Where the Heart Is: Randy Gabuat on His Hometown, the Philippines
Three years ago, I met Randy Gabuat, someone who is passionate about expressing his love for the Philippines and promoting volunteering to help many Filipinos living in underprivileged communities. Motivating and developing people has always been his major strength. Helping others, particularly volunteers, to achieve positive results is consistently evident in his actions. As a volunteer for Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP) in Melbourne, he was one of the top fundraisers in 2014 for new housing in San Mateo, Our Lady Of Banneux Philippines. More about ANCOP.
Gabuat is now based in Australia, but when he was a boy living in Ilocos Sur, he would do farm work and earn P100 for a day’s work harvesting tobacco. When he returned to the Philippines for the holidays, he would go back to farm work to help his local community. He reflected, however, that although some eight years had passed, the daily rate of pay had only increased to P120, which was below the poverty level.
As a banker, Gabuat had made a good and comfortable life for himself in Australia but he always looked back to his childhood and his affection for the Philippines where he had grown up. Life is so much tougher in the Philippines and he understood the importance of volunteers to help impoverished communities improve their incomes and the quality of life.
Since meeting Gabuat in Melbourne in 2014 while I was a scholar with AusAid (Taste.Company on Australia Awards),we had countless fun times of fundraising together with a group of young professionals called Unity for Purpose (Unity For Purpose Facebook), which raises funds for Care for Kids in Indonesia and TulongsaKapwaKapatid (2KK)2KK Foundation in the Philippines. Weekly meetings were held to create fund raising events including fun runs, concerts and even movie premieres.
Since 2014 Unity For Purpose works together fundraising for Indonesia’s Care4Kids and Philippines’ Tulong Sa Kapwa Kapatid Foundation as both organization’s share the same vision for children’s right to quality education.
With his experience of fundraising and volunteering in Melbourne, he thought about going back to the Philippines to serve and help his country. He didn’t know where to start until 2KK had an opening to expand and hire full time staff to run the 13 year-old non-profit organization. Built by the youth for the youth in the Philippines, 2KK is committed to teach values and provide educational help and scholarships to children and young people: Taste.Company on Kapwa Kapatid.
It was through 2KK that Gabuat thought he would be able to contribute best while living in the Philippines. We subsequently decided to work together to make things happen when he accepted our Board’s offer to become the full-time Executive Director of 2KK for a year.
A whole year has passed and Gabuat has become well loved in every community that he has visited, from all the children, to college students, to their parents. His year of ‘serving’ was full of shared learnings and experiences, which we can keep forever. His work has significantly helped 2KK in their dream of strengthening the three S’s – Structure, Systems, and Sustainability.
Gabuat made sure that, aside from his community development work, he maximized his time in the Philippines by seeing the beauty of our country. He was able to visit different places and cities with countless trips from Manila to his hometown in Ilocos Sur, Benguet, Sagada, Baguio, Palawan, and Quezon. He even swam with whale sharks in Cebu!
Gabuat in the Beautiful Rice Terraces in Banaue, Philippines
Gabuat says he always works towards Warren Buffet’s vision, “If you are going to help somebody, help the ones who are already helping themselves.”(Warren Buffet is an incredibly successful US investor and works closely with Bill Gates, his close friend, on international charitable projects.)
Gabuat’s story proves that even when circumstances take Filipinos away from their motherland, there are still many ways to give back and support the efforts back home. He shows us a true example of love for his country. He is set on wanting to build more projects and opportunities in the future so that he will be able to visit the Philippines and continue the development of all the good work that can be done.