The Farm that Gawad Kalinga Built, of Social Entrepreneurship and Leaving No Poor Man Behind

I first heard of Gawad Kalinga as a non-government organization that builds houses for the homeless all over the country. Soon, I realize that their goals are bigger than any wooden shed, canopy or pillars they have erected before. Theirs is an organization that unearths the root of poverty with the intent of severing it from the ground to let a new stem of development grow into various spurts, eventually spreading all over the country. We were seated at the souvenir shop of the GK Enchanted Farm while satisfying our thirst with their in-farm product "Bayani Brew", when an unassuming middle age man in plain blue GK polo shirt, blue pants and sandals sat in front of us. The moment he started talking we were all ears. Clementine, a French intern at the farm interrupted him briefly addressing him as "Tito Tony". It finally rang a bell, Tony Meloto - the founder of Gawad Kalinga whom I've heard and read so much before is seated in front of us.

'Uncle' Tony Meloto is considered as a 'rock star' in the world of social development
He starts explaining the logic behind the Enchanted Farm “we have the fertile land, we have the human skills, we have great ideas, what we lack are social entrepreneurs” He cited the example of growing tons and tons of tomatoes that will eventually rot in the market at a lower price. But, "if an entrepreneur comes in and manufacture a local product like let's say a tomato catsup, then these tomatoes will be put to good use and the farmers will have a steady income". It is a logic that makes sense. He adds "We will create businesses that will never leave the poor behind"

'To date the duck industry in the Philippines is at 2 billion, we want to raise that in the future'
It was a credo that strikes a chord with everyone passionately involved at the GK Enchanted Farm. Coming from a rich family engaged in a profitable restaurant business, Alvie Benitez steered away from an easy path to wealth. Instead, as he told us being 'brainwashed' by Uncle Tony was the best thing that happened to him. "I wanted to be rich for sure, 7 years from now who knows, but I wanna take people with me on the way up" and he is not referring to business partners, the people he wanted to take with him atop are the members of the local community, the man who feeds his ducks, the women who help him process the duck eggs. Those are the people he wanted to experience success with.

support local products. this one is an all Filipino Iced tea made of all natural leaves 
Such desire conveys a total opposite - of the prevailing notion of 'a man for himself' dogma that stings our society today. Uncle Tony proudly points to us the many foreign volunteers who have came from all over the world and are doing internship at the farm "They came from all over". Other than introducing new agricultural sourced home grown products and the creation of employment with equal opportunities, the GK Farm also sends to schools the children belonging in the community.

One of the many foreign interns at the farm explaining why they believe at the mission of GK
A young man whom Uncle Tony says, couldn't even express himself clearly a year ago, is now a very confident young man who spoke good English. "Not only that, these scholars will also be taught the French language". Uncle Tony spoke about his plans for the Farm, that the information streamed into my mind and flooded every space of it. One thing you could not deny, is how his overflowing passion to eradicate poverty in the country is rubbed off on the many individuals working at the GK Enchanted Farm today.

One of the scholars from the community. In a few year's time he'l be fluent in French already
Prior to coming, I was expecting to see a farm with a variety of plants (of course) full board vegetarian meals. I was wrong as they also serve meat dishes there, but aside from that I found out that the farm is just a symbolism, it stands for a greater purpose - an "incubator of social entrepreneurship" that aims to cut the gap between the rich businessmen and the poor members of the local communities.

A French social entrepreneur Fabian wonders why we adore Hello Kitty's so why not create our own Pinoy stuff toys with characters like "Mais Ganda"
I had a sense that everyone involved and hard at work at the farm are like one big family, one that is willing to adopt each Filipino and like every family unit, willing to achieve everything hand in hand towards a prosperous life.

Buy local, be global. Enuff said :)
I've been sitting with this experience for a long time and unable to properly write about it. I hope I was able to at least introduce you to the mission of GK Enchanted Farm. If you wanted to know more, then it is best to pay the farm a visit at Barangay Encanto, Angat Bulacan.

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