Board topnotcher in the Philippines becomes toilet cleaner in Australia before fulfilling dreams

MANILA, Philippines – Despite being a board topnotcher in the Philippines, life was not easy for Suharto “Jao” Jundam when he arrived in Australia. His achievements in the Philippines did not immediately give him golden opportunities in Australia; instead, he had to start from the bottom and work his way up. But his inspiring story would soon go viral…

Ranking No. 7 in the May 2015 Nursing Licensure Examination with a rating of 84.60%, a lot of people thought that he’s going to have an easy life ahead. But moving to Australia showed him what life is like at the bottom and how the once ‘above-average’ student in the Philippines would experience a lot of failures in Australian universities!

In an inspiring post on Facebook, Jao shared the hardships he experienced and how he managed to overcome everything to reach for his dreams. He wrote last January 28, 2020:

Board topnotcher in the Philippines becomes toilet cleaner in Australia
Photo credit: Jao Jundam

Board topnotcher ako sa Pilipinas at naging toilet cleaner ako sa Australia. And I’m proud of it.

Today, as my age turn 2 decades and a half (di talaga masabing twenty-five na eh noh? HAHA), I would just like to share the most recent liberating yet humbling experience I had. It happened in the last five years of my life which started when I decided to migrate to Australia.

A lot of people, especially in social media, think that I’m “lucky” to reach the position where I am now. They think everything was smooth and easy when I moved here. Of course, most of my posts are about me travelling the world, achieving goals in my acads & career, eating the best food the world can serve and smiling widely in front of the camera.

Little did they know that before I have started travelling the world, I have to walk for 1 hour in the freezing cold winter morning of Canberra just to work and sell fish in Belconnen market. Yes, I was also a fish vendor. I also have to fry “liempo” under the blazing hot summer of Canberra during its annual Noodle Markets. Yes, I was also a barbeque boy, and a waiter, and a personal care provider, and a cashier and many more. Haha! I have to endure the extremes of weather to earn enough money to help my family pay my expenses during my stay in Canberra.

Little did they know that before I have achieved my goals in finishing my Bachelors and Masters degree and landing a stable nursing job, I have to fail multiple times in Uni due to the culture shock I have experienced upon studying in Australia. I have even been accused of plagiarism which put my last semester in jeopardy. And as an “above average” student in the Philippines when it comes to academics, little did they know that my self-esteem went down the drain many times in a way that I have to drown myself just to get it back.

Board topnotcher in the Philippines becomes toilet cleaner in Australia
Photo credit: Jao Jundam

Little did they know that before I have eaten the yummiest food in the world, I have to be mindful of the number of meals I have to consume in a day. Back in Canberra, I have to cook 2 “ulams” which were often Sinigang and Tinola because they’re the easiest and cheapest to cook. Once I have cooked them, I separate them in containers of 3 a day so that it will suffice for a week. I also remember buying a $5.00 cake and slicing it in 7 so that I can only eat one slice/day. HAHA!

Lastly, little did they know that before I was able to smile widely in front of the camera again, many times, I have to look at myself in the mirror in tears while asking “Kaya ko pa ba?” But with every time I ask myself that question, I will always answer myself back saying “Kaya ko pa. Ako pa ba?"

Living the life that you want doesn’t just pop up on your FB notification or IG activity. Having the life that you want doesn’t just happen because of luck. Becoming the person you aim to, do not happen just by dreaming about it. Dreams will remain just dreams if you do not act upon it. Turn your dreams into goals, turn your goals into a plan. Execute your plan and see where it takes you, either way, you experience; either way, you learn; either way, you grow.

And if your plans fail, it’s ok to break down, pinaghirapan mo yun eh. Pero piliin mong lumaban ulit, nang paulit-ulit. Change your plan, but not your goal. Remember where and why you started the journey. And remember that He's always in control. We plan but He executes. I’m a firm believer that He puts us in our respective places with our own purposes. And with that purpose, we strive and succeed. In Shaa Allah.

Start from the bottom. Walang maliit na gawain o trabaho kung marangal. Then when you’re up there, look down and help those who are struggling to climb up. Trust me, achieving success feels way better when you have someone to share it with.

Most especially, cherish the people who were with you when you were yet “no one.” To my family, maraming maraming salamat. The Jao now would not be as strong as he is if it weren’t for you guise. Nuks! I love you. 💙

Yes, we only live once. But if we do it right, with no regrets, once is enough.

Jao’s story would go viral, with many netizens expressing admiration that he did not give up when he was at the lowest of lows. He’s a board topnotcher in the Philippines but he did not feel ashamed to become a toilet cleaner, fish vendor, and so many other odd jobs to support himself. Thanks to these experiences, he has become a better person.

All these difficult circumstances certainly make him appreciate the life he’s living now that he has fulfilled his dreams. Congratulations, Jao!

— Joy Adalia, The Summit Express


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  1. Why not..... though I am not a board topnotcher, I did the same way. Now my family is happy. Thats what matters.❤️

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