For those who were born into poverty, pursuing a good, quality education can be a very daunting task—opportunities are limited which makes it all too easy to give up.

Despite life’s hardships, Edgardo “Ed” Etac did not give up on his childhood dream of becoming an engineer like many of his uncles were. The second of seven children raised in Iloilo by a couple who made a living out of making handicrafts, Ed was fully aware that earning the title of an engineer was next to impossible. Little did he know that he was destined to become the first-ever Filipino President of Tsukiden Electronics Philippines, Inc. (TEPI), a position he has held since 2012.

TEPI is a leading electronics manufacturing services provider headquartered in Japan. From being known as a floppy disk manufacturer, TEPI today assembles printed circuit boards, flexible printed circuits, and electronic devices for various applications like printers, multimedia devices, medical devices, car audio, and navigation.

At TEPI, Ed introduced Internet-based payment systems, and integrated management systems which simplified work, cut down on bureaucracy, and expedited communication and documentation.

Ed becomes a Shell scholar

“Although my parents only completed grade school, it was my father who taught us to value education. He was the one who motivated me and challenged me to earn a degree.”

Ed, then 18 years old, finished one semester of Mechanical Engineering at the Western Institute of Technology. After which, his father broke the sad news—that Ed’s parents could no longer afford to send him to college. Ed had to stop. He was disheartened as failure to him was not an option.

“I could not stop. I did not want to stop. We had been living under pitiable conditions. We were so poor and that made me want to live a different life, one that was more abundant.”

The Year was 1982. The Shell companies in the Philippines, under the leadership of the first Filipino and then-Country Chair Cesar Buenaventura, was starting out a more meaningful corporate social responsibility strategy through the institution of Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI). Soon after, Shell and PSFI rolled out Sanayan sa Kakayahang Industriyal (SKIL), a technical and vocational skills training programme that benefits underprivileged youth who have the intelligence, talent, and perseverance to succeed, like the young Ed Etac.

“When I saw the announcement that Shell had published in the newspaper about an exam schedule to qualify for SKIL, my heart raced.”

Ed became a SKIL scholar. He was made to undergo a three-month course on automotive mechanics. After which, the best performing SKIL scholars, Ed included, were sent to the Technological University of the Philippines-Visayas (TUP-V) to take up a three-year Engineering Technician Course.

Ed’s hot pursuit for a college degree

Shortly after, Ed joined the Philippine Navy to fulfill the internship requirements of the course. While training on-the-job, Ed attended night classes in Electronics and Communications Engineering (ECE) at the Lyceum of the Philippines. While Ed earned his certificate in Engineering Technician, he was only able to complete two semesters in ECE.

“At that time, the natural career path for me to take was to become a navy serviceman but, while I was in the Navy, I felt that I was meant to do something else. So, I packed my bags and reconnected with PSFI, asking if they could refer me to work elsewhere.”

Ed was offered a post in the now-decommissioned Shell Refinery in Pililla, Rizal. “The work would have been worthwhile but, since it was so far away from Manila, I knew that I would not be able to work and study at the same time if I accepted the job. I was bent on earning an engineering degree but it was also high time I started a career.” Ed then asked if there were any other opportunities in or near Manila. He was then referred by PSFI to Tsukiden Electronics Ind. Inc. (TEII).

The TEII office was then located in Cubao, Quezon City. In front of it was the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP). “TEII and TIP were right across each other. Judging from this rare and perfect arrangement, it was easy for me to recognize that I was meant to become a Technician at TEII.”

By 1995, Ed completed all academic requirements for Electrical Engineering at TIP but was unable to complete his dissertation. Ed was asked to transfer to TEPI subsidiary, Laguna Electronics, Inc. (LEI) which was then being set up in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. “It was simply impossible for me to attend classes at TIP but the job offer I received to join LEI was simply too promising for me to ignore.”

While helping LEI set up shop, Ed enrolled in Engineering Technology through the Distance Learning programmeme of TUP-V. “As I started to supervise people including engineers at LEI, earning a bachelor’s degree became even more of a necessity.”

In 2005, after over two decades of chasing after a most coveted college degree, Ed earned his diploma in Engineering Technology. He has fond memories of the day he finally graduated. “TUP-Visayas invited me to become the guest speaker during graduation day. It was the first time ever that someone who was graduating was also delivering a message as guest speaker.”

He also finished his Master’s Degree in Business Administration at Ateneo de Manila University, Graduate School of Business in 2010.

Paying it forward

Today, Ed has made it his life goal to help uplift other people’s lives, most especially those of TEPI’s (formerly LEI) staff and their dependents, by providing them access to quality education. “I want to open up opportunities for our own staff to be trained and become leaders themselves.” Ed has devised a training calendar at TEPI that promotes lifelong learning among staff.”

Under Ed’s leadership, TEPI also sends eight engineering scholars—four in Manila, and four from Visayas through college. “There are plenty of talented, young people in the countryside who are not given opportunities to obtain a college education. By offering college scholarships, we want to give them hope for a better life ahead.” TEPI scholars are immediately hired by TEPI after graduation. To date, 40 scholars have graduated from the programmeme.

“I feel a strong desire to give back to others and pay forward the help PSFI and Shell have extended to me back when I was the one who needed help.” To the youth who may be in the same situation as Ed was in his younger years, Ed has this to say—“Never ever give up on your ambitions. Strive to earn a degree and be open to learn new things even when you’re older.”

At 49, Ed is living his dream of a more abundant life, yet he continues to yearn to learn more, “so that I can teach others what I know,” he explains. Despite having achieved unprecedented milestones, Ed has one more mission to fulfill-- to teach one day.

As Pilipinas Shell continues to fuel nation-building by broadening the country’s energy mix, the company implements and pioneers meaningful social development programmememes like Sanayan sa Kakayahang Industriyal. Through such, Pilipinas Shell positively impacts one life at a time, one community after the other.