Many of you my loving and faithful readers know that I am a full-blooded Filipino, for sale born and raised in the Philippines. I came with my family to the United States 14 years ago to find a better life and we did. I remember not wanting to come over here because I didn't want to leave my friends back home. I just can't imagine being in a foreign country at that time. I love my country, there I love being a Filipino. I love our culture, the simplicity of life, and all the silly things that we Filipinos can come up with to laugh at even in times of extreme adversity and disaster. Filipinos are everywhere in the world…one way or another, you might have already met one or a few. If you did, you know that (modesty aside) we are the friendliest and the most hospitable people you will ever meet. We are known for being resilient and hard workers. It is unfortunate though that no matter how hard we work, our country is still considered a "third-world."
It has been awhile since I last visited the Philippines. Honestly, I don't know what it's like anymore. But I know that poverty is still the most critical social problem to be resolved. Poverty exists. Poverty is real to the Filipinos living there.
I want to share with you a heartbreaking video of one of the areas in Manila, the country's capital, called Payatas. It is a real place – where people live and make a living out of garbage. I, personally have never seen it, even though I grew up in the city. The houses you see on the video are made of cardboard boxes which have become a common type of shelter for people living in the slum areas.
But not only that. Below is another video showing how the poor gather left-over chickens in the garbage from restaurants and food chains, re-cook them and sell. I guess you can say that it's being resourceful. Believe it or not, there are people who would buy it and eat it regardless.
The fact of the matter is I am no stranger to lack and poverty. My brother and I was raised by a single parent, who thankfully has been gifted with such an enormous courage and grace to raise her two children on her own. I have never ever met such a strong and courageous woman such as my mom. She was able to build her own business in fashion but eventually lost it due to unfortunate circumstances. Prior to that and after its downfall, our life has always been about moving from one house to another. We have been evicted, locked out, displaced, forced to live with another family, and so on. Thankfully, it has never gotten to a point where we've had to live in cardboard boxes or on the streets and despite everything, my mom was still able to send us to school. Yet, it's still quite an experience while growing up.
Why am I being so transparent and being so vulnerable to thousands of you whom I have never even met?
Recently I came to realize that I am a Filipino and whether I end up marrying another Filipino or someone from another race and culture, my children will still have Filipino blood in them and I will have to take them back and show them their roots. I want my children to be proud of the Philippines, its people, culture, and values. I want them to see a better Philippines and I want to be able to look back and tell my kids, I was a part of making it better and I want you to do the same.
Because of my childhood experience, putting less-fortunate families in decent homes is very close to my heart. I want less-fortunate children to have a decent environment while growing up and going to school. I am not yet a mother but I can't imagine raising my kids in cardboard homes surrounded with tons and tons of garbage.
There must be something that I can do to help, I thought and wondered how. Then a few weeks ago I have been contacted via email by a girl who saw me in the November issue of Texas Monthly, a pretty huge publication in the state of Texas. Jackie, who is partly a Filipino and a volunteer of Gawad Kalinga, told me about the said non-profit organization in the Philippines and has a chapter here in the States. Immediately I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a part of what they're doing – building communities for the less-fortunate in the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and a few others.
Thus, my mom and I launched this campaign Fashion Against Poverty. Fashion is what I do and God has blessed me and continues to bless me to be able to do what I love and I want to give back.
It only costs $2,800.00 to build a decent home for a family. I have personally designed two shirts and my goal is to put 10 families into a home of their own on the first and second quarter of next year through the sales of my fashion shirts – 30% of the net profits will go towards Gawad Kalinga. That means, I need to sell approximately 5,000 shirts within the next 30 days. I will keep reproducing and doing the same until I can complete my first Gawad Kalinga village with 30 houses. Will you join me? Please click on the banner link below to view the shirts and for purchasing information. The shirts will make a perfect gift this Christmas!