Day One of the Gawad Kalinga Social Business Summit – “Meeting the Pres”

15/01/2016

Unfortunately the cloud of exhaustion lingered this morning – but it lifted as soon as we drove the decorated front gates of the GK Enchanted Farm. It was beautiful. Market stalls lined the road, colourful banners hung and waved happily in the warm breeze. The whole farm was a beehive of activity, with all of the worker bees running around – frantically, but excited.

Luis Oquinena, Executive Director of GK, delivered our first talk. He raised some relevant points and gave us some insight into what he called the ‘pyramid’ situation, where everyone believes the poor are on the bottom and the rich are on the top, but in reality it’s the opposite way, with the triangle flipped on its apex, balancing and unstable.

The level of excitement in the room was rising, (and no, it wasn’t because it was the first year that the hall had been air conditioned, although it was pretty exciting! It was cold enough inside to wear a snow jacket) because . . . The President was coming!

Suddenly on the screen a helicopter was shown flying through the air – a black dot, like an inset flying through the bright, blue sky.
The President arrived, walked in by an entourage and flanked by official, serious looking men in perfectly pressed uniforms and probably holding some heavy-duty rifles.

Much to my disappointment, the Pres, or as he is known – his Excellency Benigno Aquino III, wasn’t an inspirational, rousing speaker. Yet, the privilege of hearing him speak isn’t lost on me, and I am grateful for the experience.

After the President made his spectacular departure in his flashy chopper (creating a wind storm and covering us all in leaves that we were picking out of our hair for hours – thanks Pres!) we went back inside and listened to Dylan, from Human Nature speak. I was happy to get to see him talk, as he is so engaging with his onstage presence, and has strong morals and ethics that drive him.

The rest of the day involved strolling around the markets, sampling food, eating homemade icy poles for 6 pesos each and discovering various start-up Social Enterprises (big shout out to the guy with the mango gelato, so delicious!).

We were given a tour of the farm, a vast expanse of land with everything from a community that houses local families, to ducks, chickens, pigs and goats. I am once again surprised to experience an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the life I am able to live, life much different to the Filipino way of life. It is impossible not to stop and reflect on the differences, and them almost instantly feel a grounding and appreciation wash over your body. An appreciation of what you were born into. I cant help but wonder, which way of life is truly more fulfilling?

The evening was a fun affair. Music was filling the air, a big band played instruments (a beautiful rendition of Ed Sheeran songs), opera singers sang and the main event was a hip-hop rapper (he features on Filo MTV, quite the celeb). There was cultural dancing and even a bit of theatre. The audience clapped and smiled along all the way.

As I sat there I looked all around, and saw the happy, smiling faces. Not just Filipino faces, but faces from around the world. On our table for dinner we invited some French ladies, a young guy called Kenny from Hong Kong and a fellow Aussie, who I have been referring to as ‘bucket hat guy’.

By the end of the night we were beyond exhausted, but not too exhausted to wonder to myself if I ever would have had this opportunity and been able to attend the Social Business Summit along side delegates from all over the world if I hadn’t applied for this study tour.
The answer is no.
If it wasn’t for Swinburne and their tireless efforts trying to conceive and adapt these overseas, cultural opportunities for students, I would never have found myself at the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulucan, Philippines.

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