graduation at Holy Trinity College, Ginatilan, Cebu Province.

“It has been our family’s notion, especially among my uncles, aunts, and even some of my cousins that immediately after high school, they try their luck in the big malls in Cebu City to work either as promotional staff or take other odd jobs,” Catubig shared matter-of-factly.

Thus, he continued, “just to break the pattern,” he did not follow the usual route and, instead, pursued college, graduating in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce Major in Management Accounting. He was among those in the Dean’s Honor Award in his second and third year, and was named YMCA Outstanding Student of the Year in 2005. He served as president of the Foundation University Campus Ministry Aides (FUCAMA) from his second year until fourth year, and was an active member of the Roots Society, the organization among work students in the university. He was officer of the Student Supreme Council and officer of the Junior Institute of Management Accountants.

Foundation University topped his choices primarily because he learned about the school through his cousins, Wilma Catubig and Alphy Catubig, who graduated Bachelor of Science Major in Management and Bachelor of Science Major in Marketing, respectively.

His routine included cleaning the entire university library, which meant literally everything that is part of the library, the rest rooms, the floors, and the stairways. It was here where he learned how to operate a floor polisher which he found to be quite heavy for his slim frame.

“I am proud to say that I have been trained in perfect cleaning by Dr. Mira Sinco, then the university president,” Catubig enthused, adding that Dr. Mira or Ma’am Mira, as she is fondly called by students, leaves no stone unturned in ensuring that the campus, including the stair railings, is spic and span.

Catubig’s work covers, too, the vicinity of the school grounds, which he does in the early morning before his classes. From 5-5:30 in the morning, he would clean the Administration Building, including the President’s Office, where he had the chance to serve Mr. Leandro Sinco during his term as university president.

He particularly remembered a time when he was asked to go to the Business and Finance Office to print in Risograph test questionnaires for a Computer subject that he himself was enrolled in. Did he get a good, if not a perfect, score in the test? On the contrary, as he related, he got a zero! “I was not prepared for the exam. But, if I wanted to, I could easily have taken a peek at the questions. But, I told myself that this was a test. How you perform is of your own making and if you cheat, you are cheating on yourself,” recalled Catubig.

He did all these until he reached his third year in college when he obtained a government scholarship as a work student under the Private Education Student Fund Assistance (PESFA). The latter’s subsidy of P7,000 per semester and the free tuition as a work student for 18 units went a long way in ensuring that he will reach his goal.

It helped that Catubig enjoyed perks from a seaman-uncle who would give him some gifts each time he would come home, including a modest amount to tide him over for his weekly upkeep.

He was fortunate to get free lodging inside the campus in what he called as “barracks” where he slept in double-deck beds with his fellow work students for four years.

Doing good things will surely come back to you a hundredfold, as evidenced by the kindness accorded to him by the Rev. Msgr. Julius Perpetuo Heruela, then parish priest of Junob, Dumaguete City and long-time chaplain of Foundation University. Because of the demands of school work, Msgr. Heruela offered to take him in to assist in retreats and recollections particularly among the deaf-mute community. Catubig shared that his work was essentially to maintain the cleanliness of the parish building and its surroundings. “It was a blessing in disguise because in exchange, I would get free board and lodging,” he remarked with a tinge of pride and contentment.

For someone who experienced being told that he would never finish his college degree because of meager means, Catubig is vindicated today, to put it mildly. He confessed that he has never known his biological father and that his maternal grandparents raised him. Both his grandparents have passed on, his grandfather in 2009 and his grandmother in November of last year. His mother found work in Manila to make both ends meet.

His excellent track record as an intern at the DCCCO Multipurpose Cooperative gave him the chance to be absorbed in the office among its many interns immediately after graduation in 2005. He rose from the ranks as management staff to branch manager of Kabankalan Branch in 2014 until his transfer to the main office in Dumaguete City in 2021-2022. He is currently assigned at the DCCCO San Carlos City, Negros Occidental Branch since January 2023.

His steadfast faith in God has remained intact through his being a branch leader of Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon Dumaguete, a national charismatic youth organization working with young professionals, for more than four years.

Catubig lives with his wife, a pharmacist at Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital, in Dumaguete City where his mother, who is in Ginatilan, Cebu occasionally spends time with them.

To his fellow Foundationites, especially the work students, his advice is “fasten your seat belt, hold on to your dreams, be committed to pursue and conquer your dreams; no one will help you except yourself because no one else can change your situation but you.” (Cecile M. Genove)


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