Turd Talks: The stories of Jullo, Ellen and Carlo

5:33:00 PM



"Feeling ko po patapon lang ako sa klase" 
...isn't what you would expect to hear from the 16-year old CEO of a social enterprise.

Instead, you would think at 16, his accomplishments were made possible by middle class education he's too smart for, paid for by his philanthropist parents, and helping others is something he gets around to on his free time. But that isn't where Jullo Babagay's journey to success began.

Here is a story of a boy who really did start from the bottom. You see, Jullo was no achiever. For most of his time in school, he found himself on the brink of hopelessness, lost in la la land, burying dreams of a better life underneath the dregs of Payatas. If the boy had any sense of the future, it could not have been filled with the wonder and hope childlike dreams are made of.

Life only started to light up for Jullo when he entered Silid Aralan. He said the sincerity of volunteers inspired him to keep pushing forward, despite falling behind many of his peers. He learned to give himself a pep talk—"magaling ako"—whenever he faced difficulties.

He would begin competing with first graders, moving up one level at a time until he finally caught up with his own. His progress may have been slow, but it did not deter Jullo from working towards success (an idea that once seemed foreign to him). And it paid off! After a year with Silid Aralan, Jullo rose to top ranks in his class.

It doesn't end there. Luckily for Jullo, Silid Aralan not only works to help under performers get better grades in school. The bigger aim is to invest in dreamers and equip them with skills to translate (and sustain) their passions into reality.

For Jullo, it was an assignment that led to establishing his own social enterprise. The Notebook Xchange (NBX) came out of the observation that tons of notebook leaves remain unused by the end of every school year. Instead of chucking out what is obviously still for good use, Jullo and his friends saw an entrepreneurial opportunity in breathing new life into it.

NBX collects leftover pages, gives it a more funkified look by creating covers out of other leftover materials, and resells it online and at local bazaars. No two notebooks are alike and every purchase assures a portion to Silid Aralan.

Note that Jullo got his big break three years ago, when he was only 13. Now, the once "patapon" is a student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and a Silid Aralan donor. Through NBX, he is able to save up for the future while giving wages to 10 mothers from his community.



"I grew up loving darkness because I had no choice. I never thought dreams happen when you're wide awake."

Erlen Mahilum has had a proclivity for writing even before she started grade school. To be a best selling author was the dream and to do without writing was "unthinkable".

Writing was all that she wanted to do, so it was all that she did. Erlen wrote whenever she had the chance—even when classes are ongoing, even at home, even after her parents have turned off the lights.

Because she channelled all her energy to writing, everything else suffered. Devoting sleepless nights to her craft only led to failing grades in school. Out of 57 students, Erlen ranked 55. She tried putting her passion to some use, but was only rejected after applying for a place in the school paper.

What was left for a 9-year old dreamer in the dark to do?

Then, as if to say her story is only beginning to unfold, Silid Aralan stepped in. Arcie (the founder) recalls Erlen’s first time with the group. At the beginning of the session, the kids were encouraged to seek out their passion, the future they wanted and who they really are. Erlen burst into tears. She already knew the answer but, because of her failures, struggled with lack of support.

Erlen would soon discover that the success she longed for commences with a love for the learning process. So with the help of co-learners at Silid Aralan, she studied harder.

Later on, an opportunity to prove her transformation presented itself in the guise of a writing competition. What seemed as an “unforgettable, frustrating moment” resulted to Erlen emerging as the champion. This victory inspired her to start working on her very first novel. As of press time, her drafts had already been submitted to students from Yale University for editing.

But that's not all that Erlen has going for her. As a new school year dawns, she is given a second chance at academic success. This time, in a bigger pond of achievers—the University of the Philippines, as an Education Studies major. 

"My mom, who used to turn the lights off when I was writing, is now my number one fan."



"From noisy list to dean's list, student to mentor, DOTA addict to programmer, beneficiary to donor..."

A self-proclaimed DOTA addict, Carlo Jumagdao used to set aside his daily P10 allowance to play computer games. A considerable amount to a smalltime boy who lived in Payatas, where electricity was a luxury and owning any piece of gadget was a dream.

Like Jullo and Erlen, school to Carlo was pretty much an afterthought. If the institution served any purpose, it was to offer a place for sleeping or hanging out with friends that he would march out with to computer shops after class.

Turnaround came when one day, Carlo found himself in a series of reality checks. His attention was caught by one of his classmates, who turned out to be a Silid Aralan active learner. He saw passion and fire in Ken, which forced him to the realization that something needed to change.

"I don't want to feel like a turd [anymore]."

His first impression of Silid Aralan was that of a "universe of possibilities". As he carried on with the program, he found that his own mind could be, too.

While working to get his grades up, Carlo entered the Sinekalikasan Festival. Filmmaking was a whole new world to him, but he wanted to try it out anyway. He submitted an original story—Batang Papel, which shows the life of two young boys, who opted to work as scavengers outside school hours. It was the festival's first ever winner, beating 300 other entries from all over the country.

Though the victory seemed foretelling, it was not the path Carlo chose to take. He found his true passion lies in innovation, so he decided to pursue Information Technology instead.

And his decision was not amiss. The 18-year old is yet to graduate from college but has already had a few projects under his belt. He has developed websites (including Silid Aralan's), apps and, somewhere along the way, was able to set up a t-shirt printing business.

To this day, Carlo's time at Silid Aralan continues to bear fruit. He was a struggling high school student when he started. Now, he's a consistent dean's lister at PUP, with a 1.7 GPA. Can you imagine all the difference he can make in the future?


Silid Aralan, Inc. is founded on the belief that there is a genius in every child. Only sometimes, it takes a bit more work and a change of pace to bring out the best in them.

Jullo, Erlen and Carlo are only three of the many learners that has benefitted from the Silid Aralan program. Year after year, Arcie and his team open their doors to more "slow learners" and under performers in the hopes of giving them the same opportunities as those openly recognized as achievers. Find out how you can help at www.silidaralan.org.

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