Press Releases
Keeping the flames of hope burning


Cherie Canencia-Pagunsan always puts values and ethics as her priority in handling her work as a general manager.


Many people perceive poverty as something extremely negative, a reason to just give up on life and stop dreaming.

But for Cherie “Che” Canencia-Pagunsan, poverty is a powerful motivation to strive harder, stay stronger and dream big.

Born to a poor family at Brgy. Atiotes, Tobias Fornier, Antique, Che is the 4th child and the only daughter among 5 siblings of a skilled mechanic and a dressmaker. Though her family owns a small rice land, their harvest and her parents’ earnings were not enough to support their basic needs.

“During lean months, we had to survive on corn and banana while waiting for harvest to come,” a teary-eyed Che recalled.  She also sells ice candy and kumbo, a deep fried banana fritters to help her parents.

But despite of all hardships, she managed to be on the Top 5 of her class when she graduated in high school and that achievement strengthened her faith.

The rays of hope shine even brighter when she came across with the Department of Labor and Employment offering a Special Program for Employment of Students (DOLE-SPES).

 As a SPES baby, she learned encoding, filing and organizing documents at the Office of the Vice Mayor of the Municipality of Tobias Fornier. 

Since then, it was something that she looks forward to every summer. Through her SPES salary, she had something stuffed in her wallet. Her savings for three summers helped her finish her college education.

“Before SPES, I only have Php300 weekly allowance and that includes my fare in going home on weekends. To survive a day, I would just buy a can of sardines for my breakfast, lunch and dinner,” she shared as she took a deep breath.

SPES transformed her into a better person and developed her leadership amidst scarcity of resources. She served as class mayor in college for 3 years and an active member of the Future Leaders of the Philippines (FLP).

Earning a college degree is a challenge for a financially deprived like Che; but with SPES providing financial support she graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Antique with flying colors.

After graduation, she wasted no time looking for jobs. Again, she found refuge at DOLE, this time, as an intern under the Government Internship Program (GIP).

The SPES and GIP experiences supported her superior academic capabilities by enhancing her social skills, developing her value on time management and punctuality that later helped her in climbing the ladder of success.

After completing her internship, she got a job as cashier at Chowking Restaurant in San Jose, Antique. In just a short period, she was promoted as Assistant Manager, then, as Manager.

The door of opportunity opened even wider for her.  The newly-opened KFC Branch in San Jose, Antique hired her as General Manager; and if not for the pandemic, Che could have been in Canada as a Subway Restaurant Supervisor.

Reminiscing the past, she said that she works hard for her parents and her children’s better and more comfortable life.  “I want my children to have and enjoy what I didn’t have and enjoyed when I was young. I want them to celebrate their birthdays with a party which I never had.  I want a different life for them.”

She expressed her gratitude to DOLE and said she will not forget the SPES and GIP which provided her employment opportunities and financial support when she needed it the most, and as a training ground to develop her skills, potentials and work ethics. 

“May DOLE continue these programs for the youth particularly for the poor but deserving ones as these are all helpful and instrumental in the achievement of their education and in their future jobs like it did to me.”

She chose to be positive in life no matter how unfair and hard it may seem. She refused to shrink back and give up because she knew her dreams are all worth it.

As she continues her journey, Cherie shares her thoughts to poor but deserving youths:


“Do not let poverty dishearten you, handicap you and keep you from reaching your goals. Let it be enough reason to motivate you to keep going, to strive harder and to finish a degree no matter how hard and long it takes because you know your life will soon change for the better.”

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