Mr. Roberto A. Estoconing
To most students, the first day of class is the time when they wear their brand new shoes and clothes. To this economics teacher, every start of the school year was no different from the rest of the days throughout his four years in college.
Mr. Roberto A. Estoconing worked his way through college in a single pair of shoes, two pairs of long pants and only three shirts, which he considered his favorite. His common get-up were as resilient as he were in his pursuit of a degree.
“If you are poor, you have no other option but to be serious with your academics towards earning a degree,” he says.
Life became more difficult for Robert and his family when his father passed away while he was still in second grade. That prompted him to help find more ways to make ends meet at a young age.
Determined to finish schooling, he left his home and served as a work student twice; the second time was in Dumaguete in the care of Silliman Professor Emeritus Dr. Angel C. Alcala and wife, Naomi. Wanting to complete his elementary diploma nearer to his hometown, Tayasan, he transferred to the Baye Elementary School in Jimalalud. There, he finished as the class valedictorian.
When Robert entered high school, he again served as a work student. He recalls traveling everyday on foot from an upland barangay down to the town proper where he was enrolled at the Infant King Academy on a scholarship from the Coconut Federation. He would bring with him a sack of kangkong on his way down; on his way up, he would carry a different container with feeds for the pigs. All this hard work paid off. Just like when he was in elementary, Robert graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class.
Robert then came back to Dumaguete to pursue college in Silliman University. He was taken in on a scholarship from the San Miguel Corporation and the Del Carmen family. Assisting him with his other finances in school were small grants that he applied for through the Student Personnel Office (SPO; now Office of Student Services). In 1989, Robert obtained his degree in Business Administration major in Management.
After graduation, he left for Mindanao and worked at a Catholic school in Lanao del Norte as an English teacher, a guidance counselor and an assistant principal. He decided to return to Dumaguete and apply for a job in Silliman, after a year and a half. He was accepted in the University and was assigned to the Scholarships Division of the SPO. Over the same year, he was presented with an opportunity to teach part-time at the College of Administration. (He was later invited to become a full-time instructor at the College.) He also became a dorm adviser at the Molave Cottage, one of the cooperative dormitories on campus.
When Robert's mother died in 1998, he looked for another venue where he could share his expertise. He found an opportunity in taking on a management responsibility at the Silliman University Cooperative, an association of faculty, staff and alumni that has established its own cafeteria and store. How he helped augment the revenues of the Cooperative and the innovative programs that he initiated earned him distinctions, including the Gawad Agila of ABS-CBN and San Miguel Corporation in 2001. His inspiring life story was also featured on ABC 5 and IBC13.
Robert looks back to those times when life was harder for him with no regrets. He is happy to continue serving Silliman University for 21 years now. And the blessings that he has received over this period of time have allowed him to put five of his nephews and nieces through college. He has also purchased some agricultural properties which his immediate relatives are helping him develop.
At present, Robert has completed the academic requirements for two degrees, Master of Extension Administration and Masters in Development Management at Silliman University and the Asian Institute of Management, respectively.
Let's get to know Robert more:
Describe yourself in three words.
Calm. Thinker. Emotional.
What is your mantra in life?
Live a life of service to God and people.
What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh when I remember the mistakes I committed in the past. I cry whenever I think of some missed opportunities.
What’s your favorite time/day of the week and why?
Early morning and Sunday — my rest day.
What do you love doing when not working?
I take care of my garden plants – fruit-bearing and ornamental.
What is your favorite hangout place in the University?
SU Cooperative Store.
What makes you blush?
If you were an actor/actress, who would you be?
I can't relate to any of them.
Tell us a fact about yourself?
I have a green thumb and I'm an animal lover.
What’s your favorite game growing up?
Maybe I was too focused on my studies that I could not think of one.
What is your idea of a relaxing day?
Taking care of my plants.
What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
My life story.
What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
Pray, then go to my garden.
What’s your idea of a family?
A family is composed of people who share common interests and are able to understand each other.