Former street kid who finished college going home to bring message of hope

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/08 May) – He slept on the cold pavements of Cagayan de Oro City, sniffed solvent, and learned to steal and scavenge when he just seven years old in order to survive.

That was years ago. In March this year, Rustie Lanticse Quintana was among the proud graduates of Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan), obtaining a degree in Development Communication major in Educational Communication.

Quintana, whose story went viral online, traces his roots to Butuan. He said he will return to the city on May 12 to bring a message of hope to street children and out-of-school youth.

“Together with Butuan Global Forum’s (BGF) initiative, I am bringing my story to the street children and out of school youth of Butuan City for them to learn from it, and hopefully push them that there is still more to life if only we try our best and fight back.

“My struggle was long and hard but I persevered and triumphed. But there is still a long way to go and I hope I can influence others with my life story,” he said.

He recalled it was art that turned his life around and he hoped that through it he would be able to bring that hope to others.

“After I came out from the Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth in Gingoog City in 2005, it was my defining moment. Since age 10, I’ve been going in and out of rehabilitation.

“At 15 years old I said to myself that I cannot live this way forever and it was through an art exhibit in Divisoria, Cagayan de Oro City that inspired me to change and learn street art like painting, fire dancing, henna tattoo and playing musical instruments,” he added.

“After my studies with the Alternative Learning System or ALS, I never expected that I will pass the scholarship grant given by Henry Howard through Xavier University back in 2010,” Quintana said.

“My crusade now is not only for street children and out-of-school youths but also to those people who are able and willing to share and help out these children finish high school and college by sharing and helping out one child at a time,” he said.

“We have our HOOOSY program which stands for Help Our Out Of School Youth, which Bisaya-speaking people tend to pronounce as JOSE so we tie up the program as a dedication to Senor San Jose, our patron saint, the model guardian for children who taught Jesus Christ both values and skills in human life,” Jody Navarra, BGF trustee and chair of its education committee said.

“The program will bring hope to kids with ambition that they will get the opportunities to pursue their dreams through education. Transforming the life of one child at a time will enable us to reach our modest goals and help us move forward by building on one success to the next,” said Navarra.

He said Quintana would be joining a camping activity of the Boy Scouts and out-of-school youth from Butuan City in Cabadbaran City.

Quintana was born in Barangay Florida, Butuan to a family of Banwaon descent. But he never got to know his family since his older brother brought him to the streets of Cagayan de Oro City when he was still six years old. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)