Tuesday, December 29, 2009
A Season of Grace
This is a Christmas message from Tony Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga. As we prepare to celebrate the new year, let us look back in 2009 and reflect. What lessons have we learned so far that we can carry on as we face 2010? May this message inspire us to give more of ourselves to others.
BEYOND DISASTERS AND MASSACRES, IT'S A SEASON OF GRACE
A Christmas Message from Tony Meloto
How do we keep bad things that are happening from robbing us of the joy of the season?
I must admit it gets harder with the years, especially when election is around the corner. As one approaching 60 and eager for peaceful change, I am upset like many with our politics of conflict where millions of Filipinos declare war on one another every three years, breaking up families, turning friends into adversaries, and making the weak suffer when the strong fight for power. Politics is brewing again as our nation is still recovering from the triple tragedies that hit us this year.
How do we turn the mood around?
Difficult as it is, I will start with myself this Christmas by seeing grace beyond every bad situation, by connecting with the good side of people and seeking the good of every person. I will consider myself out of grace if I indulge a mean gossip, bash my country or consider any Filipino an enemy. I will purge my system of disparaging un-Filipino sentiments and un-Christian behavior, seeing them as unbecoming and ungrateful.
A gift of solidarity with the poor is for me the most appropriate this season.. Spreading goodwill in their communities, dining with them in their homes, opening our gates to their children will affirm our kinship with them and gain favor from the Savior who treated the neglected as family and lavished them affection. As a predominantly Christian nation, we have to see the poor through the eyes of Jesus - not as beggar or slave -but as family.
If we have to give material gifts, let's do so with a proud-to-be- Filipino spirit by giving practical and well crafted items made in the Philippines that help poor communities and protect the environment.
The season also calls for more of us to be torchbearers who will shine brightly like the star that lit the dark skies to proclaim the coming of the One who could calm storms and lighten the load of a suffering people.
How does one who dreams of a better life in this country stay on course when battered by strong winds, when kindred spirits die and friends fall on the wayside? We do not lack patriots but many movements in our country have a historical pattern of blowing hot and cold, of ending in frustration despite grand plans, big resources, great enthusiasm and the best intentions when they began.
Can passion for the nation burn brighter even when others give up? How can we keep our spirit from burning out when many find it saner and safer to succumb to apathy?
From what has been preached to us somehow we know that there is no burnout or giving up if our passion comes from the Source of eternal, unconditional and giving love, not from our raging desire to pursue our agenda that makes enemies out of those who oppose us or sacrifice the poor who cannot defend themselves; if we believe in a divine plan that works for those who can love the worst of people and see a silver lining in the worst of times.
Again, human as we are it is not easy but we must try and allow grace to work when we are failing or falling. Like what happened in our recent tragedies. In our grief and fear, there was a flow of grace.
First, Tita Cory died on August 1 and grieved a nation with the passing of a leader who loved serving our country more than the power to rule it. I drenched my grief in the heavy downpour during her funeral, regretting the loss of our icon of integrity. It was her message "Gawad Kalinga is People Power, People Power is Gawad Kalinga" that comforted an ordinary citizen like me longing for better times.
The grace that came with her passing was that the young who did not know her and EDSA 1 came to discover the lasting value of integrity in leadership. This is Tita Cory's legacy to them; that power and wealth accumulated through corruption will not last and will bring only shame to those who do not walk their talk.
What we can offer to the country in her honor is the gift of personal Integrity. We need to share with others the gift of honest lives..
Second, Ondoy hit Metro Manila on September 26 with a fury greater than Hurricane Katrina, followed by Pepeng in Northern Luzon a week later.
Again grace was there beyond the vast devastation and loss of lives. Miraculously, there was no casualty or serious damage in over 400 GK communities in the typhoon's path and the residents were quick to rebound and went to the task of helping their neighbors. The bigger blessing was that Filipinos woke up to the amazing discovery that we have the power to help ourselves. Many resisted the usual 'who-is-to-blame' habit, kept their begging bowls in the cupboard and instead, dug into their pockets and braved the murky waters to help. The hero in the Filipino came out of the casket to help others in greater need, oblivious to their personal safety and comfort.
