DAVAO CITY – A former student scholar from a Sama-Bajau community in Davao City who wished to join the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is now part of the coast guard serving as an Apprentice Seaman (ASN) and is among those assigned in BRP Tubbataha.
His story was featured on Sunday, July 11, by the PCG in their “Kwentong Coast Guard” Facebook post. The post now has at least 31,000 views and over 2,000 reactions.
In the video, ASN Abner Saimodin recalled the hardships he experienced while he was still a young child in Davao City.
“Nakatira kami sa isang village na may squatter’s area sa Sasa .. malapit kami sa dagat. Bata pa ako naglalangoy na kami. Yung isang parang tito ko, si Sir Ismali, kumukuha siya parang dinidevelop niya yung mga bata doon para matutung lumangoy para madevelop yung skills nila as swimmers (We lived in a squatter’s area in Sasa, a coastal village. We have been swimmers since we were young. I remember Sir Ismali who taught kids in the village to develop their skills as swimmers),” he said.
Saimodin said they would sell fish in order to earn money.
“Yung hanapbuhay namin sa Davao nagbebenta po kami ng isda, nangunguha kami ng isda, minsan nangingisda kami, which is illegal man sya pero kailangan namin para may makain kami (We catch and sell fish in Davao as our source of livelihood, sometimes we engage in illegal fishing, it’s illegal but we need to do it to have something to eat),” Saimodin recalled.
“Minsan may nakukuha kami, minsan wala. Minsan nahuhuli pa kami ng mga coastguard. Kaya sabi ko sa sarili ko gusto ko maging coast guard para at least maturuan ko yung ibang mga bata na ma-inspire sila na mag-aral sa lugar namin (Sometimes we are able to catch fish, sometimes there was none. Sometimes the coastguards would catch us. That’s why I told myself before I want to be a coast guard to at least be able to inspire the children in our village to study),” he added.
Saimodin said he was inspired by one of his seniors who was able to finish his studies. He became part of a swimming varsity team from elementary to high school. He said a school even took him as a varsity player which helped him to go to school.
“Simula elementary hanggang high school naging varsity ako ng swimming and meron school na kumuha sa akin na maging varsity and yun yung isa sa malaking tulong para makapag-aral ako kasi walang-wala kami sa amin (I was a swimmer in a varsity team since elementary until high school. A school even accepted me as a varsity player and that helped a lot for me to go to school because we really had nothing),” he said.
Saimodin recalled that it was his swimming coach in college, Vasit Venturillo, who helped him succeed.
“Siya yung nag-ga-guide sa akin para maging matagumpay sa buhay. Ginawa nya akong instructor. Tinuruan niya ako paano magturo. Sinasahuran niya ako. Hanggang sa nag-apply ako dito sa coast guard (He was the one who guided me to succeed in life. He made me an instructor, he taught me how to teach and gave me allowance. Until I was able to apply here in the Coast Guard),” he said.Saimodin said he failed during his first application but he did not lose hope.
“Kasi sabi ng coach ko proceed mo lang yan (My coach told me to just continue),” he added.
He went to Manila and became a swimming coach and he was able to save up. Saimodin later built his own swimming club in Manila. After almost two years, he became part of PCG’s Class 67.
In an interview on Monday, Venturillo, who is also the Officer-in-Charge of the Civil Relations Services of Coast Guard District Southern Mindanao described Saimodin as a “hardworking and smart student.”
“Smart sya, not that intelligent in terms of academics. But smart enough na kaya nya pangitaan og pamaagi ug maminaw ug advise (He is smart, not that intelligent in terms of academics but he is smart enough to find a way and he listens to advises),” he told The Manila Bulletin. Venturillo said he was like an elder brother to Saimodin.
“Gina-offer ra nako ang options pero siya gihapon ang nagahimo sa decisions (I just offer him his options and he is the one who decides). Looking at him right now, I can see that he made the right choice,” Venturillo said.
Venturillo added that Saimodin is very helpful to his family.
“I remember there was one competition gani nga ang iyahang gidaog is gipataod niya og tubig nila kay for siguro 20 years wala na silay kaugalingong tubig (he used the prize money to have pay for their house’s water connection because they had no water connection of their own for around 20 years),” he said.
Saimodin said he wanted to tell young Sama-Bajaus to keep challenging themselves to become better.
“Although makikita natin yung mga kababayan natin dyan na nahihirapan hindi yun babag para hindi tayo makatapos tayo ng pag-aaral. Dapat hindi tayo magsisi na pinanganak tayong mahirap dapat habang tumatagal tayo icha-challenge natin yung sarili natin na kung kaya ng iba, kaya natin (Although, we see our fellows there having a hard time, that is not a hindrance for us not to continue with our studies. We should not regret that we were born poor. We should challenge ourselves that if others could do it, so can we),” he said.