I was fortunate enough to receive Tony Meloto’s end of the year letter entitled “2010 Is The Best Year Of My Life”. It’s a very nice read with lots of great insights from a truly remarkable man.
One of the biggest blessings I’ve had in my life is the privilege to know Tony Meloto and his equally wonderful family. They have blessed our lives simply by just giving us their gift of friendship. Theirs is a story that while is still being told, deserves to be immortalized.
Please allow me to share Tony Meloto’s letter. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
2010 Is The Best Year Of My Life
by Tony Meloto
This is my first Christmas as a senior citizen.
Despite back aches, psoriasis sores and joint pains due to the cold weather and lack of sleep, at 60 I do not consider myself old.
Old age is only for those who cannot think young… or dream of tomorrow… or live for a purpose today.
I welcomed in January this new chapter of my life with kape, pandesal and suman with a throng of well-wishers in the streets of Bagong Silang where my Gawad Kalinga journey began.
With me starting his grass-roots campaign was the reluctant candidate destined to be President in six months.
That moment was totally invigorating for me — the scent of hope in the air and the chance for change and new beginnings.
Hope is energy. It is my fountain of youth.
Since then many things have happened to me during the year — learning more life lessons to keep my mind wiser and younger.
In March, together with that reluctant candidate, Reader’s Digest said we were the most trusted men in the country.
I can travel anywhere to help others because my wife knows that after 32 years of marriage she is the only woman who can share my bed.
I gain freedom when I gain trust. I gain trust when I do not covet my neighbor’s goods or my neighbor’s wife.
In June, it miraculously happened. Yellow became the color of hope again. Since 2003 when Tita Cory launched GK, yellow for us is people power over poverty, as pink is to cancer and red is to HIV.
Now with the son, hopefully yellow is the color of solidarity, of rich and poor working together to banish social inequity in our country.
The reluctant candidate became our bold head of state, the first bachelor President with no First Lady to pamper and no children to spoil with power. With no political debts, armed with the courage and eloquence of his father and the integrity of his mother, President Noy Aquino vowed to care for the poor and give hell to the corrupt.
Just the possibility of purging corruption from our system is mind-blowing to a nation resigned to it.
Smart politicians in our country are common but an honest leader is rare. I am confident however that more will emerge if the man at the top will show everyone that there is at least one.
I am not naïve to think that we can change overnight, no matter how honest or intelligent our leader is. Our problem is immense, he will make mistakes, his friends can betray his trust and he will be attacked by his enemies even if he does what is right. But if he remains steadfast in six years, great things will happen.
My trust has been betrayed by some whom I thought were true friends and I am not even a politician. But I hold my peace and try to do more good when bad things are done to me and to my country. Now I do not have to defend myself because the good that we do already keep defending us.
A sincere and honest man can sleep soundly like a baby even in the face of difficulty and wake up to find solutions the next day.
Freedom, hope and peace are God’s gift to me for 2010.
I thank God for the gift of country, for the profound affirmation that it is my privilege to be Filipino, that the Philippines is the best place for my family to be at this time when Asia is finally coming of age.
I thank God for the gift of family. My wife and I have six beautiful grandchildren who will grow up with honor in our land of great promise where no children have to be raised in slums or beg in the streets.
I thank God for our patriots and friends in Gawad Kalinga who will never abandon the poor. They are transforming more communities and breeding more heroes, here and abroad. We have a young leader in GK of great character, competence and compassion who is our bridge of hope to a brighter future by 2024. Luis Oquiñena is our guaranty that more dreams of the poor will be a reality.
I thank God for the saints of the poor and the guardian angels of those helping them– Joey Velasco, Nonoy Maloloy-on, Hecky Villanueva and Nong Feliciano — who have shown by their exemplary lives on earth that to love country is holy, that caring for the poor is true spirituality.
The year has been tiring but immensely exciting for me, spreading our good news in North America, Europe and Asia.
The GK Global Summit in Singapore in June helped us discover our kinship with other Asians and the need to nurture our bond to gain collective strength so none of us in the region will remain poor.
What was striking about Europe was that they saw poverty not as a matter of charity but a serious issue of morality. To them the failure to practice social justice is simply wrong — tolerating poverty is not acceptable. I shared with three universities in France and volunteers in Austria that social justice is the first step to progress in our GK villages. More like-hearted Europeans are coming next year to express solidarity.
In the United States, hospitality was undiminished despite the bad state of their economy. With recession in their country of choice and optimism in the homeland they left behind, Filipino Americans I visited were restless — their grass was not so green in America anymore — yet also hopeful, with many of them coming home to build their Filipino Dream now that there is a concrete channel that they can trust in GK and the resources to do it. As America has been a good home to 4 million Filipinos, we want 350 million Americans to discover that the Philippines is a good home to them in Asia.
