Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Of "Intelligent Hearts" and (Future) Tuesdays with Tony

Yesterday, we had a "bayanihan session" (aka GK meeting) with Gawad Kalinga's father and Ramon Magsaysay awardee, Tito Tony Meloto and the rest of his team. Dylan Wilk, one of the top ten richest people in England (starting at age 25!) and who is now a full-time GK globe-trotting advocate, was also there in the meeting with us.

I've already heard some of what Tito Tony told to the UPGK Core Group two months ago, when i was overwhelmed with our small-group meeting during the International Leaders' Conference at Naga. The GK Institute, for example, is one. Nonetheless i was still amazed when they presented the developments in Gawad Kalinga. Particularly, the "GK Designer Villages" really caught my attention. Those villages were designed by architects who are GK advocates as well (whom Tito Tony calls "architects of hope"). And mind you, the villages were actually impressive. Tito Tony asked us, "does this look third world to you?" Definitely not. Sabi pa nga niya, "Kung ikaw architect at ginawa mo ang bahay ng mga mayayaman, no one will even notice or know that it was you. But if you do your work for the poorest of the poor (for GK), the whole world will notice. And you can proudly say it is your work." So true. Other than that, they also talked about the technologies being applied in different villages, most of which provide the means of livelihood for the people. It's a pity i couldn't write everything as vividly as possible. But it was just amazing and inspiring. (And by the way, forgive me for the lack of coherence in this entry. I've no time to edit it nicely so i'm just typing whatever comes to mind.)

Land grants and village donations (when we say village donations, we mean donations not just to help build a house, or for just one house, but donations enough for an entire village- complete with centers and whathaveyous that GK now develops) are not hard to get either. We were just all simply awestrucked by how they keep coming, left and right. Like, yesterday while we were in the meeting, we were shortly interrupted by a call from VP Noli de Castro's office. Tito Tony, "Yes, 5 hectares in (some place i forgot)? Alright, 5 hectares. Thank you (name of the secretary, which i also forgot)." And Tito Tony responded to it like it was something so ordinary, something he gets to hear everyday. There wasn't even much excitement in his voice. Or at least he didn't sound so excited as compared to when he was enthusiastically sharing to us the change that GK brings, and how Gawad Kalinga is now creating a buzz in the global scene. Because GK is more than just the houses. It's about transformation.

We also found out that the first thing Chiz Escudero did after winning the elections was to meet with GK heads. My memory, unfortunately, can't retrieve what exactly he talked about. But if i'm not mistaken, i think i remember Tito Tony talking about passing a bill or somehting like that. I can't believe i forgot an information as important as that. But all of us who were there would agree that it was info overload. But unlike in most cases, that "info overload" was the best ever. And i mean it when i say the best.

Kuya Pido, a magna cum laude psychology graduate from La Salle, declined the scholarship offered to him abroad to work full time for GK for a year. Tito Tony asked him to share to us why. Somehow, i saw myself in him when he was sharing about his thoughts when he was a child. He said that since he was a kid, he has always wanted to help the country. And now, that dream is a reality. I remember that during elementary we were often asked to write essays about how we can help the country. The answers had always been the same. "In our own little way... through studying... etc etc." But frankly, i was never really convinced that would help. Not that i'm not a fan of education. In fact i do believe education is one of the most important things one can have. But i always wondered how come there are so many intelligent people and yet there are still people who live in poverty everywhere we go. And alas, through Tito Tony's words, i found the answer. We lack "intelligent hearts." All we do, we've always been doing it for ourselves. It has always been about us. Sure, people are into charity. But poverty cannot be solved by just that. Dylan Wilk shared that a great percentage of the youth in the United States are taking antidepressants. And he relates it primarily to the fact that most people are concerned only about theirselves- self interest, self gain, self, self, self. But there is a hole. And i remeber self-actualization being at the top of Maslow's pyrmid of the hierarchy of needs. Most people stop at a high level of self-esteem. But to be self-actualized entails doing things not for yourself but for others as well.

