Marco Paulo Deligero | August 24, 2018
It was in 2003 when Key Bird’s life dramatically changed for the better. When he was younger, he was involved in illegal activities in the streets of Carbon, Ermita, until a heroic act changed his life that led him to receiving a RAFI scholarship.
His story of courage was featured in print, radio and television through Reader’s Digest Asia, Bombo Radyo, and Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK).
Today, he is giving back to the organization and to the people who have been instrumental in helping him finish college, working as a full-time RAFInian.
The Rough Beginning
Key Bird Padilla was born on August 19, 1992. He never knew his father, he and his mother had difficulty surviving each day. Hard-pressed to help his mother earn a living and with peer pressure, he resorted into activities considered illicit.
“When I was a kid – I think that was in 2003 – I joined my barkada (peers) who led me to do things I regret doing. I was always in the streets of Carbon, Ermita, and we did a lot of foolish and dangerous things.” Key Bird said in Visayan.
“I was young then, I didn’t have a father to guide me, and we needed food on the table, so I used that reason for doing the bad things I did.” Key Bird added.
Rougher Times For A Young Boy
One instance, Key Bird – a name he said was from the Bible – was caught by the police, and he was detained for three weeks until his mother had to bail him out.
“I could never forget the face of my mother when she bailed me out of prison, she was crying and disappointed. That must have been the saddest moment of her life, seeing the young boy she carried for 9 months wasting his life away.”
“I regretted so much hurting my mother that way, she was my only family. That was the moment I promised myself to change and study hard for her.”
Little did Key Bird know, God had better plans for him, something bigger, something life-changing.
One day in 2003, when he was only 11 years old on a jeepney passing through Carbon, Ermita, he saw a snatcher pull off a public school teacher’s earrings and ran away.
He pitied the teacher, and without thinking of his own safety, he followed the snatcher into his house in Ermita. When he was near, he asked for assistance from the barangay tanods because the snatcher was a lot bigger than him; a hot pursuit happened and the tanods successfully caught up with the snatcher and recovered the pair of earrings.
When asked where he got the courage to follow the snatcher, Key Bird replied:
“I had this urging inside to do the right thing because I promised myself to do good ever since I was released from prison — to do that which will make my mother proud.”
The Story of Courage That Went Viral
His story of courage was heard in the airwaves the following day through Bombo Radyo, and Key Bird became an instant hit in the news, spreading like wildfire, reaching even the staff of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI).
Upon learning of his story, RAFI reached out to him and offered him a college scholarship for any course he chooses.
“I felt very blessed when they offered me the college scholarship in 2003, I was still in elementary that time and I knew then that my future had already been secured.”
Kids For Christ
After that, Key Bird became very active in the religious community organization called Kids For Christ (KFC), which focuses on Jesus Christ’s teachings.
“I really wanted to join Kids For Christ because I wanted to know Jesus more. I knew then and I know now that He will definitely help me in my life, to guide me in my choices in life, especially that I’ve made so many mistakes in the past due to my difficult childhood.”
The Father He Never Had: Anthony Terence ‘Totits’ Ocampo
As a member of Couples for Christ, the Kool Adventure Camp (KAC) Senior Partnership and Development Officer for the Professional Development Program, Anthony Terence ‘Totits’ Ocampo volunteered himself as the Kids For Christ (KFC) SAGIP coordinator/facilitator, which he considers as his personal volunteerism program.
Totits encouraged Key Bird to join KFC. Their relationship grew — from being a mentor to a father figure.
“I consider tito (uncle) Totits as a father, the father I’ve been longing for, a father who guides me in life. He is someone who has helped me through my ups and downs.”
“Tito Totits even gave me toys when I was younger because my mother couldn’t afford them due to our financial difficulty.”
“There were also many times when he gave me financial support when I needed it the most. He continues to give me valuable advice to this day. He is family to me. Thank you very much tito Totits.”
From Reader’s Digest Asia to Maalaala Mo Kaya
Key Bird and his story of courage was immortalized in writing by different media outfits such as Reader’s Digest Asia.
“I never thought my story will have that huge impact, it was nothing to me, I only did the right thing.”
This feature in Reader’s Digest Asia led to yet another exposure. The crew of the ABS-CBN’s longest running drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya went to Cebu to interview him and asked his permission to dramatize his story on the said show.
“If I could remember correctly, tito Totits told me that there will be some television crew who will interview me but he never told me that it would be for MMK.”
The episode on MMK was titled ‘Police car.’ Key Bird said that since he was young, he wanted to be a police man, but due to extreme poverty, he never had the chance to pursue it.
When Key Bird finished his elementary and secondary schooling, he went back to RAFI to claim his scholarship. He was accommodated at first by Val Gatchalian of RAFI-Microfinance, then endorsed to the RAFI President & Chief Operating Officer, Dominica B. Chua, who confirmed his scholarship.
“I was really happy when I learned that I can finally go to college, especially that my mother could no longer afford all the expenses. I chose Information Technology as my course because I was interested in it.”
He enrolled at the University of Cebu, then transferred to the Asian College of Technology. However, he stopped for a while because of some financial issues.
“I had to stop eventually because of some financial constraints, there were times that instead of using the scholarship funds to pay my tuition, I used it to buy food for me and my mother instead, that’s how difficult it was for me back in college.”
