From Scholars to Educators: PHINMA Education’s Own, Paying It Forward

Fifteen years ago, high school senior Michel Galos was not looking forward to his graduation. His father was a carpenter earning 120 pesos a day and his mother was a homemaker with little additional income. Despite walking to school and staying in the library during breaks because he had nothing to eat, the Cagayan de Oro native would become the batch valedictorian. However, graduation day was bittersweet: “My parents told me that they cannot send me to college anymore,” he recalls.

But sitting in his office now at PHINMA Cagayan de Oro College, one of the network’s ten colleges and universities, it is clear that “Sir Mich” would not be the educator he is if not for his firsthand experience of being an underserved student. It was a college scholarship grant from PHINMA Education that enabled him to get a degree in Secondary Education. Today, he is a Learning Manager for a network that serves over 124,000 students — students who, he says, are exactly like him.

The Right People for Our Students

“We focus on making sure we are the right people for our students,” says PHINMA Education Country Chief for People Marlon Galvez, who leads almost 3,000 teachers, administrators, and support staff across the Philippines. “A big part of that is meeting them where they are, in order to help them get where they want to be. Each member of the organization must believe in the mission if we want to make a real impact.”

A majority of PHINMA Education’s students come from households likely to be closer to the poverty line based on the Poverty Probability Index (PPI). They are also often the first in their families to go college and are largely unprepared for it. “They lack suitable role models and skills for academic success, and have lower self-esteem than their peers. This is why we approach learning differently. We know that our work can uplift the lives of our students, their families, and their communities,” Galvez explains.

Becoming a PHINMA Educator

“I consider myself as a returnee to PHINMA Education,” says Mae Estuche-Olpoc, International Operations Manager based in Horizon Karawang, a school managed by PHINMA Education in Indonesia. A scholar and graduate of PHINMA University of Iloilo (UI), she worked in the hospitality industry in the Philippines and Thailand before joining the organization as Center Manager at the PHINMA Training Center (PTC) Myanmar, which remained open until 2020. Her international journey began in an unlikely place: the salt beds of Guimaras.

“We worked hard to survive by selling fish and harvesting salt in the salt beds by the shore. I was shuffled from one family to another when my lola couldn’t afford to send us to school anymore,” she shares. But now, having worked in three countries across Southeast Asia, Estuche-Olpoc notes that underserved students have a lot in common. “Besides the language [barrier], they are just like us — they have dreams and aspirations. They also want to finish their studies to uplift the lives of their families.”

Commitment to the Mission

“Being a member of the PHINMA Education family means commitment to the mission,” says Dr. Jomar Urbano, Dean of the College of Education of the PHINMA Education Laguna Network. Born to a family of Nueva Ecija farmers, he received a scholarship at PHINMA Araullo University, where he would also later get his master’s and doctorate degrees. “This scholarship stopped the domino in our family of not finishing education and gave hope and inspiration to other families around us. This is why we keep in mind that the mission is always bigger than ourselves.”

Dean Jejomar Quiros of PHINMA Education NCR Network agrees. “Having been part of the organization for almost 10 years and counting, this is already my second home. It is an honor and privilege to prepare our students not just for fulfilling careers but also to be engaged citizens who are able to make the lives of others better.” Quiros, a presidential scholar and graduate of PHINMA University of Pangasinan, served as Dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences in PHINMA UI before holding the same position in NCR.

Paying It Forward

Michel Galos, Mae Estuche-Olpoc, Dr. Jomar Urbano, and Jejomar Quiros shared their stories at the first PHINMA Educators’ Day held virtually last June 16. 

“We used the term educator as we want to emphasize the different roles we all play in creating a vibrant learning environment for our students. And when we say learn, we don’t just mean helping them acquire knowledge and skills, we mean, just as importantly, that we care for each one of them, that we make them feel accepted for who they are, and we urge them to use their skills to serve others. This is what makes a PHINMA educator different,” explained Country Chief – Philippines Christopher Tan.

Also present at the event were Country Chief – Indonesia Dr. Raymundo Reyes, Chief Operating Officers, and employees from the Philippines and Indonesia.

PHINMA Education Holdings, Inc. (PEHI) is the education services subsidiary of PHINMA Corporation, a Filipino-owned conglomerate with investments in education, property development, hospitality, and construction materials. PEHI owns and operates nine schools across the Philippines and manages one in Karawang, West Java, Indonesia.