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3 Years, 3 Steps

Why do I do what I do?

I get that question (not in that form always, though) a lot, and I find it slightly frustrating that I find it difficult or even impossible to answer. But, at the same time, I know that what I’m doing is right, right in the sense that it’s the path of God’s love. So I still manage to feel at peace.

My mentor¬†believes that we should spend our earthly lives preparing for heaven – if¬†the Good Lord does accept us into His loving arms, being the perpetual sinners we are. And the best way to do this is to live out our Christian faith – and living a life like Christ did – which basically means living a life for others and not just for one’s self. The¬†Gospel of Matthew did say that we should “not lay up for [ourselves] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven,¬†where neither moth nor¬†rusts destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (6:19-20) Further on, Jesus says that we cannot serve both God and money (6:24).

So all this wealth and prestige don’t matter at all in heaven. They actually get taken against us if the means we used to pursue said luxuries are not in line with ethical conduct. And would you want to spend eternity in hell, or spend a longer time in purgatory?

Before I finished university, our dean gave us some parting words that I take to heart until this day: to dream big, to include others in dreaming big, to seek God’s hand in everything we do, and to make our alma mater proud. I am a big dreamer, yes, but I will admit that even my deepest desires, in the past, were self-motivated.¬†Up to now, I want to be a novelist, and I actually am working on it on the side. But I used to want to be one so that I could be rich and famous, the next J. K. Rowling or J. R. R. Tolkien. I also used to want to be fluent in many languages just to show off how much I could speak and bask in the glory of the praises of many.

It all changed just a little over three years ago. I was invited to the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm on an exposure trip before we left for our exchange programs abroad. In one day alone, my whole life changed forever.

I suddenly realized I had a purpose: to help contribute to solving the oldest and most pressing social issue of the country, the economic poverty of its people. I’d always wanted to do something for the street children and beggars in the streets of Metro Manila, but I didn’t know how. Now, I did:¬†I knew that I wanted to become a social entrepreneur.

But even after that I sometimes had doubts. Why did I want to become one? Was I truly touched by the plight of the less fortunate? Or was I joining a bandwagon and secretly wanting to bask in this glory that I was someone who was abandoning a multimillion career to help the poor? So throughout senior year, I kept volunteering in the Farm on behalf of the training-and-development social enterprise that had invited me there and had now accepted me as a volunteer associate, Frontline Social Enterprises Development Corp.

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When I graduated from college, I knew that I wanted to¬†both go into the academe and immerse myself in the world of linguistics and multilingualism, and be a social entrepreneur committed to helping end poverty in the Philippines. But I “had” to take things slowly. First, I rested (and traveled with my family that summer). I also learned how to cook, investing in myself with potential for business ideas (and learning how to become more self-reliant in the process).

It was in August that year – my, my, August always seems to be pivot months for me – where my learnings¬†evolved into something much greater, and have continued to do so ever since. It changed my way of thinking, too – at a time when I felt I didn’t¬†need changing. How very wrong and selfish I was.

One of the social entrepreneurs I knew from work at GK was setting up a social enterprise consultancy with a fellow Frontliner (whom I had introduced, ironically) and they were inviting me to become their administrative officer. This consulting firm was under the foundation I now volunteer full-time in, the Benita & Catalino Yap Foundation (BCYF). I quit the consultancy, however, because I hated my time in sales, which is what we were assigned to.

Today, I manage a support project of BCYF’s; the link’s on the top menu of this site: CSR Bookshelf. It’s an online research library for CSR learners and teachers, so I thought that it would fit in well with my love for the academe (inexperienced with it though I may be) and organizing things in general.

But there were times that I still felt that I was not fulfilling my purpose, a purpose that Рas I re-learned Рwriting contributed to. With the help of my peers, I tried my best to see and appreciate the bigger picture. And see and appreciate I did.

We do what we do because we believe in human dignity – that each human being is a unique individual endowed with their own capacities, abilities, and potential. Furthermore, we want to tap into said dignity to contribute to nation-building – and most concretely, this is done through none other than social enterprise. Social enterprise, however, rooted in what we call CSR 3.0.

What does this mean? Well, we believe – thanks to the teachings of one Dr. Wayne Visser, who happened to be BCYF’s first CSR research conference speaker – that traditional corporate social responsibility can still be improved on to achieve its social objectives. Dr. Visser coined the concept of transformative CSR, or “CSR 2.0” – corporate sustainability and responsibility – that CSR cannot be simply an addendum to an organization’s activities, but must form its heart and soul and run in its lifeblood – in short, it must be the organization’s¬†raison d’√™tre: its primary goal is to solve a social problem through business. But BCYF went further.

Inspired by Dr. Francisco Roman’s update of the definition to mean “citizenship, sustainability, and social responsibility”, our chairman¬†worked with the tenet that for true social responsibility to take place, it must begin with the self, the individual, before it gets elevated to the organizational level. He adopted it as “CSR 3.0”, and taught it to encompass not just CSR 2.0 but also the principles of purposeful volunteerism, charity, and personal good governance. Inspired by a colleague’s “branding”, BCYF now started to market “making CSR a lifestyle” – that is, everything we do must be rooted in purpose of CSR down to the humblest task.

I agree. True development cannot occur if only one part Рsuch as the economic aspect Рdevelops; it has to be holistic and integral. This is what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote about in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate in 2009. Development is not development if only a few elite benefit leaving the masses behind unchanged or worse, worse off. But that is what is happening to our country, and that is a threat of corporate careerism among others.

I’ve repeatedly realized how crucial the work I do¬†is. Without compiling proper research on anything, the things we say become less credible – and with proper research also comes more inspiration to rephrase it in layman’s terms that everyone can understand and live out.

On the matter of financial sustainability, which is a necessity in this life no matter how much we deny it, well, CSR does mean citizenship,¬†sustainability, and social responsibility. That is to say, our efforts are also for naught if we cannot sustain them – which I have since interpreted to include the personal sustainability of the people working on them. While I now don’t seek the fortune of J. K. Rowling or Dan Brown, I do seek to address social issues through my writings and use them as vessels of inspiration for others to live out their own CSR.

We don’t¬†directly conquer the world with social change, for it takes a huge community of passionate individuals to do that. Instead, we try to achieve social change within our own spheres, and hopefully get many youths to become agent of social change in¬†their spheres too, creating an exponential effect that will¬†then impact the whole country and the wider world.

It’s both nerve-wracking and exciting. This is something bigger than all of us combined, but done effectively and efficiently, it has the capacity to change the world. For the better. And for God’s glory and nothing else. And that’s why it’s exciting and why I’m still here doing what I do.

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