By: Miguelle Concepcion 1.Mr Harvey Maraguinot – Area Coordinator, GK North Central Mindanao
Mr Harvey Maraguinot was one of the initial proponents of GK in Bukidnon in North Central Mindanao and he is currently the coordinator of over 90 GK villages in that area. He has an immense task, not only because of the sheer number of communities for which he is responsible but also because of the complex cultural history of the land area. As Mindanao was never formally colonised by the Spanish, many locals – Muslim Filipinos – believe that it should become an independent state. In recent times the island has become known for unrest, armed rebels and religious and political conflicts. In such an environment, where poverty aggravates the struggles already present, Mr Maraguinot has succeeded in rallying people in local government, academic institutions and other non-government organisations to support the work of GK.
Mr Maraguinot’s talk offered a picture of GK stakeholders and thereby provided greater insight into GK’s operations. He recalled GK’s simple yet inspiring start in Bukidnon - the money that funded the first GK homes in Mindanao came straight out of the pockets of the few locals who had heard about GK through word of mouth. As the vision spread, several groups, surfaced as essential elements in the success of the GK movement - GK homeowners, the Kapitbahayan (neighbourhood association) and Local Government Units. In his talk Mr Maraguinot detailed the role of each of these ‘stakeholders.’
At the simplest level, Mr Maraguinot believes, GK thrives because of the time and talents of individual volunteers. He mentioned that the caretakers of the villages are ordinary people from the surrounding areas. The volunteers, who recognise the benefits of GK for the wider community to which they belong, assist with the values formation arm of GK known as ‘Brothers’ Keeper.’ They effectively become the mentors of the beneficiaries, model moral behaviour, provide guidance and break the barriers created by unequal life chances.
Mr Maraguinot also stressed the importance of academic institutions. GK is introduced to schools and universities, which integrate GK initiatives into the calendar and even the curriculum. Students and staff are given opportunities to help around the village, raise funds for projects as well as co-sponsor events. As the educated youth make decisions and adopt positions of influence, it is important that social consciousness goes hand-in-hand with academic pursuits.
Similarly, organisations – corporate, civic and religious – have been involved in GK. Unlike other charities that run on monetary donations from large companies, GK encourages direct interaction with the beneficiaries. Every week, businesses send their employees to GK villages to build houses and in the process they build relationships. Mr Maraguinot summed up the mutual value of the exercise with the term ‘friend-raising.’ This type of volunteerism is mirrored by civic organisations and religious organisations, which also visit GK villages with the additional aim of spiritual development.
The management of the villages and these volunteers is the responsibility of Maraguinot’s management teams. These are part-time and full-time GK workers who ensure the implementation of programs and the delivery and distribution of resources. Because these workers are responsible for the everyday running of the villages, they are in the best position to identify specific needs and to propose new projects to address them.
Lastly, in the same breath as his reference to the homeowners themselves, Maraguinot acknowledged the ‘vital role’ played by local government. They provide the necessary infrastructure: roads, road networks, water and electricity. Government support has enabled GK to be a positive force in Mindanao.
Overall, Mr Maraguinot’s speech recognised the importance of the different sectors of society coming together for a common, noble goal. GK thrives on the uniqueness of each group, and indeed, each individual. The fight against poverty and the restoration of human dignity has had an incredibly uniting effect in a largely divided region.
2. Hon. Edilberto Ayuban - Mayor of Dangcagan, Bukidnon
Mayor Ayuban has been Mayor for Dangacagan, Bukidnon since 2004. In 2005 he started his collaboration with GK making GK a flagship program of his administration.
In 2006, the local government of Dungcagan purchased 6.5 hectares for a GK site in Dungcagan. Through their collaboration with GK they were able to establish 72 houses for 72 families. He also headed the participation of the Local Government Unit of Dangcagan to the GK Bayani Challenges in Zamboanga City in 2009 and Bantayan Island, Cebu in 2011.
