TNVS Driver’s Rocky Path Towards Dream Destination

53-year-old Grab driver, Kuya Benjie Estillore, continues to pursue studies and reach his ambition to be a freshman at the University of Makati (UMak).

(UMak-USMO, Makati, PH) Education knows no age, as proven by Kuya Benjie himself with his story of returning to school that went viral in numerous news outlets such as ABS-CBN, TV5, the Manila Bulletin, and the Philippine Star. He was also featured in Colgate’s advertisement through #SmileStrong Stories, highlighting the bumpy journey he’s taken as a working student. Recently, he was invited as a guest for OnePH’s public service and talk show program, Julius and Tintin Babao’s Para sa Pamilyang Pilipino, which aired last Friday, September 8, 2023.

WATCH: Colgate #SmileStrong Stories: Why Kuya Benjie went back to school at 50

Even before he made headlines with “Estudyante sa umaga, driver sa gabi”, Kuya Benjie was already prominent in the Transport Network Vehicle System (TNVS) community, being featured as the Americana-wearing driver in Rated K back in 2016, wherein he showcased his fashion sense and provides commendable service to his passengers.

WATCH: Rated K: The Americana-wearing Driver

Unlike other students who went back to school at an older age, Kuya Benjie possesses this charisma and humor that make everyone love and recognize him. Being a content creator himself and posting these videos through his Facebook account, Kuya Benjie enjoys engaging with people, whether online or in person.

However, Kuya Benjie reveals that before he got to where he is now, he went through a series of struggles. He stated that he was orphaned at 15 years old and was left to fend for himself. Hence, he made the tough decision to stop his education in his first year of high school. In the remaining thirty years he persisted in working, and his only goal at the time was to survive, which deeply saddens him since he wasn’t able to accomplish his parents’ dream for him.

“Mabuti pa sila, may nagpapa-aral na magulang, may nagsusuporta sa kanila,” said Kuya Benjie in his interview with the Manila Bulletin as he sees the young students around his area.

He started working as a Grab driver in 2015 and managed to find stability. Five years later, the pandemic came and temporarily stopped TNVS services, affecting Kuya Benjie.

A day in the life of a TNVS driver in 2021, Benjie Estillore, wearing his Americana. (Photo: Facebook/Benjie Estillore)

During the rough period, he saw Nenita, his wife and a teacher at Rizal Elementary School, teaching her students in an online setup, which served as an inspiration for him to continue his studies. After a conversation with his wife, she helped enroll Kuya Benjie through the Alternative Learning System and continued his studies as a senior high school student at Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino High School.

Kuya Benjie, the TNVS driver who went viral for entering Senior High School at the age of 52, is seen standing in front as he holds the banner of his section during the opening day of Academic Year 2022-2023.
(Photo: Facebook/Benjie Estillore & Earl Licera)

Eventually, as the pandemic eased and TNVS services resumed, he managed to juggle both his studies and work by creating and following an organized schedule. Through his immense efforts, he graduated senior high school as an academic achiever, a feat that even Mayor Abby Binay lauded.

As he received his diploma, also was awarded “With Honors” at Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino High School last Academic Year 2022-2023, Kuya Benjie demonstrates that education has no boundaries as long as one has the perseverance to pursue it. (Photo: Facebook/Benjie Estillore)

In the light of perseverance, Kuya Benjie was ready to take the next step, entering college as a freshman at UMak under the College of Governance and Public Policy. Kuya Benjie expressed enthusiasm about finally reaching this phase in life despite his age. He also emphasizes UMak as his first choice because his wife is an alumnus of the university who majored in education and business administration. “Na-inspire din ako sa asawa ko dahil dito siya nag-graduate sa UMak,” said Kuya Benjie.

Benjie Estillore with his wife, Nenita Estillore, attended their acquaintance’s wedding together back in 2021.
(Photo: Facebook/Nenita Estillore)

Seeing himself in service to the people, Kuya Benjie had set his passion for political science, working in government facilities and applying all the lessons that he would learn. After finishing the 4-year course (he will be 57 by then), Kuya Benjie considers studying law if time allows.

Although he is well-known due to his appearances in news outlets and advertisements, he claims that he is not overwhelmed by the attention he receives. “Normal lang naman ako na tao. Kung meron man na ano [lumapit], ‘di naman ako snabero,” said Kuya Benjie, treating everyone equally and being open to anyone who approaches him. With the academic year starting, he can often be seen studying inside the university

“Kung mayroon mang mangyari sa’kin, hindi ko kawalan ‘yon eh. Basta ako nag-aaral.” expressed Kuya Benjie if he faces discrimination, it is not his problem; it is their problem. But he does not worry too much since he is confident that the university he applied to is inclusive and welcomes all students as herons regardless of their status in life,

Kuya Benjie left a message for all the students: no matter how rocky and short life is, cherish the people, value the resources provided for education, and remember that it is never too late to pursue aspirations.

“Habang may nagpapa-aral sa inyo, habang may magulang kayo, mag-aral nang mag-aral hanggang makatapos.”

WATCH: [FULL INTERVIEW] TNVS driver’s rocky path toward dream destination

Written by: Japhet Christianrei Marquez, Freihane Siddayao, Kayeth Celine Entoma, from UMak Student Multimedia Organization