Key Bird And His ‘Guardian Angels’
Key Bird found help along the way, and he is very thankful to this day.
“Back in college, I met ate Rochie (Glico), she encouraged me not to give up. She always told me to ‘just study because that will be your key to succeed in whatever you want in life.’”
Rochie Glico, the Executive Assistant of the President & COO, then introduced Key Bird to Haidee Palapar of the Culture & Heritage Unit, who also helped him financially.
“Ms. Haidee has also helped me, thank you very much to them both. To Ma’am Domi, thank you very much for pushing me to finish my studies, to finish college. I am very blessed that God has given me people like you to guide me in life. Thank you very much.”
From Being A RAFI Intern to Being A Full-Time RAFInian
Key Bird applied for internship in RAFI, under RAFI Micro-finance (RMF) Manager, Jesryl Plarisan.
This is what Plarisan said when asked about Key Bird.
“Key Bird started as an intern in RAFI. I saw his potential as he is inclined to learn new things. He is a dedicated employee, and is willing to execute and accomplish his task, to the point that it would [only] take 24 hours [for him] to do it.” Plarisan said.
“He plays a vital role in RMF for he is supporting our core banking system. I hope that the determination and openness of Key Bird will continue as we move forward to support RMF in achieving its goals.” Plarisan added.
A Message From His ‘Ate Rochie’
Through an online message, Rochie Glico said this about Key Bird,
“Key Bird was already part of RAFI when I came to the organization, almost 6 years ago. He was granted a college scholarship for his heroic deed as an 11-year old boy…”
“I was then tasked to manage the grant. Thus, I got to meet him (from time to time) and eventually became more of an ‘ate’ to him. He was always honest with me about his challenges in school and at home that’s why I made sure that he gets the encouragement, advise and support he needed.” Glico said.
“I also gave him assurance that I will help him in any way I could. I would regularly call him to get updates about his studies and gave him pieces of advice about life, particularly about relationship (especially) when I found out he already has a girlfriend that time.”
When asked on her message to Key Bird, this is what Rochie Glico has to say,
“It’s one of your dreams to give back to RAFI and work here. Now that you are officially a RAFInian, take good care of the RAFI brand and carry-out your responsibilities and tasks with a joyful heart, putting your best foot forward all the time. Be thankful for what comes your way and as you always do, embrace the challenges with a positive attitude.”
A Message From His ‘Tito Totits’
Totits Ocampo said that it was in Bato, Ermita, where he met Key Bird.
“He joined my program called SAGIP with other kids in Barangay Bato. SAGIP is a weekend program which was formed to increase faith, build friendships and create a fun environment led by the Kids for Christ Cebu. Being focused, Key Bird was very different from the other boys in Bato.”
“Living in that area, he was exposed to different vices in the markets of Carbon such as video karera (horse racing video game), drugs, gangs and fraternities. Most of the time he was bullied by the other boys.”
Totits Ocampo said that Key Bird never stopped going to school even when some of the boys cut classes and stayed on the streets, and said that Key Bird stayed out of trouble whenever he can.
“When Key Bird was featured in Maalaala Mo Kaya as an honest child hero helping the authorities pursue a snatcher, this event changed his life.”
According to Totits Ocampo, the Cebu City government provided him a scholarship for him to finish elementary to high school, and RAFI provided him with the college education.
“I remember we had to give baon (daily spending money) to Key Bird, from Gina/Nanay Naida to Ate Rochie. The day to day struggle continued until he finally got his degree…”
“Dong Key Bird, congratulations for surviving the test of life! Continue giving your best in RAFI.” Totits said.
Fast Forward to 2018, People Who Matters
Key Bird is now working for the RAFI Micro-finance under the Information Technology department as the Junior Programmer, Application Support.
He is also a father now, after his partner Christy Bautista gave birth to their now 10-month old baby girl, Keyty Zia Denise.
“I am now able to help my mother and my own family. It is different now that I have a child, and a family to feed, but I am still so grateful to RAFI and the people that have guided me along the way… I am more inspired to give back to RAFI, the organization that has helped me during my times of need.”
“Thank you very much to tito Totits for being the tatay (father) I never had. To Ma’am Domi, Ma’am Val, ate Rochie, and Ms. Haidee, thank you very much. You don’t know how grateful I am to have you. To my team leader Sir Jesryl, and to my teammates Sir Clint, Sir Zander, Jee Lord, Cocoi, and the interns. Thank you very much for the help. To my partner, Christy Bautista, you have helped me since college, you have pushed me and scolded me when I skipped classes. I am so lucky to have you, thank you for putting your trust in me. I love you. To my mother, Rowena Padilla, thank you very much for all the sacrifices you have done for me. I am so thankful. I love you.” Key Bird said. “And of course to God, I am truly grateful for all that You have done for me. I learned that whatever you do, as long as you work hard, just trust God and pray to Him, you will succeed.”
Key Bird joyfully added that now that he is a father, just one kiss and hug he gives to his daughter relieves him of all the stress at work.
“My story is a success story on its own way, I hope you can pick some valuable lessons from it. Just remember that whatever you may be experiencing now, never get yourself into vices, stay out of trouble, and just trust God throughout the process.”
“Thank you very much for this opportunity to share my story.”