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How a ‘mother’s enterprise’ is helping support a village

Smart Communications, Inc.

Posted on Monday, May 21, 2012

Wawa Heritage Restaurant provides a warm, homey ambiance.

“We are opening this place in honor and in memory of my mother,” said international lifestyle designer PJ Arañador during the inauguration of his Wawa Heritage Restaurant in Jaro, Iloilo City. The name of the restaurant itself is a homage to his mother who was called Wawa by her grandchildren, for they could not pronounce the word ‘lola.’

While he was giving the toast, several other women were surrounding PJ. They are mothers from the PLDT-Smart Amazing Gawad Kalinga Village in Sooc, Arevalo District in Iloilo. In his speech, PJ said he may have already lost his mom, but he nevertheless found several more mothers in the women of the GK Sooc community.

The women of GK Sooc are the beneficiaries of a livelihood program being implemented today by PJ and wireless services provider Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) together with GKonomics , the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), Business Fair Trade Consulting, and Sooc Social Ventures. Dubbed Project Zero, the program aims to provide income to the families through the recycling of tarpaulin materials used previously as Smart’s billboards and banners – turning them into artistic and useful objects like bags, home furnishings and ornaments. It was named so because this livelihood aims for zero unemployment and zero garbage by making products with zero electricity and carbon footprint.

Maligaya kami at proud kami. Sila ang nagbigay sa amin ng pag-asa. (We are happy and proud, they were the ones who gave us hope.)” said Ana Ylio, the president of GK Sooc’s Kapitbahayan, their community’s association. They were present during the opening ceremonies, and Ana said seeing their crafts highlighted in the program gives them a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

The chairs in the restaurant were covered up with used tarpaulin that they made by hand artistically and painstakingly, one wouldn’t realize that it’s made of something already considered trash. The candle holders and other decorations were likewise made of woven tarpaulin materials. On that same night, the newly-opened restaurant even hosted a fashion show that paraded their most popular creation today – fashion bags made of tarpaulin.

“This is what’s keeping us busy today,” said Ana in Filipino. “If you visit our village, there used to be so many of us who are jobless. Thanks to Smart, PJ and other groups who are helping us, we now have a livelihood that’s helping us mothers provide food to our families everyday. Sana tuloy-tuloy na. (Hope it continues.)”

“Aside from being a place where they can sell their products both for home and fashion, Wawa can also give employment to some of the women who can work in the kitchen,” said PJ. “Some other plans for this place include workshops for their children, and a feeding program where customers can offer the other half of their paid meal to the children of GK Sooc and other communities.

PJ said this is just the beginning for the mothers of GK who are now busy in production, due to orders from Manila and other places. He believes that with the creativity and hard work of the residents of GK Sooc, they can do more and achieve more.

“I think I cannot imagine my work anymore without humanity. My heart is really in working with the craftsmen ,” said PJ who has returned from his work in various places in Asia, South America and Africa to teach his kababayans in his Iloilo hometown to make more useful and marketable designs using discarded tarpaulin materials that Smart is supplying to them for free. PJ added that he envisions this small handmade enterprise that he helped build with the GK Sooc residents to grow into something more, by inventing more creations like garments and high-end furniture – all using recycled tarpaulin.

From being just an old “kamalig” (warehouse), PJ and the GK Sooc community transformed the place into a restaurant that now celebrates Iloilo’s heritage, culture, people and food. It stands as a symbol of cooperation and collaboration between willing groups and the community. Most of all, it reflects hard work that is inspired by every mother’s love for her family, and a mother who taught her son to always give back to the place that nurtured him. 

The women of GK Sooc and their families during the launch of the restaurant.

The restaurant is built and designed with mostly recycled materials, including the chairs wrapped with handcrafted tarpaulin used previously as Smart’s billboards and banners.

Tarpaulin seat covers designed to look more artistic.

The decorations are also made of recycled materials like these candle holders made of woven tarpaulin.

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