The Canadians see Asia as family, friend, partner, resource and market and the Philippines as a main gateway to it because we speak English, we have nearly a 100 million consumer base and we are a source of educated and skilled immigrants to their country. Helping our country is a wise investment in goodwill, not charity.
They can sense that this is our moment.
Asia is the new powerhouse of the world. There are tremendous opportunities for growth in underdeveloped areas like the Philippines while many rich economies are in the doldrums. We can continue to lament our fate or decide to catch up and even surpass our less endowed neighbors. After hitting rock bottom, there is no place for us to go but up if we decide not to stay down. The key is to discover that love of country is the way to prosperity like the case of Singapore, Korea and Japan.
To grow our economy, we need to make a radical innovation in human resource development by looking at the poor as family.
That will motivate us to invest our time, talent and treasure in making them un-poor. It is natural for us never to give up on home and family because they define who we are.
Being a father to the poor keeps me young. Investing in raising them to be productive citizens is gratifying and makes good business sense.
In October, we received another global affirmation that GK is an effective Asian model of wealth creation with a big social impact. The Ernst&Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year award given to us meant that our model is viable, our cause is noble and our supporters are credible.
It pays to invest more money to do more good.
The big money is now on social business — green bucks for green technology — profit for more community benefit — turning trash to cash. Excellent Filipino brands can be produced cheaper locally, give better wages to poor workers, pay higher prices to poor farmers, get more carbon credits, raise more social entrepreneurs, be more competitive globally and create more wealth for our country. The key is less greed, more for others in need.
Our journey from shame to fame can be profitable for everyone.
The key is to think big for our small brother.
The big boys go for the big vision and the big idea that have proof of concept. The GK villages are concrete proof of the power of solidarity — of rich and poor, of capitalist and consumer working together to raise human dignity, promote productivity, expand the market base and create wealth for many.
The year 2010 is almost over, the air is getting colder, my tired body is slightly older, yet the spirit does not waiver as the vision is becoming clearer, the work is getting bigger and travel for me is more hectic than ever.
Time is precious for the traveler with much ground to cover before the journey is over, not failing to smell the flowers or smile to strangers along the way.
While many people my age think of slowing down for a much deserved rest, I think of accelerating my pace to catch the outpouring of opportunity and grace.
The dark clouds are parting, better times are up ahead and there’s no time to waste.
This was the overwhelming message in my recent backbreaking 18-city one month tour of hope in Europe (October 13 to 20) and Canada and the US (October 23 to November 15). Everywhere I went it was the same sentiment: our people want to come back and pay back, to build and to produce, to plant and to harvest, to rise with the dawn and set with the sun in the land we call home.
All the effort was worth it — my separation from loved ones, the almost daily packing and unpacking, the endless waiting in airports, half-sleeping up in the air, awakening passion in small and big sessions in town hall settings and formal dinners despite my own need for sleep — just to catch this precious moment of longing to help the country of our deepest affection.
Now I’m in Taiwan upon the invitation of the Jesuit Business School of Fu Jen University to talk about our brand of social innovation. It amuses me that my audience gets younger as I get older, that I can challenge young minds not to accept stale ideas that do not make life better for the planet that they will inherit. I am also energized by people my age who can remain young and fresh in outlook, who always look forward to a bright new day in the darkest of nights, to spring in the coldest of winter.
The onset of old age to many is like the first snow of winter — white hair for those who are lucky enough like me not to lose them and the dread of cold lonely nights in nursing homes or in big empty nests as grown children get too busy to visit or to call.
I look at mine differently.
I will never run out of nests if I continue to build for the homeless nor will they ever be empty if I never stop being a father to the strays. The buds will always sprout if I continue to plant and turn our barren countryside into fields of abundance to feed the hungry. Our country is poor not because we are less endowed but because we have squandered our endowment. We are poor because we do not wish wealth for all.
Taiwan for me is beautiful because I saw no extreme indulgence and no deep deprivation. Life is busy but there is a sense of serenity and simplicity, of fairness and justice where there is enough for everyone. I walked the clean safe streets of Taipei with two Ateneans in their twenties talking about how good life is when no one is left behind.
Tomorrow I fly to South Korea to keynote the opening of the Asian Social Entrepreneurship Summit 2010 (ASES). It will be an interesting gathering of dreamers, social venture capitalists and bankers who are finally starting to see more clearly how money can be the root of great good.
More interesting for me is the fact that our rich Asian neighbors want to hear the Gawad Kalinga story how the poor can create wealth to help our country join their ranks.
I’m just glad though that there is so much good to do and more people now want to do it. I guess growing old for me can wait.
2010 is the best year of my life. I know that we can make next year even better.