Alan Peter Cayetano and Lani Cayetano at Gawad Kalinga’s Enchanted Farm

Gawad Kalinga: Transformation through sustainability

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True to its mission, Gawad Kalinga’s Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan City brings pride to Filipino communities through transformation. Contrary to common belief, Gawad Kalinga (GK) is not just about building houses. It’s also not just about farming.

“You build a house, but you have to build a culture of sharing and caring. This is where the transformation happens: when we encourage everyone to be their brother’s keeper,” GK Chairman Jose Luis Oquiñena said on Saturday afternoon during a visit by former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Taguig 2nd District Rep. Lani Cayetano.

Deeply rooted in the Gawad Kalinga value of dignity, the 14-hectare Enchanted Farm promotes pride in the Filipino home through sustainable change.

“We want to transform the culture of consumerism to become a culture of becoming producers. We need to learn how to make every square inch of land productive because when you make them productive, you restore their dignity,” Oquiñena said.

Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano talks with GK Chairman Jose Luis Oquiñena.
Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano talks with GK Chairman Jose Luis Oquiñena.

Known officially as Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, GK was established in 2003 with short-term and long-term programs aimed at alleviating poverty among Filipinos, including livelihood training and housing projects.

The GK Enchanted Farm is a “farm village university” that serves as one of the organization’s platforms to “create wealth in the countryside.”

“Our farms here also are what we call family farms,” Oquiñena said. “They have a community. We assign them 500 square meters, then they make it productive. So talagang walang gutom (So there really is no hunger).”

Adopt and adapt

During his visit, Cayetano spent time with some of the students of the School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED), a TESDA-accredited program under GK which focuses on encouraging entrepreneurial thinking and behavior in the children of poor local farmers.

He also met cassava farmers from Angat and Doña Remedios Trinidad, who, through GK, were able to sell their produce at a competitive price by being connected directly to markets.

Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano delivers his message to students of the School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED)
Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano delivers his message to students of the School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED)

The former Speaker commended GK’s mission to “adopt” poor Filipinos into the family as well as its ability to “adapt” to the limitations brought about by the pandemic. He also acknowledged the organization’s efforts to help farmer families earn from their produce instead of just consuming it.

Oquiñena said this is GK’s ultimate aim in helping alleviate poverty. “When you make them productive, you restore their dignity… It’s not just about giving them a project or, ‘Magtanim kayo dito (Plant here).’ It’s the process of planting, propagating, pruning, and then waiting.”

Probinsyudad

Cayetano himself is a known advocate of micro-enterprises. One of his programs is the “Presyo Trabaho Kita” (PTK), which began in 2014 and has helped numerous associations and cooperatives across the country such as tricycle drivers, jeepney drivers, and market vendors.

He also continues to encourage small businesses amid the pandemic through cash aid under his Sampung Libong Pag-Asa program and the Sari-Sari Store Community.

In his message during the event, Cayetano stressed that “faith-based and value-oriented” programs, which is how GK operates, make a community’s transformation sustainable.

He also related GK’s programs with those of Taguig City, which is known as a “probinsyudad” where residents maintain the characteristics of provincial living in an advanced city setting. Home to Bonifacio Global City which is one of the country’s foremost lifestyle and business districts, Taguig at the same time prioritizes its Integrated Urban Farm whose goal is to support and enhance the potential of the farming and fishing communities by Laguna Lake.

Cayetano said Taguig also emphasizes love for God and love for others.

Ang basehan ng ‘I Love Taguig’ is y’ung two greatest commandments. Love God above everyone with all your heart, spirit ,and mind. At pangalawa, love your neighbors as you love yourselves,” he said.

(The basis of ‘I Love Taguig’ is the two greatest commandments. Love God above everyone with all your heart, spirit, and mind. And second, love your neighbors as you love yourselves.)

Gawad Kalinga SEED alumni and students pose with former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano,n Taguig 2nd District Rep. Lani Cayetano, and GK Chairman Jose Luis Oquiñena.
Gawad Kalinga SEED alumni and students pose with former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano,n Taguig 2nd District Rep. Lani Cayetano, and GK Chairman Jose Luis Oquiñena.

Echoing Cayetano, Oquiñena said: “You have to build a culture of caring and sharing. This is how the transformation happens.”

The GK Chairman thanked the Cayetano couple for visiting the community, which he said is a “morale booster” and a source of “hope” for the locals.

Cayetano encouraged the public to donate to the organization through its official website for whichever program “is close to [one’s] heart.”

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