Cebuana Lhuillier, one of the biggest nationwide pawnshop chains in the Philippines, does a lot more in making smiles than just their easy interest rates and number of branches across the country. They are also keen on honoring other Filipinos who do the same. This is exemplified in their Search for the Happiest Pinoy, where upstanding citizens of the Philippines can make their inspirational stories of optimism known via Cebuana and get a chance to win generous cash prizes. Their fourth Happiest Pinoy competition was recently held, with winners chosen from ten categories. And among them a teacher was named the Happiest Pinoy of all.

Public school teacher Zaldy Bueno was chosen by Cebuana Lhuillier as the winner of the 4th Search for the Happiest Pinoy recognition contest. He was a the representative Happiest Pinoy of the Professional category, one of ten finalists from sectors of Philippine society such as the youth, senior citizens, manual laborers, OFWs, civil servants and even the LGBTQ.  For his inspirational life story, Sir Bueno was awarded a P1 million cash prize, tax free. That is a worthy victory especially for the Region IV-A native who overcame monumental obstacles in order to achieve his lifelong calling to education, and doing it with sheer positive optimism.

Born in poverty at Quezon province, Zaldy early school life, supplemented by planting and selling vegetables, was put to its first big test when they survived the 1995 Typhoon Rosing. With their home destroyed and being forced to share room in their barangay health center for months, Zaldy was inspired to make the most of his chances at education to ensure a good life for himself and his family. Having to work part-time during college to earn his education degree, he also had to pay his own expenses while practice-teaching.

But these hardships only instilled in Zaldy Bueno a greater appreciation for his profession, such that he has made it his crusade to help students in as much financial straits as he had been. In addition to teaching ALS classes (that his own mother attended), Sir Bueno was co-founder of a community project that would supply students who lived too far from schools and cannot afford public transport with bicycles. The PADYAK Project has been recognized, endorsed and supported by the local community, government officials and overseas Filipino benefactors for its practical aid to students.

Sir Bueno has already earned accolades from the CALABARZON Awards and the Civil Service Commission for his inspirational assistance to education for youth of slim ways and means. His new award as Cebuana Lhuillier’s Happiest Pinoy, and the prize that comes with it, is a well-deserved additional feather in Zaldy’s cap for his life’s work.

The Cebuana Lhuillier Search for the Happiest Pinoy screens the inspirational life-story essays of interested candidates submitted to their many pawnshops. Top candidates from ten categories were then interviewed by a panel of judges from the company, to determine the top Pinoys in each category, and the Happiest Pinoy among them. The other category winners also won their own individual cash prizes of P50000 each.

“I am very happy with the results of this year’s search – with over 800,000 entries received through our branches, online, SMS and walk-in entries,” noted Cebuana Lhuillier President and CEO Jean Henri Lhuiller regarding Bueno. “It’s been amazing to read the entries of the 10 finalists and Zaldy proves to be a worthy winner as his tale will definitely inspire countless people to push on despite life’s difficulties. Zaldy exemplifies the commendable Filipino spirit of rising up from your current predicament and using that as fuel to make a difference in the lives of others.”