Dylan Wilk said, "i've travelled the world in search of a good cause where i can put my money and found nothing that really works. Until a Filipina friend of mine (rhea's note: that Filipina friend is Tony Meloto's daughter, and now Dylan Wilk's wife) told me about Gawad Kalinga. So I decided to visit the Philippines and take a look. And it just blew my mind. Finally, i saw something that really works!" And that was just the beginning. He left his luxurious life in England, became a Filipino at heart, and now travels around the globe (just like Tito Tony) to share the GK model of community-building. The next World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia will also be about Gawad Kalinga. How great is that?

Even Bill Gates is amazed with Gawad Kalinga. And that's no exaggeration. Tito Tony has been going around talking to top executives, leaders, and the likes (in short, VIPs) to talk about GK. Philanthropy is a big thing in the first world, and those people agree that THERE IS NOTHING LIKE GK. Students from Ivy Leagues like Harvard and Stanford will be visiting the Philippines to study GK. Tito Tony asked us if maybe we (the UPGK Core) can sort of "adopt them" and guide them in their stay. Or soemthing like that. He wants UP to be at the forefront. He said, "this is the start. We'll be spending the rest of our lives together." Every month, on a tuesday, he'll be meeting us and discussing plans. Now how cool is that? After the meeting, Kuya Eric Pasion (UPGK's chair) told us, "consider yourselves lucky. Tito Tony is a very busy man and for him to go here and spend hours with us,and even set monthly meetings with us, that just means you're all important." And that's just so overwhelming.

When we were asked to introduce ourselves, the team (Tito Tony's team) was happy with the fact that we were multidisciplinary. It was actually what they want for GK. As i have always emphasized, GK is not merely about houses. It's about holistic development. And Tito Tony said, "that's why we want you. we want you to help us apply your knowledge in your different fields to our villages. and we want the best of the best- the brightest and the smartest. i don't know all of you right now but just looking at the looks on your faces i can tell that i am indeed with the best. UP being the premiere university, i want you to lead the other universities and help them build up GK. and whenever you have an idea, just tell us. things are getting really exciting." They asked us about our plans and for some ideas, and it was nice to see in their faces that they were pleased.

*I'm now considering giving up one year before going to law school to train under GK. The biggest obstacle to that, though, would be my parents' approval. (And for those of you who are close to me, you know how badly i wasnt to go to law school. So you would know that for me to consider delaying one year for Gawad Kalinga already says a lot.)

I love the Philippines. I have always wanted to be a prime mover. And now i'm just so grateful that i am already one. I once heard of GK during the first ILC i attended at Subic. I was a new YFC member then. It was the summer before i entered college. That's when i first heard Dylan Wilk and Tony Meloto speak and i was throngs of people away from them. I was at the back. And now, two years after, they are already talking to us, looking at us and listening intently as we speak. These are two people i really look up to. And to have them around, discussing things and being treated as part of the key people they have to tap... Wow. I really don't know how to put my feelings into words. Wow. I always dreamed of being with important people, doing important things. I always wanted to do something great for the country, though i never had the formula. GK has that formula. And i feel so blessed to be part of that team. I thank God for giving me this wonderful, wonderful opportunity to realize one of my dreams at an early age.

Tomorrow, June 21, there will be a GK pep rally at the Araneta Coliseum from 12:30-6. It will be attended by around thousands of people from the country and across the globe. If you still have class, you might want to follow and hear good news firsthand. :) For UP students, faculty members and staff who are interested in joining, you may want to visit the YFC tambayan at the AS101 and ask the poeple there. If you know me personally, just contact me. :) I have a class 'til 1 and i'll be going there after. If we reach 65, they'll be providing a free bus for us. And by the way, deans of some colleges are going to write memos to profs telling them they have the option not to hold class and ask the students to attend the rally.

For the UP community: We have always wanted change. We live in a culture of nationalism and activism. Let's put our activism into concrete actions. We are known to be the brightest and the best. If the brightest and the best help the poorest of the poor through GK, then what a wonder that would be. (Pahabol na kwento: The UP Madrigal Singers had been training kids from one GK village. And now those kids will be going to Singapore to perform.)THINK OF WHAT YOU CAN DO. The possibilities are endless.

That would be all for now. God speed. :)

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