Company gives employees chance to get college degree

It is never too late to finish school for three employees of a Laguna-based property developer. Regardless of various circumstances, earning a degree is a must for Ma. Theresa Amante, Jennalyn Borromeo and Reynelyn De Roxas who are full-time employees at real estate company P.A. Alvarez Properties and Development Corp.

Amante, 50 and a supervisor at the finance and treasury department of Laguna-based P.A. Properties, earned her BS Accountancy degree from San Pedro College of Business Administration in May this year –about 30 years since she stopped schooling to serve as a cashier in her father’s jueteng (illegal numbers game) operations.

“The money was good [from jueteng]. Since I started earning already and I got married, I didn’t pursue my studies anymore,” Amante said in Filipino, recalling that she only reached second year-college then, taking up BS Business Administration.

P.A. Properties #BalikEskwela employees (from left) Jennalyn Borromeo, Ma. Theresa Amante and Reynelyn De Roxas share the joys and struggles of being working students.
Having a baby and dealing with financial constraints were factors that delayed her return to school, said Borromeo, 27, a purchasing assistant at the purchasing and warehousing department of P.A. Properties. She first completed a caregiving program for a year, and in May 2017, earned her BSBA Human Resource Development Management degree, also from Laguna-based SPCBA.

For De Roxas, 27, a documentation staff for P.A. Properties’ conversion and retention department, having an associate degree in Computer Science was not enough so she returned to school in 2015, taking up BSBA Marketing Management also at SPCBA.

Amante had a lot going on against her – from becoming an employee to returning to school.

She said that she lost her jueteng job when the government started cracking down on the illegal numbers game.  She was only two months short of completing her payment for a lot she purchased from P.A. Properties. Thus, she approached the owner, the late Pelagio A. Alvarez, saying that she would not be able to pay on time anymore.

She approached again the Alvarez patriarch (fondly called Tatay), this time, with her resume in hand, and asked if she could apply for a job. Tatay told her that he would ask his son, now P.A. Properties chairman Romarico “Bing” Alvarez.

“I didn’t finish school. I only knew how to debit and credit. I didn’t know how to use a typewriter. I was only holding on to Tatay’s trust. Still, Boss Bing agreed to hire me. [And] it was a major adjustment for me,” Amante recalled how she started her 21 years in P.A. Properties.

Thus, Amante took the initiative to study basic computer skills; learn about MS Excel from the younger employees; and seek help to simply use a printer. She eventually explored prospects for advancing her career in the company.

“But to be eligible, one must have earned a four-year degree, so despite reservations, I went back to school,” she said, letting her two children graduate first before her turn.

Amante, Borromeo and De Roxas kept shifting work schedule or filing for undertime so they could attend their classes in the afternoon (all weekdays, at times Saturdays included). They also have to sprint to the 4th floor to make it on time for their class or else, dash to the classroom in a dramatic fashion; or catch their breath and rush to answer the remaining questions in a day’s surprise quiz.

There were instances also that some of their younger, full-time co-students excluded them from group project or thesis, thinking they would not be of any help at all since they were working students.

Amante recalled that her blood pressure rose twice and she was also hospitalized while studying, proving that it was indeed challenging to juggle work and school – to submit her monthly report or review for her mid-term examinations, she illustrated.

But she kept in mind what P.A. Properties president Jonathan Lu told her: The boat will not sail smoothly if you are the one weighing it down. “I wouldn’t like to be phased out, to be outdated, thus I really needed to upgrade myself,” Amante said.

Borromeo, who has been with the company for five years, said it also helped that her colleagues in the company applied reverse psychology on her. “I really wanted to quit then because I was getting sick, I was missing time for my six-year-old kid. But they said, ‘it’s up to you. It’s not our money, our time spent, anyway,’” she said.

For De Roxas, completing her education is also about making her a more relevant member of the company, thus she is taking up a degree that is aligned with P.A. Properties’ line of business. She has been with the company for seven years now.

The three P.A. Properties’ employees also acknowledge that very helpful professors, classmates and understanding family members motivated them to push through.

The three P.A. Properties’ employees also give credit to the company’s top management, as well as their people managers, for their consideration and encouragement. Some colleagues also offered to cover for them so they could review for their crucial exams.

The company, known for its low- to medium-cost housing projects in Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga, and Metro Manila also supports educational activities as part of its corporate responsibility efforts.

In June, P.A. Properties’ #BalikEskwela initiative donated school supplies to elementary students of Gulod, Laguerta, Tagapo, and Langgam public schools in Laguna – schools that are within the community were select developments of the company are located.

Amante, who is now reviewing for her certified public accountant exams in September, is thankful that the Alvarez family behind P.A. Properties have been supportive of her goals to finish school, and shared that the chairman offered to shoulder her review tuition and other expenses.

Borromeo said what also motivated her to continue is her dream of wearing a black toga (academic dress of robe, hood, and cap usually donned during graduation ceremonies). “I’m told we couldn’t wear the black toga when I finished my Caregiving program because it wasn’t a full degree. So I told myself that one day, ‘I’m going to wear that black toga.’ I finally did.”

Topics: P.A. Alvarez Properties and Development Corp. , college degree
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