Homeless man now making a difference as a teacher in Dubai

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Filipino educator Rex Venard Bacarra has predicted that he wouldn’t make it in life due to the never-ending unfortunate events. 

Before working as the dean of General Education at the American College of Dubai and a recurring Digital Faculty consultant at the prestigious McGraw Hill, he recalled on his Facebook post how he became homeless for three years while juggling odd jobs in wet markets and professional jobs. 

“I came from a poor province in the Philippines. During my time, it was normal for my generation to risk being in the capital of my country, Manila, to seek the proverbial greener pasture,” he retold, noting that he was only 19 at that time. 

The educator described his family in a capsule: his mother, a teacher, died when he was 6, and his father, who was also a teacher, never remarried. 

Eventually, Bacarra left for Manila and stayed at his sister’s rented, box-like place. 

“Many predicted I wouldn’t make it. The signs, they said, were clear as the sky in a fogless night,” he said. 

Just like most provincial boys, he wasn’t ‘presentable’ thus making it difficult for him to seek a job, plus his English accent wasn’t ‘cosmopolitan’ enough. 

“How could it be? English was my third language. Waray (a dialect, really), Tagalog, second, and third, my thickly accented English. I looked uncool, timid, and shy. I was scammed many times applying for jobs, unable to differentiate the authentic from the fake,” Bacarra further added. 

Young, proud, and unthinking, he left his sister’s house without her knowledge because he felt that he has burdened her enough. 

“She looked hard, but I didn’t want to be found,” he said. 

He was homeless for years and did odd and unimaginable jobs in wet markets in the morning and applied for professional jobs in the afternoon, slept in Luneta, took baths in public places and gyms, got drugged by a teenage who took away his bag, watch and money. While he was homeless, he was also physically assaulted, mentally abused, and received hurtful words from people. 

“I knew how it felt to be invisible in front of busy people who chose neither to look nor to see because the sight of me is a nuisance. I was unkempt. I made them uncomfortable, and they didn’t want that added burden to their already burdened world,” Bacarra said. 

Oddly enough, he doesn’t remember crying despite experiencing the most uneven and jaggy edges if life. 

“I noticed that I was becoming more resilient, reflective, and grittier. I kept myself in check not to give in to depression by being thankful in ever way I could. I was mind-setting. My heart and my mind were working together full-time to go beyond and weariness of my body. I became more trusting in God,” he added. 

His journey as a homeless ended when a friend introduced him to a family as a tutor to their children and ‘sort of’ adopted him. 

“I found myself becoming more religious. The deepening of that faith led me to the mountains of Bukidnon as a monk. I toiled, meditated, prayed, and stripped myself of the material concerns in a monastery. It was a Fuga Mundi. A flight from the world,” he continued. 

Some 10 years ago, he decided to come to Dubai, alone, with a mission to make a difference as a teacher to the lives of a generation of students by teaching well. 

“I labored hard, undistracted by the affairs unrelated to my vision. I am not perfect. Far from it. I am still struggling and being hunted by my personal demons, weak as I am. Still, if there is one crucial lesson the poverty of my youth taught me, it is of finding ways to be grateful, for there is no lack; to be always hopeful, as everyone should be,” Bacarra said. 

Two PhDs later and numerous awards and recognitions, people around him, including those who hurt him, say he made it.

“I say I haven’t done enough. I am just glad I proved the prediction wrong that I wouldn’t make it, and that I am now able to speak English. Rather well,” he further added. 

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