When I was in Manila last year, I met with my batchmates from Colegio San Agustin High School Batch 85, who were planning our silver (25th year) homecoming activities. The concept of celebration is the act of recognizing something either individually or a group. This “something” could be an achievement, the passage of time and phases of life (anniversary), and most importantly, the recognition that one has grown and learned something. The act of recognition could be spontaneous or highly organized. The point though should be that the celebration does not signify the end of this “something”, but the continuation of achievement, ageing with grace, and continued learning and growth. Somehow the talk moved from not only celebrating more than 30 years of friendship and memories, but how to leverage the celebrations to give back to our community and country. We began to discuss how to make our homecoming not only social, but socially relevant. The proposed partner in this endeavor, by default, became Gawad Kalinga.
In July 2008, Dylan and Anna Wilk presented to us the GK model and how our batch could play a role. Right after Dylan gave his inspirational spiel, four of my batchmates pledged to fund a home. Others pledged to build homes in honor of our six batchmates who had gone ahead. By the end of the week, my batch committed to initiate two GK projects. The first is to jumpstart the establishment of the Colegio San Agustin GK Village in a pre-identified site in Taguig City, near the C-6 highway to be completed by the shores of Laguna de Bay. The second is to encourage Batch 85ers of other high schools to contribute GK homes in honor of their school to a proposed All 85 GK Village.
Gawad Kalinga (GK- “to give care”) is an ambitious community development movement scaling up into a nation building movement seeking to address poverty in Philippine urban slums. In 2003, it initiated “GK777” to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities, in seven years through sharing of time and resources, massive mobilization of volunteers and “padugo”- “bleeding for the cause” and modeling “patriotism in action”. Since then, it has built over 30,000 homes in over 2,000 communities of varying stages of development for the poorest the poor and initiated activities in several other countries, with intentions of going global.
Gawad Kalinga was an attractive partner to us because:
- GK is about spirituality;
- GK promotes family values;
- GK promotes Philippine culture and international cooperation;
- GK initiates community organization and development;
- GK promotes economic productivity, sufficiency, and a moral economy;
- GK inculcates environmental values and environmental programs;
- GK seeks to improve/spur education, values transformation, and capacity building; and,
- GK is changing the nature of politics in the Philippines.
GK777 culminates in year 2010, which is our 25th anniversary year. As we can see it, GK still has a long way to go, inspite of the fact that more than 300 mayors, 150 schools and universities, over 400 corporations, and tens of thousands of volunteers have mobilized and acted. We think that as Filipinos (or those in love with the Philippines), we need to fully support this Philippine creation and initiative. Gawad Kalinga’s model will eventually become the brand name of the Philippines and it is something to be proud of as Filipinos, as Christians, as members of society. This is the most holistic, comprehensive, and equitable model for solving poverty and inequality in Philippine society.
2010 also is the Philippines’ national elections. In fact, many other countries will have their own elections. The global economic crisis will either improve or worsen by then. Thus, the year is both critical as it is auspicious. Our task then is to prime the social environment in such a way that it encourages good citizenship, caring, sharing, and responsible action. We would like to model these traits collectively.
When our school, Colegio San Agustin (CSA), heard about our initiative they got excited and wanted to participate. Eventually, the project progressed from a CSA85 GK project to a CSA GK Vilage endeavor. CSA signed a memorandum of agreement with GK last February 6, 2009. By 16 February 2009, the CSA GK Village broke ground at the GK site in Purok 5, Barangay Napindan, Taguig City. Forty homes will be built complete with community facilities. The beneficiaries are informal dwellers relocated from the former AFPOVAI site in Fort Bonifacio. Close to 200 families were affected in the relocation. About 176 families agreed to be relocated to this site. Thus, eleven two-storey buildings, composed of 16 units each need to be constructed for them. CSA Batch 85ers both in the Philippines and abroad committed 10 homes/units and community development support, including two homes to the All 85 GK Village, which I’ll write about in another article.
GK inspired us. We dreamt of a CSA GK Village. We dared to build and hoped that the CSA community would join us. They did as inspiring hope is contagious. We yearn to celebrate more than 30 years of friendship by giving back to community and country. We honor our six batchmates who’ve died by giving hope and a dignified life to our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
As St. Agustine said, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”