The Rise of the Pinoy is built around twenty-one short interviews, most of them with the heads of social enterprises. The seven chapters challenge readers to find their inspiration and personal assignment, to deal with the enemy and pain within, to focus on daily victories and the possibility of their own greatness. Each chapter contains exercises for self-examination and directed journaling of the type that is standard with self-help and motivational books and workshops. The Rise of the Pinoy is dedicated to Overseas Filipino Workers and their potential to become truly world-class. It is currently being translated into Tagalog, with translations into Cebuano and other Filipino languages to follow. Other volumes are also anticipated. The first volume is available through Fully Booked and in a Kindle version through Amazon.
On June 11, the first launch took place at Fully Booked in Global City. Sponsors included Bo’s Coffee, Bag 943, Amici Restaurants, Paris Deli, Bayani Brew, Messy Bessy, People Dynamics, Vita Coco and Human Nature. The overflowing crowd was enthusiastic. The speeches were obviously warm and heart-felt, with a strong appeal to OFWs to come home, do what other Filipinos have done and develop their innate excellence here. Some said their goal was to see the Philippines as a first-world country during their lifetime.
Author Mike Grogan: I am from Ireland. Irish people, we’re the Filipinos of Europe. The history of Ireland is so similar to the history of the Philippines. Both have been colonized. Both have a history of mass immigration. Both were influenced heavily by the Roman Catholic Church. Both have extremely good-looking people. I can’t think of any other nation in history [than the Philippines] which has given so much for other nations to be wealthy, which has sacrificed so much for other nations to prosper. It is an honor to me as an Irish person to come here and dedicate myself to help inspire and empower Filipino excellence.
Joccelyn Pick, President of People Dynamics: I’m so proud of my [informally adopted] son. I met Mike in Tanzania where he was an engineer working on projects which were simple and not expensive. One of the things I learned from him was an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, do it alone. If you want to go far, do it together.” After seventeen years working overseas, I decided to come back, as do most Filipinos, because of family. My parents were getting older so I thought it was time for me to spend the last few years of their lives with them. On the plane I was sitting with many other overseas workers, and I heard their stories of sacrifice, of love for their families, of how they made things, of how they were strong and always sent things back to the Philippines. When the Asian Financial Crisis happened and there was a lot of negativity around, I told myself that we were a very positive people and someone should write a book featuring stories about wonderful Filipinos. So thank you, son.
Issa Cuevas of Gawad Kalinga: [GK’s very impressive programs include building homes and facilities for the poor, child and youth development, community building, saving the environment with “green” communities, family gardens, health education and support for entrepreneurship. Its goal is to “un-squat” the squatters and to develop prosperous and self-sufficient communities. Daughter enterprises include health-drink manufacturers Bayani Brew and Vita Coco.] I come from a family of over a million volunteers. working and day out because they believe in the power of caring and sharing. This is evident in our name, which means “caring.” We started many years ago and we were a bunch of young people asking ourselves, “How can there be so much poverty in a country that is so rich in natural resources, where every Filipino is so talented? And what are we doing about it?”
You can sign up to be a GK volunteer right there at the right, and I promise you we’ll call you. But one major step is just to think about where you can help. Is there a poor person in your family? Is there a poor person in your community? or there is a poor person in your company who lives in the slums? If everyone cared for one family there would be no poverty in our county. If we are the best of who we are and if we allow each one of us to bring out the best in others, that’s what I believe is world-class.
Josh Mahiney, founder of BAGS 943: I am the youngest of nine in the family, so I grew up poor, and I came from a province that is very poor. When I was in elementary school I carried my things in a a plastic bag of the kind you see at the market. My goal was to have a nice pair of shoes. But I was given a time in the States and the chance to change the course of my life. I returned to the Philippines, a country without a lot of opportunities, and I saw a little kid using a plastic bag as I had. I started this social organization as a way of encouraging people to work hard, get an education and particularly to be givers. I realized that I was going to turn twenty-seven and it was the perfect time for me to do something for my country. I have learned from poverty that generosity is a way up. If we want to be a better Philippines, we need to be giving people. We need to promote generosity and to look after those who have less in life. So at BAGS 943 we design and sell bags. For every one you buy, we give one to a needy child, who also receives an email from you. You get the child’s picture. So this is something that is personal to you and valuable to people you cannot see. Bags 943 is not about making a lot of money. We’ll see the measure of our success when another kid joins us on this campaign. I am happy to report to you that we have reached out to 7000 people in the Philippines and we have a great many who have committed already. For me being world-class is about the values of the culture that we stand for, the culture of generosity, patience and hard work. I believe that these are the things that will eventually create a larger community. Look around for an opportunity to help people and make their life better.
Benjie Abad (aka Mang Urot and James Bradock), founder of Kalinderia ni Mang Urot. I started the soup kitchen after I was walking along Quezon Avenue and passed a fast-food restaurant where I saw two kids sitting near the dumpster eating fried chicken. What clicked in me was not love or empathy, but anger. Why should a Filipino have to eat out of a dumpster? The Philippines is a rich nation, but we face apathy, indifference and selfishness. Imagine the food we have in our refrigerators and the clothes in our closets. If we can just let go of it, it can help people.
