A glimpse into my experiences with Gawad Kalinga (GK)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Thomas Graham's transition from up and coming journalist with a focus on Manila as a good time city to one gripped by the mesmerising power of the real Philippines; the country that not only boasts dazzling cities filled with nightlife, cafes and restaurants; beachside resorts and stunning scenery but a country that exudes a fascinating culture showcasing rich and poor. For, just beyond the bright lights of the tourist scene lay the country's slums.
At the challenge of Tony Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga, Thomas Graham set off to discover the true essence of the Philippines. Althought this is not a book review, it would be remiss of me not to encourage all Filipinos (and anyone else interested in social justice) to read this book.
It was after reading Graham's book that I visited Silver Heights, the GK community he writes about in Chapter 1. As I met Silver Height's residents, certain names came to mind from the book; Tito Bart, Ivy and Benjie but I couldn't remember their stories and unfortunately I had left my copy of the book in Cebu. I felt certain Ivy would have a copy from Kuya Tom and I was right. I happily re-read the chapter that night. Ivy, true to her description in the book, is a bright, vivacious and charming young lady. Keen to test and improve her English skills and equally keen to learn and develop her card playing skills ensured I enjoyed quality time with this delightful girl.
As I returned the book to Ivy, she asked me if I wanted to read the chapter again. I was about to suggest I'd already read it twice when I realised that Ivy was keen for me to read the chapter aloud as she listened. It was a humbling and gratifying experience to share Kuya Tom's insights with Ivy, one of the book's subjects. Ivy and I read slowly and purposefully, clarifying both content and vocabulary. As I read, I focussed on the author's words but also on Ivy's reactions to his words. I savoured this opportunity to spend time with Ivy, enjoying her company and learning from her insights. It was an evening well spent!
More recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas Graham and the equal pleasure of telling him of my shared reading experience with Ivy. It's wonderful to think of the goodwill and pleasure that Ivy has experienced not only as a recipient of a GK house through her lola (grandmother), but through the Silver Heights community and now the extended GK family. Hopefully, these experiences have enriched and added a new dimension to Ivy's life.
Ivy, may your enthusiasm and zest for life continue to endear you to others and to provide you ongoing learning opportunities and experiences. Reach for the stars Ivy!