A journey to success: From ‘Uling Man’ to a licensed engineer

BARANGAY BOA, Cagdianao, Dinagat Islands—Growing up impoverished in an isolated fishing village, Degie J. Baa never thought of pursuing his elementary education out of poverty.

But because of his determination and with the ardent support of Cagdianao Mining Corporation (CMC), Degie, who was also known as Cagdianao’s “Uling Man,” was able to finish school and now a full-fledged mining engineer.

Degie is one of the 211 examinees who passed the Mining Engineer Licensure Examination conducted by the Board of Mining Engineering in Manila, Baguio, Cebu and Legazpi this August 2016.

But the road to success has never been easy for Degie, the youngest in a brood of four.

Right after graduating from elementary, Degie stopped schooling to help his family eke out a living.

His parents plant root crops and make charcoal briquettes from hardwood that lay abundant in the nearby mangrove forest. Whatever meager income they earned was just enough to feed the family for a day.

With his family’s plight, pursuing a high school education seemed bleak and reeked of insensitivity on his part, said Degie.

College was but an all too distant dream, even wishful thinking.

“I became a “mag-uuling" (charcoal briquette maker) at a young age. I had no choice. I needed to help my father earn to sustain our needs,”Degie recalled.

Making charcoal out of hardwood is not an easy job. One has to start his day early, walking several kilometers to the mountains where the hardwood would be burned on a makeshift oven underneath the soil.

Degie did these back-breaking work for three years and, with each passing day, he said he had started losing hope of getting away from the clutches of poverty.

“Looking at the youth in my village who marry young because they had nothing else to do, I thought I was headed in the same direction. So I told myself at that point that my case was a hopeless one; that I would die a poor, uneducated man,” he said.

What pulled Degie out from his misery was a combination of positive outlook in life despite enormous trials and sheer determination to succeed. Seeing that the students in secondary school in the nearby Brgy. Valencia (the nearest village that offers high school education) had already enjoyed some forms of education assistance from CMC, Degie convinced his parents that pursuing high school education would not be too much of a burden for their family.

Most of the students at Valencia National High School come from poor families like him. So he thought that if these students can survive secondary school, so can he.

Sure, the daily six-kilometer trek to school would be exhausting, but three years of being an “Uling Man” was enough training for him to survive all the year-round walking.

True enough, his and his family’s gamble—and sacrifices—paid off.

Not only was Degie able to breeze through the four years of secondary school: he even obtained a precious scholarship offered by CMC to become one of the first batch of college students to be sent to a mining engineering school.

As one of CMC’s first Social Development and Management Plan (SDMP) scholar, Degie was sent to the Caraga State University in Butuan City, where he obtained a degree in Bachelor in Science in Mining Engineering.

While his elder siblings pitched in every now and then, he admitted that without the company’s scholarship grant, he would have not made it this far.

“The scholarship was really what kept me in school. All I had was the will-power to succeed and the financial support provided by the company,” he said.

CMC hired Degie as Cadet Engineer assigned in the company’s shiploading section right after completing his college studies in March. He is up for promotion now that he is already a licensed mining engineer.

Way to go, “Uling Man!”

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