DAY FORTY-ONE: Friday, 30th April 2010
Last day of April...
This time last year I made my very first trip to the Philippines, witnessed the Gawad Kalinga Build in Alaminos, met the ex-President Fidel Ramos, had lunch with him, and then gathered my new crew of Directors, Producers, etc to start my very first shoot of the “Life Teachers with Shirley Maya” documentary.
I wanted to document every day ordinary people who rise into a hero of their community, for their community. And the subject that was a direct contrast to my world was obviously, poverty.
I was told from a dear friend in Singapore that there is a man who builds houses for the poor and is turning every slum in the Philippines into a middle class community, and that his NGO is the only platform that unites competing brands and businesses, even rival politicians. And in Philippines, that is a huge deal.
So, I hunted high and low for this man. If anyone who could teach me about poverty, it would be him. And I wanted to learn about poverty so much because most of us live in a world of abundance and we take so much for granted on a daily basis. So, this amazing ordinary house-builder of the poor, would be my “Life Teacher” on poverty and the one who would show me the meaning of generosity.
In all, it took me 6 months to finally find him. I almost gave up on the search and was about to tag this man as an urban myth. But as strange as it sounds, I managed to get connected to him via the most ostentatious of places – a decadent party thrown at the luxurious Sentosa Cove, in Singapore. And I met Jackie Chan that night at the party. Yea, I know you are not going to believe me. So, here is a picture to prove it.
No, the house-builder for the poor was not a guest at the party, but his sponsors and donors were. That was how I came to meet Mr. Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Gawad Kalinga is not like Habitat for Humanity. Yes, they build houses for the poor and the slums. But they also rebuild lives, hopes and the whole community. They restore dignity and the ability to dream again to those who have none. So, here began my love affair with the Philippines’ most prized jewel: her people. And of course, I would naturally say that the crown of that jewel is Gawad Kalinga’s legions of selfless heroes – what they call, the Bayanihans. They are more than heroes, they are patriots for their fellow brothers and sisters.
But prior to making my first trip out to the Philippines, I had lost all my Malaysian filming crew because the fact that I would be going to Mindanao to film was a risky and scary option for them. So, they said, “Sorry, m’am, but no thank you. We want to stay alive and be well. So, we quit.”
Who could blame them?
Everyone has their own scary perception of Mindanao. Yet I felt I had to go and see it myself.
Considering the fact that I only got to go into Mindanao late July 2009, with the Gawad Kalinga founder, Mr. Tony Meloto. And even then, I had changed like 3 Directors and crew. Even the Filipinos were afraid to go into Mindanao, and their fear is real.
A month later, in August 2009, the highest number of people killed in one day happened in Mindanao – over 60 people – comprising of journalists, NGO workers, civilians and lawyers were brutally murdered in broad daylight, hijacked from their vehicles along the very same highway which I travelled in my visit there.
So, some get to live to tell the tale and some just don’t make it out alive.
Tony Meloto said to me, “The great responsibility lies with the ones who live to tell the tale.”
And so it seems Fate has decided that it shall be mine.
Philippines will be having her elections on May 10th. Yes, that is next week.
No one knows how badly it will turn out or how much change can actually be effected, without casualties and bloodshed.
As we all brace ourselves for justice, fairness and may the right wins, I am re-writing the story of my documentary.
All footages are kept safely in Manila, and believe me when I say, the stories entrusted WITH me will be aired in the most rightful time and place. I am sure of it.
All my prayers and love GO to all my dearest and bravest friends in the Philippines.
NEVER STOP HOPING FOR YOUR COUNTRY, NEVER STOP CARING FOR YOUR PEOPLE, DEMAND GREATNESS FROM YOURSELF AS A FILIPINO SO THAT YOU CAN INSPIRE GREATNESS IN ALL OTHER FILIPINOS.
BECOME THE BUILDER OF YOUR OWN DREAMS.
WALANG IWANAN, FILIPINAS!
Here lies my DAY FORTY-ONE :-
No. Of Prostrations: 115 (limbs are not falling off yet but they are pretty knackered!)
Daily Sadhanas: Check and Done with Death Meditation and Dzambala Mantra.
Physical Exercise: 35 mins
Daily Reflection from "IF NOT NOW, WHEN?" – Here we go. I close my eyes and I picked out page 063.
WOW! IT IS THE TITLE CHAPTER 04: “HARMONY & CONFLICT”
“It is easy to be nice to someone who is nice to you. They are nice to you, you are nice to them. That is not religion, that is not spiritualism, that is not Catholicism, that is not Jesus, that is not Buddha, that is not God. It is nice and easy to be nice to someone who is nice to you, but it is not easy to be nice to someone who is not nice to you. Religion and spiritual practice is being nice and patient to people who are not to you.”
Personal Thoughts and Feelings:
I have only this to add -
May Lord Ganesha and Allah keep us safe from harm.
May God have mercy on us all.
May the Buddhas bless us all.
May there be true friendship, harmony and peace for all on earth.