Grace is when we bridge gaps, transcend rivalries, scrap cynicism, overcome apathy and become just one people - simply and amazingly Filipinos caring for one other. A desire for unity is a great gift to share.
Third, the Maguindanao massacre on November 23 revolted us and the world to the core of our soul by its sheer ferocity. We grieved the loss of lives of the innocents, especially of our pre-school teacher Pinky Balayman and other volunteers, and the brave media that came to record history with their blood.
Out of revulsion in something so inhuman, there is now the overwhelming clamor to dismantle political fiefdoms and end the rule of warlords. The political will to do this is pure grace.
It is imperative that we give one another the gift of peace. Love that brings peace is at the heart of Jesus' message beyond a stormy and violent life, starting with the massacre of the innocents after his birth and his torture and painful death on the cross. The baby who was a squatter at birth and grew up as a carpenter's son is revered by the wise, the rich and the powerful centuries after his death. He is the disruption to old wineskins, the shame to the wise, the calm after the storm.
Likewise, despite the storms that buffeted Gawad Kalinga this year, we experienced peace and grace upon grace because many remained steadfast in loving the least loved.
We are grateful to all those who believe in us, for making Gawad Kalinga bigger, stronger, more inclusive and universal in our mission to help end poverty in the Philippines and other developing countries.
To Fr. Ben Nebres, Gerry Ablaza, Ed Chua, Bebet Gozun, Manny Pangilinan, and Tony Olaes for joining the Gawad Kalinga Board.
To corporate partners who supported GK beyond CSR, to schools that fostered service learning in our villages and to public officials who learned with us the value of service without corruption.
To those who set up GK Hope Initiative (GKHI) in Singapore as a hub to spread GK in Asia. This includes the Economic Development Board and also the schools, particularly Ngee Ann and NUS, for hosting the 2nd GK Global summit on June 25-27, 2010.
To the organizers and participants of the 1st GK Global Summit in Boston where GK2024 was successfully launched last June 12-14 and to Harvard and MIT for opening their doors to us.
To those who set up GK USA as a tax free institution and the GK1WORLD on-line campaign and all the volunteers and partners in the United States and Canada, Europe and the Middle East, Australia and new Zealand and other countries in Asia and the Pacific who are more passionate than ever in the GK vision of building a better world for the next generation.
To all patriots and lovers of the poor who joined the management and program teams of all GK provinces and Metro Manila cities, who practice faith and patriotism through volunteerism in all our GK sites, especially our thirty villages for our Muslim brothers and sisters - our special thanks for not abandoning those who are closest to the heart of Jesus.
To Luis Oquinena and all our young patriots for remaining firm and steadfast like Joshua. Luis will lead GK2024, our march to end poverty in the Philippines in 15 years.
To my brothers and sisters in Couples for Christ, the community of my deepest affection, for affirming our faith that God defends the poor and those who love them. A special thanks to our Project Directors and Caretaker teams for not deserting those who are being transformed by their love and loyalty.
To groups that treasure our Catholic faith like I do, for constantly reassuring us that Gawad Kalinga is not only one with our Church but is making Christians and Muslims one.
To UST for launching the Kalinga Tomasino campaign to build 400 GK villages as part of the 400 years celebration of their founding as the first Catholic university in Asia.
To those who helped in the Walang Iwanan Relief Operations and many others who have joined us in the efforts to relocate and rebuild the lives of typhoon victims.
Finally, to the poor for teaching us that love is the greatest gift from God.
If we love, everyday is a season of grace.. May the joy of Christmas, the love of Jesus and the hope that we can build a peaceful and prosperous world together - starting in the Philippines - remain in our heart always.