HENRYLITO D. TACIO
Mr. Tacio, who hails from Davao, is a correspondent of the Asian edition of Reader’s Digest. He is the first and only Filipino journalist to have been elevated to the Hall of Fame in science reporting by the Philippine Press Institute. In 1999, the Rotary Club of Manila bestowed him the Journalist of the Year award. He is also East Asia’s contributing editor of the People & the Planet based in London.
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When I have nothing to do, especially when it is raining, I read. This time, the book I took from my library was the one written by master storyteller himself, Zig Ziglar. The title – please take a deep breath before reading it – Something to Smile About: Encouragement and Inspiration for Life’s Ups and Downs.
Of all the stories featured in the book,one that caught my attention was written on page 155. The reason: it talked about a writer just like me. Read the story and find out what made it a standout:
For eight years, the struggling writer wrote incredible number of short stories and articles for publication, and for eight long years they were rejected. Fortunately, he didn’t give up, and for that he – and America – will always be grateful.
He spent much of his time in the navy writing a mountain of routine reports and letters. He learned how to say things eloquently, yet concisely. After his hitch in the navy, he tried desperately hard to make it as a writer, but despite those eight years and hundreds of stories and articles, he was unable to sell even one.
On one occasion, however, an editor wrote an encouraging note on the rejection slip. It simply said, “Nice try.”
The said note brought tears to the budding writer. He was given new hope and continued to persist. He simply would not give up. Finally, after many years of effort, he wrote a book that has deeply affected the entire world and helped him to become one of the most influential writers of the ‘70s.
The book was entitled “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” and the man who wrote it was Alex Haley. It was adapted into a television miniseries, which became one of the most-watched of all time. He also co-authored “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
As I read the story, the true story of my friend, Atty. Nicolas “Nick” M. Caraquel also came into my mind. Poverty didn’t deter him to become what he is now – one of the New York’s most-sought immigration lawyers.
There were seven siblings in the family and he is the sixth. His father was a barber while his mother was a seamstress. Each member had to work. “I can barely remember spending time with the first three siblings because of age gap and the fact that they too were working students while attending school,” Nick recalled. “Everyone had ample share in helping our parents earn a living or support our family at that time.”
Nick was only six when he started to help the family in making both ends meet. Every day, at 4 o’clock in the morning, his father would wake him up. Although he still wanted to sleep, he had to get up to help his mother prepared for the barbecue vending at the bus terminal.
From their house, he had to walk alone going to the bus terminal to gather used barbecue sticks from the ground and wash them clean because they could not afford to buy a fresh set.
But even then, the family barely made it. When he was in third grade, his parents requested him to quit schooling. He was mad. “I didn’t talk to them for six months but would do everything they asked me to do,” Nick said. “I could not understand the reason why I needed to stop going to school.”
It was from this experience that he learned the value of hard work, determination, and patience. “I get inspiration from my mother,” he pointed out. “She reminded me that education is the only way out of poverty and that material things are not that important.”
Nick believed that to get out of poverty, he had to finish school. “Finishing college was the only way or starting point to get out of poverty,” he pinpointed. He did finish elementary. And when he was graduating from high school, the government offered for the first time the State Scholarship Program (SSP) to poor but deserving students to study in private schools. He took the qualifying exams and was awarded as one of the 13 SSP scholars in the country, representing Davao Oriental of Region XI.
The scholarship was his ticket to enroll at the Ateneo de Davao University, where he took Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. It wasn’t easy but he managed to graduate from college.
After graduation, he worked in one of the world’s top food manufacturing companies and was assigned in Cagayan de Oro City. However, his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer beckoned. With the money he saved, he decided to fulfill his dream. He pursued law at the Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan).
Nick was already having the best of his life as a top corporate lawyer but politics in the office made him to look for a greener pasture in the United States. Again, he persisted and with lots of prayers, he managed to pass the New York bar exam.
“All my life,” he says now, “I am guided by prayers in every major decision I make. It’s a trait I learned from my mother. I always ask for God’s sign to give me confidence that the decisions I make are aligned with His.”
Today, Atty. Caraquel is one of the finest immigration lawyers in New York. Eventually, however, he will expand his law practice in the future. “For now, I just want to concentrate on immigration and potentially family law,” he said and explained that as an immigration lawyer, he helps people come, stay and live in the US. He can also help find legal options to regain or maintain their lawful status in the US.
Now, going back to poverty. “Do not look at poverty as a reason or excuse to stop dreaming big then work hard to make those dreams a reality,” he said with confidence. “I know it is not easy; there are times that you will feel like giving up. When that time comes, seek for something or talk to someone who inspires you, when the burden gets tougher kneel down and pray. Rest if you may but don’t give up. Chase that dream and have faith!”
Persistence – with lots of prayers! – really pays.