A Retirees’ Haven At GK Enchanted Farm
There is no Retirees’ Haven yet at GK Enchanted Farm located at my hometown in Angat, Bulacan, Philippines. It is just an idea that came into my mind when I joined a two-day Bloggers’ Weekend last May 24 – 25, 2014 during which we were briefed of GK’s vision and mission. We were also shown the various facilities that GK had built in an area that was rather inconspicuous during my growing up years there. It is not so anymore and I certainly recommend it for anyone to visit when they have the time.
GK stands for Gawad Kalinga which means to “give care” in Filipino. It is a Philippine-based poverty alleviation and nation-building movement that aims to end poverty for 5 million families by 2024. The movement which had attained both national and international recognition and support for its various development programs is currently present in almost every province in the country, spread in over 2,000 organized communities and affecting 60,000 families.
The GK Enchanted Farm is a developed community located in what was formerly agricultural land quarried unabatedly in the past for the gravel and sand underneath its soil. Through some donations and lease, the Enchanted Farm now occupies some twenty (20) hectares of land where Gawad Kalinga had already built facilities in furtherance of its objective to reduce the “artificial poverty in our rich country”. During the weekend that we were there, the following were shown to us:
- Home For The Homeless – Twenty-five (25) low-cost duplex houses occupied by some fifty (50) families from various depressed areas in Metro-Manila. Around twenty (20) families are natives of the Barangay (village) Encanto where the Enchanted Farm is located.
- Convention Center – Built at a cost of ₱40-M from a donation by Hyundae Group of Korea, the facility has a big conference area that could seat 300 participants and four (4) smaller buildings that can be used for dining and/or meetings of smaller groups of people.
- Mini-Cultural Center – A covered space decorated with work of arts and where school graduations and stage plays can be held.
- Industrial Kitchen – Donated by the Berjaya Group of Malaysia, a full kitchen where culinary training can be held aside from the usual preparation of foods for the guests and volunteers.
- Dining Facility – Good for up to 300 people dining at the same time, the area serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with foods cooked using ingredients produced in the farm and nearby areas.
- Swimming Pool – Located in a wooded area of the community, the facility was recently added for the recreation of guests (also called “campers”).
- Social Enterprises – Currently in incubation stage, Plush And Play, stuffed toys featuring native fruits and vegetables are manufactured in a small building very near the houses of relocated residents. Another small building in the same location is being used in the production of Golden Egg, an organic substitute for the red salted eggs in the market. A third social enterprises, Gourmet Keso (Kesong Puti) production is housed near the dining area. How to prepare and cook Hamlet, natural meat products that are free from artificial food additives, taste enhancers and preservatives was also demonstrated to us.
- Bamboo Palace – The nicely-designed building is located in the highest point in the community so one can see the surrounding areas when he is in its second floor. Weddings and other similar events can be held in this facility.
- Enchanted Farm Village University – While there is no physical school building yet in the community, GK will start a free two-year course for some 40 poor but deserving high school graduates from nearby villages this coming school year. Equivalent to Grades 11 and 12 of the new K to 12 curriculum, GK aims to produce the first social entrepreneurs after they finish the course.
In the course of presenting its objectives and by way of showing us what they had accomplished so far, it can be said that GK is on the way of achieving what it wanted for its existence. However, if it really wants to “give care” as its name suggests, I find GK lacking in its caring for the senior citizens. It is providing shelter and livelihood for the middle-aged homeless family heads and their dependents and giving free education to young would-be social entrepreneurs but nothing for able-bodied retirees who had spent most of their lives in service for our country and people.
At the first opportunity during the open forum with Mr. Tony Meloto, Founder and acknowledged Head of Gawad Kalinga, I voiced out the observation and was initially surprised by his remark that he is concerned with the generations of Filipinos who can help alleviate poverty and not with old ones who had spent their useful energies and therefore useless already in terms of contributing to nation-building.
Not one who will easily give up on a discussion about something I feel worth pursuing, I continue explaining what I mean by providing haven to able-bodied retirees and told him the following:
- By able-bodied retirees, I refer to senior citizens aged 60 and above who can still do not so demanding physical activities in a farm environment. At the very least, male able-bodied retirees should be able to tend vegetable garden plots and his female counterpart should be able to cook meals and take care of keeping their house clean and in order.
- For the senior citizens to be entitled to a slot in the proposed retirees’ haven at the Enchanted Farm, they should be able to finance their stay by way of support from their children and relatives and/or from their retirement savings, pensions and other incomes.
- The retiree’s haven is a place where able-bodied senior citizens can stay away from the hassles of the city and enjoy an atmosphere similar to what they enjoyed when they were young. It will not be a nursing home for the already physically-challenged old ones.
After explaining the above, Mr. Meloto somewhat changed his mind and threw back the challenge to me. He said it’s on me to make a thorough study, solicit support and exert effort to see the project through. How’s that for a challenge to a 2-year senior citizen who had been retired for 17 years now? Should I take the challenge? Can I count on you for support?