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Community Building in Manila


Community Building in Manila

Kelly Salance

Bayanihan. It is a term that is not easily used in a conversation. It implies a sense of selflessness and coming together as a community to achieve a common good. Derived from the word, bayan, meaning community or town, bayanihan means “being a community.” It can trace its roots in the old days when neighbors would come together to literally move a house, to carry a neighbor’s house upon one’s shoulders and relocate it to a new location along with their possessions. A festive occasion, the family prepares a small fiesta to culminate the day’s hard work and give thanks to everyone who helped.

Today, bayanihan means having a sense of community, camaraderie, and resiliency. While Filipinos no longer move houses upon their shoulders, everyday burdens are shared and halved by coming together.

Earlier this month, we saw this exceptional sense of bayanihan when 52 members of our Advocacy team came together to help build houses with our community partner Habitat for Humanity Philippines to culminate their completion of the large project of becoming ‘unified support’.


Very early on in the project, the whole team knew that coming together under one roof as unified support was going to be a daunting task. As teams had to learn new skills, undergo training, and look forward to merging multiple teams into one, there was no doubt that this whole experience was going to be a unique one for our advocates. What better way to underscore this process than by coming together and helping with a Habitat build.

Building a house is hard. It is labor intensive and requires many hands and hearts to make it happen. It requires that everyone work together, coordinate to make the work faster, and move with patience and empathy alongside the future homeowners who were there working with our advocates.

“It was very tiring! But it was also a lot of fun because you got to work with other people you don’t see in your shift. Some work live channels and that day was the only day we were in one place and do something worthwhile,” says Candie Baring, a customer advocate. Working with your teammates can be a lot like building a house. It’s impossible to do all that work individually. “You can’t do it by yourself. You need everyone to help. That’s the whole concept of unified support. When problems are too complex, it’s easier for us to escalate them and not worry that our co-workers will think less of us if we’re unable to resolve them.”

When managing a large team, finding time to bond and hang out can be complicated. There’s no typical day when you’re working in advocacy. There are days when you’re starting with a live channel and you have to be on time. There are times when you’re handling phones and you get caught up in solving tickets and finding solutions for your customers. Chris Beattie, Director for Customer Advocacy, says that “we have to ensure that we are collaborating because all of this reflects on our customers. Building a house or doing a volunteering activity allows them to come together in a different way and build relationships with each other.”


Recognizing that the blueprint for the best customer experience requires foundational changes that can go to a much personal level, Chris imparts that there will be challenges as they grow. “We know that teams in Manila are like a family environment. We don’t want to lose the closeness that we have, but we want everyone to challenge themselves to think beyond themselves.”

The Habitat build also underscored quite a number of personal realizations for some of our advocates. Candie was quick to mention how volunteering made her appreciate her life and family. “Your personal life becomes more precious when you understand that other people don’t have what you have. There’s a sense of contentment. They say you shouldn’t bring your personal life at work but you can’t really separate yourself. When you’re happy or content, or you’re angry and irritated, you bring that to your interactions with your customers.”

Chris adds, “It was such a surprise seeing people’s resilience and hidden talents. When you change the way people work, you see so much, especially in extreme challenges. You get to see the best in people in those short hours. As customers get more and more demanding, then we start recognizing that resilience is another muscle we need to work on.”

As our advocates return to their day-to-day, we see this feeling of community and resiliency shine through. No only did our team help to build a home for a family, they all gained a sense of bayanihan that they bring back to their jobs and personal lives.

Want to know more about working with Habitat for Humanity? Get involved with them today.