3. Mr Jeffrey Ochoa Tarayao, President, One Meralco Foundation
As Chief Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Officer of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the largest power distribution company in the Philippines, Mr Jeffrey Ochoa Tarayao is an expert on sustainability, corporate social responsibility and community relations. His role is to ensure that the corporation, while raising revenue, also makes ethical decisions and supports worthy social initiatives, such as GK. He has worked on projects with various organisations, including the UN Development Program, the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) and the International Youth Foundation. He has focused particularly on youth and was greatly involved in the provision and integration of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in schools.
Mr Tarayao said that when he originally started in CSR he worked with Gawad Kalinga and that experience had been transformational. He also said: “Whenever I find it difficult to understand a combination of social work and the science of business I always go back to the idea of getting into a GK community because it keeps me grounded. It keeps me understanding what is truly necessary when you do development work and especially when you do work with the poor”.
In his talk, Mr Tarayao outlined the partnership between Meralco and GK. Meralco provides electricity for roughly 25 percent of the Philippine population and represents nearly 50 percent of the nation’s GDP. The company boasts 99 percent electrification in its service area. However, Tarayao is aware of “isolated segments” that “remain deprived of the benefits and convenience of legal electricity services”; this fraction of the population consists mainly of informal settlers and poverty-stricken families who fail to meet the minimum requirements to secure an electric connection. To aid these people Meralco developed the Meralco Dangal Program which supplies electricity to GK villages and other comparable communities. To date, Mr Tarayao reported that over 4,000 families in 26 GK communities, most notably GK Maryville, benefit from the program.
For Mr Tarayao, the provision of electricity for the people in these communities is equivalent to sharing the gift of light and life. Nevertheless, according to him, the way forward is not simply endless philanthropy, but rather, operating in a way that is mutually beneficial for deprived communities and the company. This outlook is visible in the way that Meralco provides poor families with electric connections in order to minimise the trend of illegal connections and to expand its customer base. The families pay half price for the connection fee and then they pay full price for any electricity that they use. Mr Tarayo said that he may be biased but he has observed that GK communities tend to be the ones that manage to pay a higher percentage of their electricity bills and that is because they have learnt the discipline of being employed. Meralco is thus “doing business by bringing power to the poor”; the company makes a profit while the marginalised regain dignity and are reintegrated into the broader society.
One Meralco, Corporate Responsibilty
One Meralco Foundation re-energizes Meralco CSR
4. Mr Arturo Milan – Chief Operating Officer, Davao Light Company
Arturo Milan is the Executive Vice-President of Davao Light Company. A certified public accountant, Milan holds undergraduate degrees in both Economics and Science as well as a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Chicago. While he currently works in the light industry, he has had experience in the management of other resources such as petroleum and concrete.
Mr Milan’s presentation was entitled “Beyond Giving” and elucidates his company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. As the third largest power company in the Philippines, Davao Light services over 300 000 Filipinos. Yet in order to be a “world class” company, Mr Milan says, it must become a “responsible partner” to movements like GK, which work for the progress of the disadvantaged. He discussed Davao Light’s initiatives in education, primary health, enterprise and development, and the environment.
Mr Milan is the head of the caretaker team which volunteers at GK Violet Hills in upper Kabilong, Marilong, about 50km from downtown Davao City. There are 30 partner residences in this community and the partnership began when Davao Light provided electricity to an off-grid GK village using solar power. The company helped the community manage the solar charging stations and operate them as an income generating project. Employees of Davao Light are encouraged to volunteer in the building of houses and to serve on caretaker teams. The partnership with GK enabled Davao Light to integrate their different CSR programs into one holistic approach to build and empower this community.
In closing he said: “Let me state that there is no argument that the main occupation of business is profit, but there is no argument either that when business does good for its community, it is good for business as well”.