I started a soup kitchen, at first once a week and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday. One of my favorite quotes is that for evil to succeed in this world it only takes good men to do nothing. To me successful people are those who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others. If you want, you can contact me on Facebook at Kalindereta ni Mang Urot, or you can visit the soup kitchen [at the corner of Quezon Avenue and Examiner Street, Bank of Commerce parking lot]. Donations are not a prerequisite. Just bring your heart. You can also bring your friends and family, I assure you that is the safest soup kitchen you can visit. There are now seven new soup kitchens modeled after ours. When we have a surplus of money I give school supplies to schools, fourteen schools within a span of four years, My pledge to my God is that I will continue with this work and never take advantage or use the poor for my own personal well-being.
Angiela Mae Deligero from Messy Bessy: [Messy Bessy Home Cleaning is a social enterprise dedicated to giving young adults education and employment opportunities through the working student program. The goal is for beneficiaries to obtain a college diploma and stable employment.] Messy Bessy is a line of natural household, nontoxic, biodegradable household cleaners and personal care products. At its heart is the dedication to helping ourselves through sustainable enterprise. I am the first graduate, having earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting last year. Our working students have mentors in the organization who can offer help with studies like algebra. Some of us are victims of human trafficking or other abuse. There are seventy-nine of us in the company, where the graduates work in the corporate sales department. For me, world-class Filipinos remain strong and in every place we go show what Filipino cultural values are.
Rey Bufi, co-founder of The Storytelling Project: I am a storyteller. My partner and co-founder, Mary Grace Soriano, and I go to remote communities, staying in each one for a month. I do storytelling for kids; she does storytelling and then story writing. We want the kids to have a passion for reading. We want to introduce to them to the concept that learning is fun, not an unpleasant academic activity. We also do training seminars before we start the actual twenty-one days because we believe that learning should start at home. We visit the homes of the children because we want the parents to have a part in the education process. In 2014 we launched a book written by one our learners, Super Labandera. Half of the profit from the sales goes to the foundation of Jim Mark Carolino, the author, and the other half to the school in his community. I invite you to “like” our Facebook page and to share a story you may have about a small act of kindness.
Tony Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga: Tomorrow is Independence Day. We will celebrate the liberation of the Filipino from colonial mentality as well as material, emotional and spiritual poverty. In the past we made the poor the object of our charity, which will not end poverty but just perpetuate it. Now we have seen in Human Nature, in Gawad Kalinga, in Messy Bessy and many other social enterprises in the country that they are giving the poor the gift of excellence, a world-class quality.
I’m very happy that you heard Issa speak. I’m no longer part of the management team, which we’ve passed on to the younger ones. Issa was only nineteen when she started with us. It has been a journey for her as well, finding peace in a world of conflict arising from poverty. When she was thirteen years old, her father was killed by the NPA [The New People’s Army is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines]. He took six bullets in order to shield her. [Issa’s story in The Rise of the Pinoy deals with her forgiveness of the man who killed her father.] She healed herself by helping to build a community for rebel families in Mindanao, where our Muslim community is. We realized that such action would give us sustainable energy and peace.
Anna, my own daughter, was my guinea pig when I started entering the world of the slums. She and Issa helped me work with street prostitutes. One particular incident that really overwhelmed me occurred when Anna was sixteen or seventeen. We were in the slums, and she came to me in tears. She said, “Daddy, I have never met anyone with so much pain. This girl was raped by her stepfather when she was young. She has had two abortions, she was also raped by seven men on top of a tomb.” I looked at the girl, and it suddenly dawned on me that if my daughter had been born in the same slum she could have been that prostitute. That was my moment of awakening. It spoke to my heart. So from that moment I had expanded my definition of family.
So now I am so happy that so many Filipinos see the Philippines as the land of opportunity. This is the best time to be Filipino in the Philippines. Ours is the second fastest rising economy in the world. We can be the call center of the world. We connect, we serve humanity because of our facility with language. I also feel that the Philippines is the best place to develop agriculture and tourism. To be world class is to make new health drinks like Bayani Brew and Vita Coco. We have the best coconut, the best mangoes, the best chocolate. So why are we importing almost all of our food? Today I was on a farm where I think they said the butter and yogurt were made from caribou milk. This is the age of innovation. We need to come up with world-class Filipino products and build a patriotic market like Japan did after World War II when “made in Japan” meant the product was cheap. Japanese just kept buying them, and they improved every year.
So are we ready to claim our independence? I am very happy that we will be graduating the first graduates of our college for social justice, the only one in Asia. We call it our silicon valley for social entrepreneurs. We were able to patiently restore the confidence of the bright poor who have intelligence but low self-esteem because they were always seen as second class. They could not even speak English. In this country the elite speak English. If your parents do laundry or drive a tricycle, you don’t because your friends would make fun of you and say you’d get a nosebleed [from all the effort you have to put into it].
Two years ago, we found forty-five children of the very poor. We taught them English because we wanted them to feel confident. We also developed their competence. Last January they entered a social business competition and our 18-year-old, a college student, won first place. I just received an email from Paris that the magazine Elle might sponsor two of our graduates— Danilo Ablen and Johnson Acdang—for the business school in Paris. If not, Air France will send them to business school in Singapore. One is becoming an expert in tilapia and the other is building an herb garden. They just had their first coffee at Starbucks, a place they never believed was for them. [The price of one cup of Starbucks coffee is more than many Manila residents live on for a day, even though the price is half what it is in the US.]
So now we have to show the world that Filipinos are world class—and in this country, not just abroad. We can compete globally. The greatest wealth of the country is still down there, a vast minefield of precious stones, maybe covered with dirt. We we will remove the dirt with the power of our kindness, our caring and our love for our country and our people. Then the world will see the precious stones from the Philippines, here in the Philippines.