Dear family and friends,
A blessed New Year in 2015!
May your life continue to be a blessing to the less fortunate and a disruption to the fortunate who are still reluctant to share their blessing with others.
Next year will be an important milestone for the Philippines, for Gawad Kalinga and for me.
I will be turning 65 on January 17th, which marks the last decade of my active life based on normal human timeline. It will be totally dedicated to the pursuit of our Filipino Dream to help 5 million families in our country out of poverty by the end of 2024. I have been blessed with a wonderful family, and it is as clear to me as the sunniest summer that whatever I do for the least of my brethren and my lost homeland is the best investment I can make for my children and grandchildren as I near the winter of my life. My remaining years will be all for the fulfillment of this Filipino Dream, this legacy of making the Philippines the land of opportunity and the home of the honest in Asia.
We are nearer that dream simply because there are many who are starting to believe.
Our economy is the fastest growing in Southeast Asia under the leadership of an honest President; more NGOs are participating in inclusive growth and more social businesses are being incubated and scaled up to create optimum profit that care for people and planet. While we are the most vulnerable country to climate change, adversity has strengthened our solidarity and resiliency for mutual protection. Hopefully, this "walang iwanan" spirit will be a strong foundation for Filipinos to create prosperity together, leaving no one behind to remain in poverty, and making the HSBC forecast of the Philippines being the 16th biggest global economy in 2050 an inclusive reality.
This affirms Gawad Kalinga as truly a faith journey for many, because we predicted our rise out of poverty by 2024, a decade ago without sound economic forecast, out of sheer radical optimism in a climate of doom and gloom, and a conviction to be hope-builders among those who curse the darkness or have simply given up on our country.
2015 will be a challenging and exciting year for GK as it pursues its path of massive disruption.
We will continue to disrupt landowners to share their land with the landless, a common practice today which was not done before GK. This allowed us to respond quickly after Haiyan because we already had available land to start building permanent homes, while others had to settle for temporary shelters in unsafe areas.
We will continue to disrupt by seeking power in the most ordinary citizens, among the least, the last and the lost, in the true spirit of People Power: two of our area coordinators overseeing the reconstruction sites in Central Philippines were former gang members of our first community in Bagong Silang. Both are college graduates now, raising their families in GK homes they helped build. Many of our Sibol teachers and health volunteers are residents in our GK villages.
As it is written, the rejected stones will be the cornerstone of our peaceful and prosperous nation that will rise soon.
We will continue our disruptive practice of partnering with government officials without fear of being corrupted. We've worked with thousands of politicians – mayors, governors, congressmen, senators, cabinet secretaries and even Presidents – without any of them tempting us to commit anything illegal or immoral because they trust and respect GK. The most effective way to deal with corruption is by simply being honest.
We will continue to disrupt conventional business philanthropy by turning CSR into Corporate Social Investment (CSI), going beyond charity to address the root of poverty. Doing good makes good business sense in the GK philosophy of enlightened capitalism.
We cause these disruptions by doing the seemingly unfeasible: risking mistakes and ridicule to do innovation and invention in a world where many bright minds have lost the pioneering spirit and courage to discover new pathways, because they are risk-averse and paralyzed by fear of failure. Despite our inadequacies and imperfections, we simply had the audacity to show others that it can be done, that we can always learn from our mistakes, and that we will never give up on our dream.
We overcame our fear by simply seeing the poor as family that we cannot abandon.
Haiyan showed the world that GK is a game-changer in the Philippines by building typhoon-resistant homes that have become sanctuaries to neighbors still living in flimsy shanties in dangerous areas. This was the drama of the recent typhoon Hagupit coming a year after Haiyan, where many of our new communities became evacuation sites and relief distribution centers. It changed the landscape and the scope of volunteerism when the GK Bayani Challenge raised 1.75 million volunteers in just two months, manned mostly by former victims themselves.
By challenging the seemingly impossible, we became top of mind among many global development organizations and funding institutions.
They are now more aware of GK's ground up strategy, of its massive delivery capacity, of getting more value for money, of its solidarity philosophy, principle of clear transparency and open accountability. Recognition from Skoll, Schwab Foundation, Positive Economy Forum, World Entrepreneurship Forum, Ernst & Young, Nikkei, Reader's Digest, New York Times, DEVEX, and such helped a lot to give us global credibility.
And the world will continue to be disrupted by GK's concept of a "Walang Iwanan" society.
In 2014, I was invited to speak at international events in 9 countries, several universities in Europe, America, Middle East and Asia. Physically, my mind and body are exhausted but hope for the poor continues to be my source of strength.
It also energizes me to see a widespread rippling effect of our disruptive behavior as other NGOs, including big international organizations, are caring for the poor the GK way.
Together, we can end poverty by praying for more miracles of solidarity. And continuing to act in faith.
Next year we will be challenged by two game-changing, soul-searching phenomena:
The visit of Pope Francis which will challenge us as a Christian nation to put the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church into practice; and
Choosing the next President of the Philippines after President Benigno C. Aquino III, which will challenge us to look for another honest leader.
Let's pray that we can see things clearly to show our love for God and country.
Let Pope Francis speak about the sins of the Church and how Catholics can be faithful to its teachings that have been violated in this most religious country in Asia. Our role is to simply listen and do what he says after he leaves. After all, the bottom-line of his visit is about the poor. Many of our GK volunteers will not have their pictures taken with Pope Francis or see him in person as they will be busy in their mission areas, but they know that their sacrifice is close to his heart.
On the political front, while many are concerned, and some even paranoid, about the leadership vacuum after PNoy, GK will continue to raise good citizens in our villages who will learn to choose honest and competent future Presidents, true servant leaders who will help us end poverty in our country.
I hope Pope Francis gets to read Thomas Graham's book "The Genius of the Poor" before he visits Tacloban. It was already in his reading list in November from an Instagram I received from a Vatican source. The book honors the faith of many Filipino Catholics who are building a future full of hope anchored on sharing and caring.
Let me end this message of hope for 2015 with a wish list for my birthday.
I wish that we will get enough scholarship sponsors next school year to take in 100 bright students (mostly children of farmers and relocated informal settlers) into our School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED Philippines) and partners for three more classrooms and three dormitories.
I wish that we will get more social entrepreneurs/mentors and interns from top universities in the Philippines and abroad to expand our Farm Village University prototype in Angat, Bulacan and replicate it in 24 other sites nationwide to raise 500,000 social entrepreneurs by 2024.
I wish that we will set up our network of GK volunteers and partners in 20,000 barangays throughout the country, aligned with Luis Oquiñena's bottom-up strategy of flipping the pyramid. Together with this wish is a special prayer for our leader/adventurer Luis, who performs more spectacular miracles in many difficult and dangerous GK sites than Indiana Jones.
I wish that our SOCIAL BUSINESS ROADSHOW in April in 7 Key US cities (SF, LA, Chicago, Boston, NY, Tampa and Houston) and later in Europe, will excite the West to see the Philippines as the new gateway to emerging markets in Asia that focuses on inclusive growth.
I wish that our Social Business Program for 20,000 public high school students in Bulacan, designed to build an entrepreneurial DNA in the next generation of Filipinos, will get off the ground.
I wish the best of health and the best of fortunes to all those who have not stopped hoping for our country and caring for our people.