Davao Light. Remote Village gets electricity, December 29, 2010
5. Mr Bong Recio – Founder, Rchitects Inc.
Jose Pedro C. Recio is a renowned architect who began his international career by designing Hong Kong landmarks, such as Harbour City, before making significant contributions to contemporary Philippine architecture. With establishments such as One and Two Lafayette Square, Richmonde Hotel, San Lazaro Leisure Park and The Church of Gesu in Ateneo de Manila University to his name, Mr Recio launched his own practice in 2008. His firm, RCHITECTS, now has over 50 technical staff and works on a variety of projects encompassing retail, industry, hospitality and institutional design.
Mr Recio’s presentation at the Global Summit focused on GK Enchanted Farm and its partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS). Fourth and fifth year students from NUS worked on a “Master Plan” that serves as the basis for the structures and services that are being built at the Enchanted Farm.
Mr Bong Recio’s enthusiasm for his students and their work was infectious as he shared with the audience the working plans and photos of the scale models that the students took back to show to the community at the Enchanted Farm. He highlighted the way that the partnership with the National University of Singapore has borne innovative designs and scale models for the lagoon, treetop facilities, a bamboo palace and a floating restaurant. Through a series of photographs and descriptions, Mr Recio showed that the Enchanted Farm is quickly becoming a lush, inviting destination for students and tourists alike.
Bong Recio. Enchanted Studio - NUS Architecture virtual studio 2011
GK Taguig 2.0! – The Best for the Least
Firm sets new sights for Filipino architecture, March 18, 2009, 9:33am
Top 10 Architects 2008
6. Mr “Riverbank” Frank Doolan – Founder, Dubbo’s Community Men’s Shed
“Riverbank” Frank Doolan, a Wiradjuri man who lives on the riverbank in Dubbo, western New South Wales, believes that building communities builds bridges. Disillusioned by the constant race-based separation of white and Aboriginal men, he helped found the Dubbo Mens’ Shed – an interracial group of men who serve the community through various building and restoration projects. Mr Doolan said that a substantial part of the Dubbo shed is their logo - a black and white handshake. Mr Doolan stated that the logo represents to all their sundry position on reconciliation.
Mr Doolan explained how the GK model is comparable and applicable to Australian Aboriginal communities. He recounted an incident in the town of Dubbo where the local government redeveloped a suburb that was “predominantly Aboriginal and poor white” without consulting the people living there. An approach, he describes, as totally opposite to the way that he understands GK to operate. The area was beset by problems including high crime and incarceration rates. In this problematic and struggling community, amidst the doubts of people surrounding him, Doolan said, he “wanted to make a difference”. Like GK, the Dubbo Mens’ Shed breaks social barriers through dialogue and the accomplishment of shared goals and projects.
Bridges - by Riverbank Frank Doolan
Now listen up you fellas Listen up and settle down Cause there has to be some changes Right here in this town. There's too much aggression It desecrates the land Let's build a bridge instead Let's try to understand
We're all indigenous From somewhere on this earth We're all connected to This tiny bit of dirt. Culture can live side by side It only needs respect, Let's build that bridge together It's not completed yet.
Away with prejudice and gang violence This is not the USA There's culture in this country And an easier better way. We can make it happen It only takes respect Let's build that bridge together It's not completed yet.
Riverbank Frank Doolan. A shed to build bridges – ABC Radio – 9 March 2010
Newsletter men’s shed Dubbo
Men’s shed support recognised 9 September 2011
Community breakdown: breaking down the Gordon Estate in Dubbo
1 April 2007 29:30mins
NSW Government to move Gordon Estate population. The World Today - Friday, 12 May , 2006
7. Mr Don Palmer – Director, MALPA Project
Don Palmer is the director of the MALPA Project, which seeks to address Indigenous healthcare issues in remote regions. Malpa is a Warlpiri word meaning friend or companion.
In his talk, Mr Don Palmer said that Aboriginal people today experience ‘fourth world’ conditions. They suffer from diseases that have been eliminated in all other parts of the country – for instance 25 percent of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory suffer from trachoma which has been eliminated everywhere else in the first world; a life expectancy 20 years less than the national average; widespread post-traumatic stress disorder; and the crisis in identity brought about by the dismissal of their culture and language.
