Jerome was the eldest of four children, living in Mindanao, South of Manila. The area accounts for a third of the Philippines’ poor. His parents had little education and worked at menial jobs to try to sustain their family. There was rarely enough money for food.
Violent crime was common and families were often frightened for their safety. When his father got into trouble defending his family from the local gangs and went to prison, his mother was left to care for the family alone. Jerome was able to attend primary school for a while where he developed a passion for reading but there was no money for further schooling and Jerome left to try to find work and help his mother provide for the family.
In 1999, Jerome heard about the programmes of the Sisters of Mary and in 2000 he was offered a place at the boys’ school near Cavite. Unused to much structure in his day, Jerome found his first weeks at school difficult but he quickly adjusted. Jerome made new friends and loved the regular meals, his lessons and the chance to play. He was able to develop his love of reading, spending hours reading in the library and studying the newspapers.
After graduating in 2003 he initially worked in a local restaurant whilst he studied part-time for a degree in development communication from Batangas State University. There he found his purpose “to use communication to help people in poverty”. On graduation he went into publishing and then in 2009, he got his ‘dream job’ as a journalist for the Philippine Daily Enquirer newspaper. Following this in 2013 he joined the charity Save the Children Philippines as a communications officer. Seven years on he is now their Humanitarian Manager in the Philippines and responsible for coordinating and communicating on the charity’s response to humanitarian disasters, including the recent Taal Volcano eruption and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Throughout his life he has continued to support his parents and his three sisters with medical care and education. All three sisters have gone through school and into college thanks to him. One sister is now a teacher, another is a psychology student and the third is just entering college. Jerome has lifted his whole family out of poverty thanks to the opportunity the Sisters gave him. He says: “I feel thankful for being one of the fortunate.”