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THE FILIPINO CAN DREAM AGAIN

Filipino

by Tony Meloto
Speech for the Ateneo Graduate School of Business
July 27, 2006


It is good to talk after Manny Pangilinan. It is a great jump-off point for me and there is a lot to tell. No, I will not dwell on how he brought PLDT back from the dead. We have heard enough corporate Lazarus stories already. Nor will I speak about the outstanding Gawad Kalinga model communities we are building with Smart/PLDT all over the country¦ they speak for themselves. Instead, I'd like to talk about the spirit of someone who has so much, and yet has great sympathy for those who have so much less¦ and the spirit of many of you who would like to be like Manny Pangilinan yet carry in your heart the dream of so many ordinary Filipinos.

Likewise, it is good to speak before Secretary of Finance Gary Teves who is here to represent government. I am exactly where I should be -- in the middle of industry and government -- and that is where the ordinary Filipino is all the time.

Today, I face a question that has been nagging me for years¦ How can an ordinary Filipino like myself contribute towards the realization of the dream of our people to rise out of poverty? Traditionally, everyone looks to big business and government for answers. Filipinos see them as so powerful that we have depended on them to lift our country out of poverty and then blame them when they are unable to do so. We fail to recognize that there is just so many of our countrymen we have left behind that big business and government do not have enough power to lift them all up. What can we all do? I cannot answer for big business or government. I am no businessman nor am I in government. Yet I represent the vast majority of Filipinos who also have the power to change this country.

The greatest tragedy that we are experiencing now is that our people have lost their capacity to dream. This is at the root of our poverty. This is not about the poor being hopeless because they have long learned to cope with hopelessness. What is alarming is the hopelessness that has seeped into the psyche and into the spirit of the rich, the educated and the working middle class. Many of them are leaving and their children are also thinking of leaving. We are losing the critical sector that have the aspirations, the drive and the expertise to lead the majority who do not have the confidence nor the resources to initiate change.

It is imperative that we must have hope. But hope can be like a mirage. There is a very thin line between hope and escapism. Hope can bring people into fantasy. And this is where many Filipinos are a new breed who are hooked on telenovelas, Wowowee and Pinoy Big Brother and whose daughters have embraced the Sex Bomb dancers as their icons and their way out of poverty. Real hope must have basis. Hope must be seen. Hope must be felt. Hope must be smelled. Hope must be planted on the ground. Hope must be shared. Hope must be passed on to our children.

But hope must begin with me.

I found hope when I found God. In the beginning it was just to seek my personal holiness when I joined Couples for Christ. Later on, I came to realize that I could never be holy if I did not follow Jesus in loving the poor and restoring their dignity as children of God. When we started to build communities in Gawad Kalinga and develop the poors capacity for self-reliance and self-sufficiency, my journey for personal holiness became a vision of hope for my family, my country and my people.

And my children share my hope.

My 23-year old son, Jay, left his job in L.A. to work for the typhoon victims in Bicol and elsewhere in Luzon. Hope is real to him as it is real to the 40,000 survivor families who will no longer be squatters living in shanties in dangerous areas. They will not remain victims forever.
My eldest daughter, Anna, declined her training in Switzerland and resigned from a job she enjoyed to volunteer in our productivity and food sufficiency program for the poor. She sees hope in the faces of Muslims and Christians in seventeen Muslim communities built by Gawad Kalinga with DSWD and the LGUs in Mindanao so far, overcoming centuries of prejudice and conflict. Anna felt secure enough to visit Datu Paglas in the early months of her pregnancy and sees a lifetime of friendship with the Muslims by trusting a former Muslim commander to be godmother to her first child.

Hope is a powerful force that invites transformation in my children and their co-workers as well as the communities that they hope to change. It can be powerful enough¦ for thieves to stop stealing, for the lazy to work¦ to transform ugly slums into beautiful communities.

