Twenty-eight years ago, a man was shot on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. Being the most prominent dissident to the Marcos regime, they warned him that he risked death should he return. Unfazed, he said; “The Filipino is worth dying for…” On August 21, 1983, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was shot upon arrival from the U.S. Nearly three years later, People Power led to the ouster of Marcos after 21 years in power.
Seventeen years after Marcos’ overthrow, People Power was mobilized to address another of the country’s scourge—poverty and social exclusion. Supported by former President Corazon Aquino, Ninoy’s widow, People Power for nation building is what characterizes Gawad Kalinga.
Gawad Kalinga seeks to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in seven years for the poorest of the poor. In a country of nearly 90 million people and close to half living below the poverty line, GK seeks to address poverty from a grounds up, self-reliance, and sharing and caring model. Gawad means to give or award. Kalinga means “care”—Gawad Kalinga is “to give care." Since then, it has established at least 30,000 homes in about 2,000 communities.
Only a holistic program that develops the individual, family, and community will succeed in building strong institutions in the Philippines. Only organized, principled, and economically and environmentally sustainable communities can survive and withstand the vagaries of Philippine politics, poverty, inequality, and social exclusion.
More needs to be done and more poor Filipinos need to be helped. Why wait for an armed revolution or a breakdown in society to change, when there is an alternative way based on love, sharing and caring, and padugo- bleeding for the cause?
Gawad Kalinga is building God’s Kingdom here on earth. GK can be a global template for development. The Filipino is definitely worth dying for. GK shows us that the Filipino is also worth living for. Mabuhay po kayo!