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Garbage collector overcomes poverty to fulfill lifelong dream

Jeb Baclayon Bayawon‘s story has to be one of the most inspiring ones this year. He lived in a landfill in Cagayan de Oro. As a child, he worked as a garbage collector, scavenging recyclable scraps and empty plastic bottles in order to make ends meet.

He lost both parents at a very young age. By that time, his siblings already had families of their own and couldn’t take care of him or send him to school. His father always valued education and always advised him to stay in school. He was able to attend elementary school for a time but had a rough experience.

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Jeb was always discriminated by his classmates who knew what he was and where he came from. They teased him with the word “basurero” — the Filipino term for garbage collector. He got looks whenever he opened his packed lunch because they knew that he brought “pag-pag” (food collected from scraps).

Aside from this,  his teachers didn’t like him because of the stench that emanated from him.

Everything changed when he was discovered by Thomas Kellenberger, the founder of the Island Kids Philippines Foundation. It was he who gave Jeb a chance by first moving him out of the landfill and into a permanent shelter. He also provided Jeb with other basic needs like food and clothes.

Most importantly, Thomas gave Jeb the opportunity to get the education he so badly wanted. He left the life of a garbage collector to finally chase his dreams of getting a degree. It was through the foundation where he learned to speak English, which he would later be very good at. He also discovered that he loved and was very passionate about public speaking.

When he reached college, he took up Secondary Education Major in English and was part of the Dean’s List after the first semester of his freshman year. Just like any other student, college pushed him to his limits but he was able to get through all the challenges that he faced.


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Last month, his journey went into a full circle as he marched down the aisle together with his batch mates during their graduation from the Mindanao State University. The garbage collector was now a college graduate.


Jeb will be taking the board exams on September. He intends to stay with the foundation that turned his life around as a volunteer ALS teacher. He said that this was his way of giving back to them for helping him in his journey.

Congratulations, and keep fighting the good fight, Jeb!

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