Poverty may be prevalent in the country, but Antonio Meloto is optimistic about building better communities for those in need. His dedication to helping solve this problem has spawned Gawad Kalinga (“to give care”), a movement working to build homes for poverty-stricken areas, of which he is now Executive Director.
Born in Bacolod in 1950, Meloto came from humble beginnings, and went to the public school Rizal Elementary School, from where he graduated in 1962 as valedictorian. He continued his studies at the Negros Occidental High School and graduated salutatorian in 1966. A year later, he got into the De Anza High School in Richmond, California, where he re-took his senior year as an American Field Exchange Scholar. He then became a Full Academic Scholar at the Ateneo De Manila University and graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 1971. Upon graduating, Meloto was offered the position of Purchasing Manager at Procter & Gamble Philippines, where he began a successful path as an entrepreneur.
It was in 1985 that he had an encounter with Couples For Christ that eventually transformed his vision and priorities and led him to join the organization full-time. He later brought CFC to Negros Occidental and played a part in putting up the CFC Family Ministries in 1993. Two years later, with the support of ANCOP Foundation International, he launched an anti-poverty program in Bagong Silang, Caloocan which evolved into what is now known as Gawad Kalinga. The mission of the movement is to empower communities and improve the living conditions of slum dwellers. With help and volunteers from CFC, it transformed Bagong Silang into the first Gawad Kalinga village, building decent houses for the community.
Meloto came up with the guidelines for the movement’s projects, including the condition that while beneficiaries don’t need to pay for their new homes, they must help the volunteers build them. In the following years, Gawad Kalinga drew sponsorship from expatriate Filipinos, civic organizations, schools, government agencies, and major corporations. Aside from building houses, it has also incorporated health, education and livelihood components into its villages.
Today, there are over 850 Gawad Kalinga villages, and the movement has a goal to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in 7 years, with 2010 as its target year for delivery.
Last year, Meloto received the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership for his achievements in Gawad Kalinga. He also received a Family Values Award from the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.
His other awards include the Ozanam Award from Ateneo de Manila University in 2003, and Most Outstanding Alumnus from Negros Occidental High School in 2001.