Ernesto Pamolarco grew up in poverty, with little food and no electricity, sleeping on the seashore of the Philippines. Now, he owns his Ozone Park home and provides for his wife and six children.
Early on, he learned that “life is so hard without education,” and put himself through the education system, eventually becoming an educator himself. Pamolarco, 47, went from a peddler in the Philippines to a special education teacher for the city, as well as chair of the nonprofit, Youth Success Global Foundation (YSGF).
When Pamolarco was 9 years old, he started to dream about leaving his native Leyte. His father was stabbed to death by their neighbor as Pamolarco hid under his home, and he realized he no longer wanted to live an impoverished life.
“I didn’t want to live in that environment,” he said. “I could see ships and airplanes from where we lived, and I thought, ‘One day I’ll be able to ride an airplane.’”
After graduating grammar school, the 13-year-old Pamolarco uprooted his life to the island of Manila. He worked several odd jobs, including selling plastic wrappers and washing dishes.
“I had my own way of surviving,” he said.
After a few years, Pamolarco returned to Leyte to attend high school, and eventually college where he earned a degree in English. He went on to teach English for the next 15 years in the Philippines.
“It was very interesting for me. I never dreamed of becoming a teacher,” he said. “In fact, I never dreamt of becoming a college graduate or high school graduate.”
In 2005, Pamolarco got the opportunity to come to the United States on visa. He once again took on odd jobs and put himself through the Touro College Graduate School of Education.
“I just follow the flow of life,” he said. “I never thought I would come to this point in my life. I really thought I would be there [in the Philippines] for the rest of my life.”
Pamolarco is the only of his six other siblings to “make it,” he said, and many are home in the destruction left by Typhoon Haiyan. He is organizing relief efforts through YSGF.
In particular, Pamolarco wants to help the students and hopes to donate school supplies.
He graduated from Touro College in May 2010, and his wife and children joined him stateside. He soon later landed in the teaching position he is in today.
“I still think there’s still more to achieve and accomplish,” he said. “The hardships I went through were just temporary. I work really hard, that’s the secret.”