Growing up, Rowel was the butt of neighborhood jokes. He was bullied and ridiculed simply because he wore tattered clothes, walked around barefoot, and had to peek into other people’s windows to watch TV.
His family was desperately poor and often didn’t have enough food to eat. But at the time, Rowel was a young man who did not have it in him to fight back.
He was used to being laughed at, shushed, and physically hurt even inside his own home — and by his own father, who would to hit him with sticks and a whip. One time his dad almost killed him with a machete.
“I was helpless. I didn’t fight back, but in my heart I kept telling myself, I’m going to be rich someday, and when I grow up I am going to show everyone in my neighborhood, especially my father, that I am good for something.”
When Rowel’s mother got sick from cancer, his family sold all of their possessions to pay for her treatment. They were left destitute.
Rowel is the youngest of eight siblings, and his older brothers and sisters cared for him and did their best to keep their family going despite their father’s drinking habits and violent ways.
“I saw my older siblings leaving one by one. Some stayed with relatives in another province, while some just ran away until there were only three of us left living with our father.”
It was at this time that Rowel started attending the Kabulig Child Development Center.
“It was only at the center that I got a sense of having a complete family.”
Milagros, the center director, remembers Rowel:
“Rowel is very close to my heart. He used to be very shy and would just stay in one corner. He didn’t want to be with people. He was bullied as a small child. It was only at the center where he gained self confidence.”
Eventually, Rowel became very active at church. He joined the praise and worship team as a back-up singer and spent much more of his time at church than at home.
Suddenly, not only did he enjoy talking with people, he began talking in front of people by teaching younger children and becoming a Sunday school teacher.
“I was surprised to see that he had become a devotional leader as well. His being a sponsored child really helped him. His father didn’t buy his school supplies; sponsorship did. Our center also took him to the doctor and dentist, and gave him the attention he needed as a young man.”
Thanks to this attention, Rowel was at the top of his high school class and earned a scholarship to college. He tells us,
“It was at the child development center where I realized that I can do something, and that I am intelligent.”
He was well on his way to achieving his dream of becoming a rich man when he enrolled in accountancy courses at one of the leading universities in the region and was, again, at the top of his class.
“I excelled in academics and began representing my school in several regional events when I was only a freshman.”
Rowel studied hard to become a wealthy, successful accountant. But he was motivated by a disheartening goal: to avenge those who looked down on him and hurt him when he was little.
“I didn’t tell anyone. But the anger and the pain were my driving forces. I really wanted to become rich.”
Thankfully, something happened that stopped him in his tracks.
During one of the youth camps at the student center, Rowel committed his life to the Lord.
“I wanted to serve Him full-time in a Christian ministry.”
Rowel then left the university and became the first Leadership Development Program student to take pastoral courses at a Bible seminary.
Today, he is a third-year student studying Christian ministries at the Febias College of Bible, one of the biggest seminaries in Metro Manila. He is vice president of the student council and a member of the pastoral staff at San Francisco Christian Church in the province of Bulacan.
When asked why he left his studies toward becoming a successful accountant and chose Christian ministries instead, Rowel explained,
“I want to help the church and communities. The Christian Ministries course is like social work, but is slanted toward ministry, and that is what I like to do.”
Over time, Rowel abandoned his desire to become a wealthy man because,
“The anger and desire to avenge myself disappeared.”
In 2009, while he was living on campus at Febias, Rowel received news that his father had died of pancreatic cancer. But by the grace of God, Rowel was able to say,
“My anger towards my father had also disappeared. I just wished he’d had the chance to become a better Christian.”