‘Everyday Hero’ shares story with kids
CEBU CITY—Keybird Padilla was only 11 years old when he helped policemen capture a man who took a schoolteacher’s pair of earrings during a robbery inside a passenger jeepney near Cebu City’s biggest public market. He had quietly followed the robber to his hideout and reported the place to a barangay tanod (watchman), which led to the arrest.
For his bravery, Padilla was called “Batang Bayani (Boy Hero)” and was featured in the “Everyday Heroes” section of Reader’s Digest-Asia, in local dailies, and in a drama anthology, “Maalaala Mo Kaya,” aired on ABS-CBN.
He also received an award from the city government and a college scholarship from Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi). His mother was hired as a street sweeper in the city’s Department of Public Services.
Now, Padilla, 23, is pursuing a course in Bachelor of Science in Information Technology at Asian College of Technology (ACT). He is on his third year in college.
The scholarship, which pays for his school fees, and his mother’s job, which provides for his school allowance, “are two of the long-lasting gifts I received 12 years after being declared boy hero,” he said.
Padilla grew up in the streets of Barangay Ermita, a community of squatters and haven of illegal drugs and robbery gangs because he and his mother didn’t have a house of their own. His father has abandoned them.
“Life was very difficult. We slept on a wooden cot on the streets, in places where public vehicles were parked. My mother did not have a job,” he said.
Like other boys in the neighborhood, Padilla used to steal toys and clothes in the downtown stores and sell these to buy food. “When you’re a child in that situation, hungry and cold, and surrounded by people who make stealing a normal practice, it’s easy to be tempted and do it, too. Hunger will push you to do it,” he said.
While the boy was lying on his cot on Magallanes Street one day, a catechist came and asked him if wanted to join the Flores de Mayo. He agreed and was put in charge of arranging the flowers inside the church.
The work led to his involvement in catechism, which instills the values of honesty and respect.
Padilla believes that because of his active involvement in church, his mother was hired with God’s blessing as a dishwasher in one of the eateries at the city’s biggest public market, Carbon. She was earning enough to rent a small space where they could sleep and to enroll him, who was then 9 years old, in Grade 1 in nearby Zapatera Elementary School.
Two years later, Padilla did something extraordinary that made him famous. He was walking home in the afternoon of July 2003 when he saw a teacher being divested of her earrings inside a jeepney in Barangay Ermita, Cebu City.
Instead of looking the other way, he followed the robber and then led the police to raid the hideout and arrest the man. It turned out that the robber knew him and told him: “’Uy, Kevin (his nickname), this is me, Agta. We know each other,” he recalled. Agta was one of his companions when he used to shoplift.
Troubles in school
While his deed made him popular, it went to his head and made him stubborn. He got into fisticuffs with his classmates, thinking that he was invincible. “I would answer my teachers without any respect. Worse, I cut classes. I became ungrateful,” he said.
As a result, he got low grades and had to repeat Grade 6. His teacher reminded him not to waste the opportunity given to him.
He was already 15 when he finished grade school and went to Zapatera Night High School. He and his mother had then moved from Barangay Ermita to Barangay Day-as, where they rented a house.
With the scholarship from Rafi, Padilla enrolled in an information technology course at ACT. But he stopped school for two years because he got addicted to computer games.
“Rafi warned me that if I didn’t straighten up, they would take away my scholarship. I didn’t want that to happen so I changed. Now, I’m on my third year in college,” he said.
Padilla said he still dreams of becoming a policeman. He plans to get a degree in criminology after completing his course and later work and earn money for his mother.
He pointed out that his experience with the police as a child had a positive impact on him. “I saw firsthand the good things a policeman can do to help the community and I would like to be part of that,” he said.
While he had been hard-headed, Padilla stayed away from drinking or using illegal drugs. These vices, he said, were “easy to get into but hard to leave,” like what happened to his childhood friends who grew up to be drug dependents and thieves.
The only person who has been constant in his life is his mother who has never remarried. “It has been the two of us from the very beginning. I am very thankful to her because she raised me with good values even if we lived in a community like that. She didn’t know before that I used to steal,” he said.
On Aug. 29, Padilla shared his story with about 30 children during a reading session organized by advocacy group Basadours and in line with the theme “Everyday Heroes.”
He told the children that being a hero was an everyday conscious decision to do good and be good, and reminded them of the greatest lesson he had learned while growing up: Never to be self-centered and to always lend a helping hand to those who need it.
“You may think that what you did is small, but to the person you helped, it is a big deal to them,” he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.