MANILA - Some friends of Gawad Kalinga (GK) founder Tony Meloto came to his defense after he was described as “sexist” and “offensive” by a university center in Hawaii.
GK volunteer Jose Ma. Montelibano replied to a post on the University of Hawaii Center for Philippine Studies official Facebook page, saying: “It is difficult to even imagine Tony Meloto thinks less of women when more than half of GK's volunteers and workers are women, more than half of the officers of homeowners associations of GK villages are empowered women, and a person cannot end up as one of the most trusted in Philippine society if one had a prejudiced or low regard for women.”
Montelibano added, “the possibility exists that one or two in the audience misconstrued without malice the tenor or colour of what Tony said. Even for that, I know Tony and GK will be saddened that such a conclusion was reached.”
In a statement yesterday, the University of Hawaii Center for Philippine Studies slammed Meloto for saying that "the greatest asset of the Philippines is our beautiful women." He allegedly went on to say that they can be used to entice the "best and brightest" men in the West to invest in the country.
The center called it "outrageously sexist and deeply offensive to everybody in the audience, as well as patronizing and disrespectful to Filipino women in particular."
Meloto’s camp has not answered calls of ABS-CBNnews.com for comment.
Dr. Vina Lanzona, the center’s director, confirmed the statement was a “collective statement” by the executive council of the center.
Some netizens have asked the center to release the full speech and video so that they can assess for themselves what Meloto said.
'HE'S NOT PERFECT'
Marie Magdalena Cavasora, who claims to work and live at GK Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan, said: “From my interactions with him I see a man of action, of integrity and tireless service, with genuine love for the poor and our country. And because he is human, just like you and me, he is not perfect.”
Cavasora calls Meloto “Tito Tony” but said they are not blood relatives. She said Meloto is “subject to a whole range of behavior, expressing impatience and ill- emper, but never malice or greed. He loves to laugh and sing and enjoy a cold bottle of beer at the end of a long, hot day in the bamboo village, with French and local interns and management team, a ragtag of smart women and men, all beautiful inside and out.”
She said Meloto knows when to discipline, “berating us when we fall short of doing what we’re capable of.”
She noted Meloto indeed speaks in such a way that can “disrupt someone’s sensitive sensibilities.” She said this is to shock them out of their “stupor and complacency.”
“At the end of the day, only you can decide the kind of man Tito Tony is. And if you have not met him or experienced him in some significant way, I encourage you to find out for yourself. Come see him and see what he’s built and continue to build,” she said.
In a separate post, an assistant professor from the UH Center for Philippine Studies also came to the defense of Meloto.
Lilia Quindoza Santiago said on her Facebook, “I will stand by Tony Meloto on this one issue - paninindigan ko ito, mga kapatid, mga kasama at mga kaibigian. If there is one thing sorely lacking in the CPS statement, it is what I have always believed in - respect and kindness. Tony deserves all of it, not just token as in inviting him as guest speaker for the closing ceremonies only to be stabbed in the back by those who invited him. I have long ceased to be a member of the CPS Executive council but if I had stayed, on I would have protested along the lines I have stated here - protested against the circulation of this self-righteous, unkind, disrespectful circular!”
She said she was not offended by Meloto’s speech and said she will upload the video in due time.
She said Meloto only said “the greatest attraction of the Philippines is its beautiful women.” Meloto then went on to narrate about how his British son-in-law fell in love with the Philippines, GK, and his daughter, she said.
“I have known Tony Meloto since 1966 when we were both part of batch 1966 of the American Field Service scholars - that group of high school students sent to the US to live with American foster families. He has built communities, he has founded Gawad Kalinga. He is my friend and he will always be, for all that he has done and continues to do for the Philippines and the Filipino people,” she said.