I recall a particular visit to Baseco last December that made me realize the profound value of giving hope to the poor. Upon entering one of the first of nearly a thousand homes we had already built in the area for fire victims, I was overwhelmed by the beautiful interior that I saw tiled floors, glass-topped furniture and a fragrant toilet. I remember just a year earlier moving the family from a shanty made of plastic, rusted GI sheets and old wood from the nearby canal. I asked the mother of the house, Malou, who now looked clean and confident, what brought about the dramatic change in such a short time. Instead of telling me that she and her husband are now working and earning, which they are, she simply said Kasi ginawa mo kaming disente Tito¦ binigyan mo kami ng pag-asa. (You made us decent Tito, you gave us hope.)

In simple language she was telling me a fundamental principle - that economic activities and benefits are natural consequences when the poor start to dream and to work for that dream.
In the same community, no major crime was reported last year among the over 5,000 residents compared to the 28 murders and homicides reported in 2003, the year before we entered the area. Hope does not only trigger productivity, it brings peace. And a decent and peaceful environment provides the right setting for people to dream bigger and work harder.

This is the pattern of development in over 850 communities we are currently building and the 7000 communities that we hope to build by 2010. Change the slum environment for dreams to flourish, attract the convergence of kindred spirits from government organizations, NGO’s and ordinary Filipinos here and abroad who love this country and have not given up| who will pursue change passionately following the path of peace.

This brings me to a crucial point. The problem of poverty in our country is so massive that our response to it cannot be small. We must ignite hope that is widespread and create a response that is heroic.

To spread hope, we must go to the poor and show them that there is a way out… we must go to the rich and show them it is not futile to help. We must go to business and government and show them that investing in the poor will be the greatest investment that they can ever make. Because the interest of Gawad Kalinga goes beyond partisan politics and profit, we have no serious difficulty getting the support of business and government. We have gained their trust that our only business is to help build this nation and to bring our people out of poverty.

But there is just so much to be done. We must build more templates that bring our people out of centuries of landlessness and homelessness and the perennial threat of hunger. We must provide more health services and a kind of education that begins in the home and in the community. We must recover the greatest wealth that we have lost our people. Convert our human resource from liability to asset by prioritizing development from bottom up, because nothing much has trickled down from the top.

Just build and they will come. Let us unleash resources for poverty eradication and development that this country has never seen before. A great crisis that has depressed an entire nation must be countered with a great movement that can inspire great heroism.

Tomorrow, I fly to Las Vegas for the Gawad Kalinga Congress to honor the Filipino heroes in the United States. We often herald the sacrifice of OFWs whose concern for loved ones at home has kept our economy afloat. What we are seeing over and above the OFW phenomenon is a new type of altruism where Filipinos from abroad are helping, at great sacrifice, those they are not related to by blood or have any direct obligation to help. Floodgates of support are about to open and we must demand our local counterpart of heroism. This outpouring of generosity from abroad must be matched at home --- love for love¦ sacrifice for sacrifice.

We have hit the mother lode of goodwill, of Filipino patriotism, of the deep-seated desire to help our people and our country. Initiatives to help are coming from all over, in many ways and in many forms¦ hundreds running the 26-mile marathon in California and Chicago where each runner donates at least 1 house¦ some giving up their luxury cars and jewelry to help the poor in the towns they left behind… UST doctors working extra hours to fund their villages¦ alumni from Ateneo, La Salle, UP, San Beda, College of the Holy Spirit, Assumption, St. Scholasticas, Miriam, St. Theresas, PNU, PWU and FEU every one of them adopting a poor community and outdoing each other in a race to save the country they have not stopped loving.

Even the young, many of whom were born in the US, have started to reconnect with their ethnic roots in a dramatic and heroic way¦ giving up debuts and proms to help the poor that they do not know¦ even taking a leave from good jobs to volunteer for a year in the Philippines.

The heroism of Fil-ams is being matched by Filipinos in Canada. Wherever I went last May Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, our countrymen were dancing to the beat of a new found hope in the country of their birth. Even Joey Albert, a long-time resident of Vancouver, regained her Filipino citizenship and was singing her love song for the Philippines all over Canada. The concern was so intense and massive, particularly for the mudslide victims of Southern Leyte, that they were able to raise CAN $450,000 - including CAN $ 300,000 contributed by the governments of Ontario and Alberta - in the short time I was there. The help from Ontario was made possible through the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who was impressed with the Gawad Kalinga communities built by the sacrifice and heroism of ordinary Filipinos. When a people start to care for others beyond self-interest, he starts to regain his honor and the respect and trust of the world.

