Illac Diaz: My New Social Leader Idol

PMThe first time I saw him was on The Bottomline with Boy Abunda last night. And how I fell for Gibo Teodoro was how he presented himself amid the frontal interrogations on his character, his life and his intentions. What is it with articulate and good looking men that makes them so underappreciated in this country? He had a very long impressive list of achievements to the point he was asked the biggest question that night: Does he feel jealous that the world celebrated Efren Penaflorida more than him?

He calls himself a "social entrepreneur." What’s that?
A social entrepreneur, simply put, is a businessman who gives back to society through his business while in the process of operation.

His major achievements include:

Pier One,  a lodging place for Filipino seafarers located in Intramuros, Manila. With this project, Illac essentially provided good lodging for Filipino seafarers and overseas contract workers. Previously, these same contract workers would just check in to cheap inns or motels in the Ermita and Malate areas in Manila, but these inns are still more expensive than Pier One Seafarer’s Dormitory.

MyShelter Foundation. When he noticed the lack of classrooms in the provinces, he thought of a way to solve it, together with the problem in housing in Negros Occidental. When he noticed the strong adobe bridges, which withstood the test of time since the time of Spanish occupation in the Philippines, he went to the CalEarth Institute in California to gain expertise in the Earthbag Construction System. By enlisting the help of volunteer laborers and indigenous materials, the cost of building houses and classrooms went down.

Peanut Revolution. It is an easy-to-make manually operated concrete device that neatly shells peanuts, 30 kilos an hour, providing for an inexpensive source of protein and income for rural areas.

Bicycle Washing Machines and Bicycle Ambulances

Usap Kamay Program, where teachers from the Southeast Asian Institute for the Deaf (SAID) would teach Ateneo students sign language and they would in turn tutor SAID students in Math, Science and English. As an indication of its success, Usap-Kamay continues up to the present, with an annual average of 20 Ateneo participants and hundreds of alumni in the program.

Good Guys Inc. helps Metro Manila law students by eliminating the daily difficulty of lining up to photocopy legal cases for their classes, as well as bringing in better copying technology that minimized the health risk to machine operators from toxic liquid toners.

The moment one hears Illac talk about his work with both seriousness and passion, one can't help but think, "Is this guy for real?" I thought so too.

Boy: You are very good looking. Then you talk about social entrepreneurship. Sineseryoso ka ba ng mga tao? (Are people taking you seriously?)
“Sineseryoso ko ba sarili ko. That was how it started. With so much power and so much influence is all I have to say? ‘Brush your teeth with this. Comb your hair with this.’

Boy: Sa’n nanggagaling ang pagmamahal mo sa mahihirap?
“In the Diaz family, it was really strong. Tita Rio, with her faith she was a public servant. My parents also. It was more than just giving us good clothes.  They really showed us to spend time living on the other side. It was an extension beyond of just living well it was your responsibility.”

“Is it just success. Or is your notion of success bringing along people with you.”

Boy: Di ka ba napapagod gumawa ng maganda? (Are you not tired of doing good?) In a country that is not very vocal about appreciation. Do you really think you are truly appreciated in this country?
“Every leadership has this path of loneliness. Minsan you have the vision. Di kaagad yan nakikita ng tao. (You may have the vision but it takes time for people to realize that.)You have to accept that. It is not normal for people trained today to focus on the other 90% (poor). If we just use our knowledge and power to change the lives of the growing population that have been left behind.”

Boy: Are you appreciated?
“After seven years of hardwork.” Aww…

Boy: Wala ka bang tampo? (Do you have any ill-feelings?) After all you’ve done a lot, you were not given the same celebration. Do you think he (Efren Penaflorida)  got much much more recognition?
“Efren opened the eyes of the US and even around the world that there are big things happening here in the Philippines.”

Boy: Ikaw ba, pinapansin ka ng gobyerno?
“You cannot expect things to happen for you. The point is you always want the government to come in. There’s a problem with this. Government is bureaucratic. They want to replicate what they have been doing for years. It conflicts with innovation.”

Boy: Bakit mahal mo ang mahirap? Ano ang alam mo sa pagiging mahirap? (Why do you love the poor? What do you know about being poor?)
“It’s not even a choice. It’s an obligation of every Filipino to something that could make the country better.”

“Illac, whose name is an Aztec term meaning "God of Light," is in a unique position to inspire others with ideas, vision and passion to create enterprises that uplift sectors of society that would otherwise be forgotten. He is pioneering a whole new field of entrepreneurship, one that seeks to bring the strengths, efficiencies and solutions of business to bear on problems of society.”
-Artessa Saldivar-Sali, The Philippine Star-

Watch the full interview here. The videos autoplay so just let it load one after the other.

For more awesomeness:

  1. Learn more about the biggest environmental project in the Philippines.
  2. More about RAFI Climate Change Forum
  3. How Politics can save the world from Climate Change
  4. Support Philippines in the BBC World Challenge 2010
  5. Read interesting stuff on Illac Diaz
  6. Know why we should not be focused on greening.


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