Many of us have heard
the Dylan Wilks story, the rich young Englishman who started a life of improving
the plight of poor, homeless Filipinos by selling his BMW to build cheap houses
for 80 families. But few people really know what led Wilks to do what he did.
For Filipinos, his story stands out because it highlights the best in every
Filipino ó the traits that many have to see before remembering that they
exist. Nowadays, when every
politician seems to be talking about how to save the poor and the country
without really doing anything, itís nice to here from someone who has actually
dedicated his life to doing just that ó one household at a time. Then we
realize that weíre only hopeless if we think we are and that we can actually
do something to improve the lives of the people around us if we set our minds to
Dylan Wilks has
settled in Manila, where he has become one of the most prominent endorsers of
everything good in the Filipinos. Bo Sanchez interviewed him for Kerygma
magazine which is published by Shepherdís Voice.
Dylan Wilks was born
to a poor family. But at the young age of 20, he started a computer games
company that made him a millionaire. Soon, Dylan operated in nine countries and
ran his own TV channel. Then at the age of 25, Dylan sold his company for
multi-million British pounds. He became the ninth richest person in Great
Britain under the age of 30.
But one night, while
lying in bed, he was distressed by a nagging question that wouldnít let him
sleep. ďGod, why am I rich?Ē
He asked if there was
a reason for his immense wealth. Ironically, he also felt terribly empty inside.
This, despite his ability to have any kind of pleasure he wanted. He had just
bought himself a brand-new Ferrari and took one holiday after another. But he
was discovering that pleasure was like fire... it constantly needed more fuel to
keep it going. And he realized he would never be happy in the path he was
One day, a Filipina
friend visited him. She said she felt guilty going there because her plane fare
could have built two homes for the poor. That made Dylan pause. How can you
build two houses for that meager amount? He decided to investigate.
In January 2003, he
visited the Philippines. And for three hours, Gawad Kalinga (GK) Director Tony
Meloto brought Dylan to different GK villages for the poor. With his own eyes,
he saw something that would change his life forever...
Bo: What did you see
on that day?
Dylan: I saw hope.
More than newly built houses, I saw transformed lives. We were entering rather
dangerous slums, breeding ground for thieves and kidnappers... yet in the middle
of that was an oasis... the Gawad Kalinga village. I saw people smiling, men
working, children laughing... Iíve seen many other projects in South East Asia
and across the world. And Iíve never seen anything like GK. This was
different. This really worked!
Bo: So what did you do
after your trip?
Dylan: I went back to
England. I saw my BMW parked in the garage and realized I could build 80 homes
with it... and affect the lives of 600 people. I saw the faces of the children I
could help. I called up Tony Meloto and told him I was thinking of donating
$100,000 to Gawad Kalinga and asked him if that was okay...
Bo: What did Tony say?
Dylan: He said, ďNo,
I donít want your money.Ē
Bo: Only Tony can say
something like that. (Laughs.)
Dylan: He said if I
was really serious in working for the poor, I should go back to the Philippines.
So two months later, I sold my BMW and flew back to Manila. And in June of that
year, I made a decision to stay in the Philippines and work for GK for seven
Dylan: Iíve decided
to invest in the poor of the Philippines. Not in stocks or bonds. If I can help
in uplifting the poor of this country, I can say that I spent my life well.
Bo: I presume your
family wasnít too crazy about that decision.
Dylan: No! They
thought I was brainwashed by a religious cult! (Laughs.) So my mother came and
spied on me. But she was soon convinced of the beautiful work we were doing and
went back home and told my sister about it. And my sister said, ďOh no, they
brainwashed you too!Ē (Laughs.) But today, all of them support what I do.
Bo: Youíve made a
decision to give up your wealth for the Filipino poor.
Dylan: I donít see
it as a sacrifice. When you give charity out of pity, you feel pain parting with
your money. But when you give charity because you love, you donít feel that
pain. You only feel the joy of giving to someone you love. Thatís what I feel.
Bo: I hear you built
an entire village for GK in Bulacan.
Dylan: I donít see
it as my village. I just provided the materials. Architects, engineers,
volunteers gave their labor. Together, we built 63 houses for the poor.
Bo: Amazing. What else
do you do?
Dylan: I go around the
world telling everyone that Filipinos are heroic because I work with them every
day... the volunteers of GK.
Bo: What do you see in
the Filipino that we take for granted?
Dylan : Youíre
hardworking. Youíre always laughing, always eating, always singing, even in
your problems. Youíre loyal and honest. Sure, there are exceptions, but
generally, thatís been my experience. And you have the bayanihan spirit.
pyramids of Egypt are beautiful but they were built by slavery. GK villages are
more beautiful because theyíre made through the bayanihan spirit of the
Filipino. Itís especially this bayanihan and love of family and community that
makes the Filipino more valuable than gold.
If you take a golden nugget and kick
it on the floor for 400 years, afterwards you wonít be able to see much gold,
just mud. This was what happened to the Filipino... for 400 years you were
slaves and then you suffered under dictatorship and corruption.
This is where
the crab mentality came from; I donít think itís a natural Filipino quality
because every day I see the gold under the surface of ordinary Filipinos. If we
wipe away the mud by bringing hope and being brothers to one another in bayanihan, the gold will shine through and the world will see it.
Bo: Let me get
personal here. I hear that you donít only love the Filipinos, but youíve
fallen for a particular Filipina.
Dylan: (Smiles.) Two
months ago, I married Anna Meloto, the eldest daughter of Tony Meloto. She grew
up with the GK work, so weíre totally one in our mission. And yes, Iíll be
having Filipino children. The best way I can secure a future for my kids is to
continue to help raise this country from poverty. Instead of building high walls
in an exclusive subdivision to protect us from thieves and kidnappers, I will go
to the breeding ground of thieves and kidnappers and help transform their lives.
Bo: Thank you for this
interview. You donít know how much you inspired me.
Dylan: Thank you for
being our partner in GK. I read Kerygma every month and Iím happy to see GK
stories in every issue.
Bo: Itís our immense
privilege to tell the world about it and ask others to join the miracle.
To me, GK isnít just Gawad Kalinga. It is a part of ďGodís KingdomĒ in
this world. Thank you.
By Tim Pedrosa
To learn more
about Gawad Kalinga, visit the following websites:
you bring out the best in others, it brings out the best in you. We sometimes lose perspective of the difference we can make, when we
care more of our giving and care less of what we take.