Reaching the Filipino's 'Paraiso'
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-06-24
‘Paraiso’ (Paradise) is a Spanish word that means the same thing in Filipino. It also describes the beautiful feeling of triumph and ecstasy felt by those who achieve their deepest craving — marrying a soul mate, completing an exceptionally tough academic course, reaching the acme of financial success, or, suddenly overriding poverty.

‘Paraiso’ was the apt title for the Gawad Kalinga (GK) trilogy that premiered last June 12 at the Mall of Asia’s Main Cinema following earlier premiere screenings in 27 cities in the world. The movie told of the true-to-life stories of a Leyte landslide victim who found redemption in the GK program and of two movers of GK.

‘Paraiso’ for the GK beneficiaries came neatly packaged as an offering from the heart of many volunteers who built homes, not just houses. Under the GK program, the formation of the human person is the key component in restoring dignity and sowing the seeds of confidence and hope that would effectively reverse the destructive loser mindset cultivated by years of despair and poverty in the generational cycle of poverty.

To provide homes and formation to 700,000 families in 7,000 communities in 7 years is the GK goal. This is envisioned to provide the mechanism for bridging the enormous and hopelessly widening wealth gap that is leading the nation to self-annihilation.

Like other GK undertakings, Paraiso the movie was a product of volunteerism.

When Bobby Barreiro broached the idea of producing the movie to GK Chairman Tony Meloto and GK Communications Chief Maria V. Montelibano, it was met with enthusiastic eagerness. Tony Meloto, a former Procter & Gamble man, (P & G is one of the finest marketing organizations in the world) and Maria, a multi-awarded television director — both knew the power of cinema as an effective tool for social engineering.

What Barreiro did not realize then was that in GK, the person who suggests a brilliant idea must also be ready to see it through — from planning, funding to full project completion. Barreiro found collaborators in successful film producers Butch Jimenez (producer of such landmark films as Jose Rizal and Muro Ami) and Tony Gloria (co-producer of many foreign productions that were filmed in the Philippines).

Just like Christ’s miracle of the loaves and fishes, Movie Project Paraiso found itself successfully enlisting the pro bono services of some of the country's most sought after on-camera talents: Cesar Montano, Michael V and Maricel Soriano, to name the most popular of the lot.

I leave it to the entertainment columnists to discuss the merits of Paraiso as a movie. What is of particular interest to me is the superb marketing and communications program that made GK a social engineering phenomenon.

Obtaining and sustaining support for altruistic projects in this country is no easy task. For one, we are a poor country and poor countries do not have an abundance of these corporate social responsibility (SR) funds to go around.

Then too, there is the problem of having the right cause on one hand and possessing the credibility to promote it on the other. One may get funding support if the cause is within the radar screen of the corporation. It stands to reason that a corporation will prefer undertakings that benefit the target publics of the company.

The soliciting organization must be reputable, credible and trustworthy. John Wasielewski, a USAID Director and a good friend of mine, told me three years ago that they have great difficulty relating to Philippine NGOs because many turn out to be fund raising fronts for politicians.

GK successfully overrode these impediments and now enjoys wide scale support from corporate as well as individual donors — here and abroad.

Would GK have succeeded if it opted to use the Christian commandment — love the least of your brethren — as its positioning platform? Since GK is a product of the faith-based Couples for Christ, this would have been a logical approach.

Credit it to Tony Meloto's marketing genius for opting to position GK on the platform of nation building, subordinating to love of country the underlying Christian values that power the love behind the philanthropy.

GK was able to attract "patriotic funds" or moneys that are wholeheartedly given after a donor’s patriotic zeal has been aroused. GK has successfully generated corporate and personal commitments for its cause and even generates support from opposing political factions.

Legislators from both the administration and the opposition support GK and many of them allot portions of their pork barrel to GK projects. The highest public executive and many local government executives vigorously support GK.

Tony Meloto is not only addressing the poverty problem where all past Philippine presidents had failed but he is also uniting a nation so inclined to disagreeing on the silliest and pettiest of issues.

By not flying its Christian banner, GK succeeded in promoting Christian values more effectively. But then, Christ himself said: “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord loves me but he who follows my commandments." It's all about walking — not talking — your talk.

GK does not talk "Lord, Lord" like many of those evangelists who parade on television. But GK has certainly followed the Lord's commandment with what GK has done and is continuing to do for the least of our brethren.

A lot of lessons there I think for the Catholic Church, the institution faced with diminishing practicing Catholics. A lot of lessons there too for other well-meaning groups who tend to become too attached to their comfort zones, doing only what they are used to doing, overlooking the reality of the human suffering festering around them.

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