It was the same spirit I witnessed in Australia the week after I left Montreal. The Speaker of Parliament of New South Wales, Hon. John Aquilina, fired up the Filipinos in Sydney when he said that his visit to the Australian GK Village in Payatas last February was his most profound experience in recent years. He came to the Philippines because he was curious about this new passion of his Filipino constituents and he was touched. Just build and they will come. Last week, Gawad Kalinga ANCOP was registered in Australia as a tax exempt foundation as it is also in the US and < st1:country-region>Canada. We hope to register it as well in the Middle East and European countries where Filipinos are giving generously for the poor in the Philippines when they themselves have very real needs for their families.

Many have said that we are a divided people and in many ways we are. But in loving the motherland, in helping the poor and the weak, the hearts of Filipinos are one. We are one in our desire to see our country rise from poverty and our people from shame.

I am not embarrassed to tell you that my greatest dream is to make Gawad Kalinga the 8th Wonder of the World, built by the Bayanihan spirit of our people who are no longer slaves of the past. This is my legacy to my children and to the young Filipinos everywhere. I want them to be a new generation of Filipinos who are proud of their country. And I know you will all help because this is your dream for your children as well.

The quest of every Filipino is honor, to be anywhere in this world and not be ashamed that millions of his countrymen suffer from poverty, corruption and hunger. It is a necessary quest, for without honor, we will forever hang our heads in shame.

Many Filipinos have achieved great individual success. But for every successful Filipino, many are left behind. The greater the success, there are more left behind. That is why I chose not to mention the great success of Manny Pangilinan but instead I speak about his resolve to return his sights on those left behind.

The story of the talents, about how much is expected from those whom much is given, is particularly relevant in this gathering. Before me are those to whom the most in talent and treasure has been given. Can you imagine the effect in this country when the collective excellence of you who are from the Ateneo Graduate School is shared with the millions who cannot make it here? What all of us here can do for those who have been left behind can be awesome¦ just as what very ordinary people in Gawad Kalinga have done for the poor thus far is already creating global waves.

What started out as a national effort to lift the poor out of poverty and build a nation we can all be proud of is emerging to be a global movement for Filipinos all over the world. And because its attractiveness as a universal template for poverty intervention and conflict resolution is reaching non-Filipinos as well, Gawad Kalinga is gaining more sympathy and support worldwide. We have a real opportunity to build a global brand and attract unimaginable resources to our shores at this time when the worlds highest agenda is poverty reduction.

In this room are the natural leaders of an initiative that will raise the image of Filipinos from Third World to one that many other countries will follow in order to confront and defeat poverty in their own respective homelands. It is in the hands of Filipinos privileged by wealth or talent to take leadership positions, but they can do so only if they have the hearts of heroes.

It is only heroes who will extend their power and resources to help others beyond themselves. It is only heroes who can rescue a failing nation and a suffering people. It is only the hero in you that I appeal to, that our people cry out for.

Be a hero. Don't forget those who have been left behind. Think of the poor in the towns and cities where you come from. Don't stop hoping for them and your country. Demand greatness and generosity from yourselves and inspire them in others.

Build hope. Be heroes. Attain honor.

I thank God for His perfect design that I was born Filipino. God bless the Philippines.

Health is Wealth
How to Accumulate Wealth

2 reaction:

psyche said...

well this is really something. depending so much on other people is not a good way to success. in my case I will use my ability and skills to pull myself out of porverty. you dont have to be rich to reach. you just gotta have a hand and a heart to help other people.

this one is a goo read sir!

by the way thanks for dropping by

Tahiti Tradewinds said...

Please vote for the Gawad Kalinga video so that it will have a good chance to make it to the front page of the videos of digg.com site, which, according to alexa.com is ranked the top 100 most visited sites in the world wide Web. Pass it on to your friends and colleages, and CFC brothers and sisters. Click here to visit the video at http://tinyurl.com/hz45f. To vote, you must " digg it ". It only has 3 votes or " diggs " right now. But imagine the exposure that Gawad Kalinga will have to the world when it makes it to the front page at digg.com !

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