Zaldy Bueno was in tears when he was hailed as the new Happiest Pinoy winner. Reminiscing about the tough path he had to take to reach the spot he is at right now, Bueno advised Pinoys to endure the challenges because one day, they will be smiling as victors in life like him.
The 37-year-old public school teacher was announced as the 4th Happiest Pinoy, which is a contest organized by Cebuana Lhuillier to honor the Filipino’s admirable and innate values of “optimism, resilience and hope amidst different life crises.”
He won after a series of pre-contests where 10 category winners representing the youth, senior citizens, overseas Filipino workers, lingkod bayan, professionals, manggagawang Pinoy, entrepreneurs, employees, persons with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community were interviewed to determine the grand final winner who will take home the cash prize of P1,000,000 tax free.
The Past That Honed Your Happiest Pinoy 2019
Zaldy serves as a head teacher of the English Department at the Gumaca National High School. Many recognize him as a passionate and enthusiastic educator, but his smile conceals all the difficulties he had to face in the past.
As a kid, Zaldy had to endure a hard life with his family encountering financial problems. He would help his mom do laundry services for their neighbors to help them in their daily survival. And to provide for his allowance, he would plant vegetables he could sell.
But life seems to have more challenges in store for Zaldy. In 1995, the family lost their small nipa hut to Typhoon Rosing. Left without a home, the whole family had to stay at the barangay health center and on clinic days, they would have to move their things to the side of the road.
Zaldy definitely had a grueling childhood but he vowed to surpass it all by studying hard which he believed was their ticket to improve his family’s life.
After finishing high school, Zaldy tried to enter college but had to stop twice because of financial constraints. So in order to get back to school, he had to juggle two jobs; one as an agent for a local radio station and the other as a student assistant.
But all of his patience and perseverance paid off. It might have taken him longer to see the silver lining through the thick cloud in front of him, but he finally finished his education after 6 years.
Things were still rough even after Zaldy graduated but he pushed on and took the licensure exam. And when he became a full-fledged teacher, he started his advocacy to help students who are going through the same challenges he once did.
Among his many first achievements when he became a teacher was getting a scholarship at the Regional Language Centre in Singapore where he finished as the valedictorian. He then came back to the country and volunteered to be an ALS teacher during weekends where his mom became his student!
Zaldy’s Role to Help Bring More Children to School
In 2017, Zaldy established a project they called PADYAK (Pidal Apakan Dunong Yayaman, Asenso’y Kakamtan). The organization aims to provide bicycles for students who could not afford to travel to school.
A lot of people across the country started donating new and used bicycle units. The great cause even reached news to OFWs who also participated in giving donations. The move proved to be successful and increased attendance of students in different schools.
Cebuana Lhuillier President and CEO, Jean Henri Lhuillier expressed his happiness to announce Zaldy as the latest Happiest Pinoy, saying:
“I am very happy with the results of this year’s search -- with over 800,000 entries received through our branches, online, SMS, and walk-in entries. It’s been amazing to read the entries of the 10 finalists and Zaldy proves to be a worthy winner as his tale will definitely inspire countless people to push on despite life’s difficulties, Zaldy exemplifies the commendable Filipino spirit of rising up from your current predicament and using that as fuel to make a difference in the lives of others.”
The bi-annual Search for the Happiest Pinoy is an advocacy program and was launched in 2009. It is a nationwide campaign of Cebuana Lhuillier where 3 people were already named in the past, including Richardson Navor (2015), Rommel Arellano (2012), and Winston Maxino (2009).
When asked what Bueno will do with the prize money, he said he will use part of it to acquire more bicycles for PADYAK so more youths can go to school and finish their education on time. And for the remainder, he wishes to use it to treat his parents to a well-deserved vacation in Singapore.