After quoting statistics and acknowledging these harsh realities, Palmer recognises the resilience and generosity that he has witnessed in Aboriginal communities. He paints an optimistic picture of the future based on present initiatives being undertaken by the MALPA Project to incorporate the Aboriginal way of life into healthcare provisions. He stated that taking into account Aboriginal culture and perspectives is essential to the success of any program that seeks to improve Aboriginal living standards. MALPA’s child doctors program combines Western and traditional methods.
Mr Palmer also pointed out that the MALPA project works multi-sectorally, something that is a hallmark of GK’s own work. He said many organisations say: “Look, we don’t want to just give you money and resources, we want to build authentic relationships between our staff and the people”. He said, “And in my view, that is the most profoundly important thing that can happen. The health thing is good, the health thing is important, but this mutual understanding means that we can build a peaceful future; a decent future is what my friend Reg Japananke would call Jankujurra. He says we must do these things together”.
Don Palmer, The Malpa Project
Not bleeding hearts just the bleeding obvious
Uncle Bob Randall Kanyini: Indigenous wisdom
'Sorry? Nothing's changed!' Uncle Bob Randall on the national apology - Part 1 of 2
8. Mr Richard Frankland – Filmmaker and community peace builder
Richard Frankland is an Aboriginal singer/songwriter, author and filmmaker. He is a proud Gunditjmara man who has worked as a soldier, fisherman, and field officer during the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Mr Frankland has written, directed and produced over fifty videos, documentaries and film projects, including the award-winning No Way to Forget, After Mabo, Harry’s War, and The Convincing Ground.
Mr Frankland delivers Indigenous cross-cultural awareness lectures and workshops to community groups, businesses, government and educational institutions. He is a leading figure in the movement to address lateral violence in indigenous communities. In November 2010, Mr Frankland travelled to the Philippines to learn more about Gawad Kalinga.
Mr Frankland’s talk at the workshop covered a lot of ground and he offered detailed explanations of how history, media, legislation and cultural devaluation have affected Aboriginal people. He began by giving a summary of the story of dispossession, which reminded the audience of the trauma that the original inhabitants of the country experienced and passed on. He then named the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media, which have a self-fulfilling effect on the way Aboriginal people view themselves. In addition, Mr Frankland examined systemic racism by giving examples of laws that prevent Aboriginal people from accessing wealth and power.
Mr Frankland explained that the term lateral violence describes what happens when you are on the bottom rung of society’s ladder. He said: “When you are on the bottom rung of a ladder, to strike upwards is too hard and that rage and that anger has to go somewhere, so it goes to the side. Every Aboriginal community I know of, every Aboriginal person I know of, has seen extreme violence between Aboriginal people in the last 12 months. Every Aboriginal person I know of has seen extreme drug abuse and alcohol abuse”.
Yet he said he is seeing young men and women reclaiming their language, their spirituality and their own ways to negotiate disputes with each other.
Mr Frankland works on building up ‘cultural safety.’ This involves ‘core cultural strengths and programs’ that teach Aboriginal people to be a part of contemporary Australian society without abandoning their beliefs and culture. He said: “…it is a bit similar to what GK is doing in villages. You empower people with voice, you empower people with the ability to build their own homes and you empower a community to heal themselves”. He ended his talk by quoting the Koorreen Principles that also overlap with those of Gawad Kalinga.
Koorreen Principles (Koorreen means southwind in Gunditjmara)
- Listen (to the earth, waters and others so that you may learn)
- Learn (from all you hear, see and feel, this will inform you on who you are and who you can be)
- Respect (all living things and beings, to enable them to respect you)
- Integrity (conduct yourself and act honestly at all times so that others may learn from you)
- Honour (honour the great spirit, the property of others and your own life path)
- Compassion (have compassion to others so that you lean to be graceful with your spirit)
- Courage (have courage to act in all of the above and to know when you have made mistakes so that you can know when to have humility).
©of Richard J Frankland 2010
Richard Frankland. Lore of the land – reconciling spirit and place in Australia’s story