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  • GK USA

Rising from Ruins

For years, due to poverty and lack of education, the Bagobo tribal village in Tagabawa, Makilala, No. Cotabatao was notorious as a haven for law breakers and criminals. They say that about 17 people have been killed in the area. No outsider would dare visit the community for fear of criminals hiding there.

Then, a series of earthquakes occurred in October 2019, the strongest of which struck October 31, flattening the structures and leaving the families homeless and devastated.

Congressman Rudy Caoagdan knew that Gawad Kalinga is always first to respond in times of disaster. So, he introduced GK to the community, confident that GK will stay with the community even after Makilala is no longer a headline in the news.

The Tagabawa folks appeared welcoming during their first encounter with GK, but later confessed to being skeptical about the prospect of owning their own GK homes. On the 2nd visit, Ariel Bieren, a GK full time worker, known to the community as "Aying", cleared the barriers of mistrust, including quashing a rumor that GK will charge monthly rent for the homes. Aying explained the process and requirements, particularly the need to attend values formation and render sweat equity hours, which the Tagabawa community readily accepted.

Excitement filled the atmosphere when the materials arrived. Not counting the hours spent nor caring whose house they were working on, they just built homes together. The “to each his own” philosophy evolved into a caring and cooperative spirit.

The community's transformation has been astonishing, especially to its Barangay Captain RJ Caoagdan, Those lawbreakers now respect the Barangay officials and the law.

When asked how GK impacted their lives, community elder Gemma Gumanan shared, "it brought back our sense of community and healed our relationships." The indifference that marked their attitude towards each other has been replaced with aspiring collectively for what was well within their reach. "Sangko sa Langit among pasasalamat" - not only for the houses but the new spirit that pervades the community.

The earthquake experience brought them pain but now they see it as God's blessing in disguise. Had it not been for the earthquake, GK would not have come to help them rise from the ruins.

GK built a total of 37 homes, 20 of which we were funded through the efforts of GK Santa Clarita headed by well-loved couple and GK USA Board Member Tony Pascua and his wife, Mariette and the Grand Pondo Bike Ride, led by Vlad Villapando. Just like a community, the Grand Pondo Ride was the result of bayanihan between the Sikad Bike Ride and GK Santa Clarita with the help of Fil Am Cycling groups.

Their Village has been built, so was that it for them? No. When they heard homes were to be built in nearby Buenavida they offered to join the Build. "Paying forward". As we received, so we give, as shared by Bgy Captain RJ. The Bgy Captain was overjoyed over the villagers’ eagerness to help. They labored for others. Whether the sun was up or they got rained on, they were there.

Another Baranggay Councilor shared, "I knew these people from way back. Back then, they will not lift a finger for community efforts. Look at them now, they have changed and are helping another community.

The kapitbahayans (neighborhood) of GK USA Hope Village 9 still face concerns like the threat of flash floods and poor garbage disposal systems. However, they have learned to sit down to find solutions. Together, they have reached a consensus that they will collect 5 pesos from each family to hire a tricycle driver to transport their trash to the garbage collection area, a small effort with far reaching benefits.

Barangay Captain RJ once asked GK Aying, "How does GK make these people follow instructions so willingly?" To which Aying replies, "Love, Values Formation and Presence."

The residents of GK Tagabawa USA Hope Village 9 have found meaning in their village name and are now living out the way of " Walang Iwanan" (Leaving No One Behind)

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