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JACK OF ALL TRADES, MASTER OF HIS OWN

“A person’s true character is often revealed in time of crises.”

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Matt is very hands on when it comes to his advocacy such as the Movement of Gratitude. (Photo courtesy of Maria Solita Zaldivar Guzman)

One saying goes, “A person’s true character is often revealed in time of crises.” As the world faces yet another predicament, it is important to know who the team players are, and who the team leader is.

This is where Matt Guzman really shines the brightest. As a sports enthusiast, a player and a coach, he has a burning passion in everything he does. He also has the discipline to make sure that things get done and done right. That makes him both a team player, and a team leader.  Let us get to know Matt Guzman as an advocate, a public servant, and a family man.

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME, THE YOUTH, AND EDUCATION

Matt considers each game a big league match. He was a dedicated inter-barangay player for New Buswang. He also played for the College of Arts in the Central Philippine University (CPU) where he graduated with a degree in AB Political Science.

His dedication to sports is not limited to playing his favorite game. Along with other basketball enthusiasts, he founded La Liga Aklan in 2016. La Liga Aklan is the province’s elite basketball tournament—with imports from other provinces in the Panay region, Cebu, and Manila.

He also generously shares his love for sports by offering free basketball clinic in Aklan since 2012 and began organizing and supporting free football clinic since 2018.

National Family Week
Photo courtesy of Doniel B. Aguirre

For someone as young as him, his interest is not just about sports. He is also a dedicated advocate of youth and education. In 2013, he co-organized the Raven Book Drive alongside his wife wherein they donated school supplies and books, and also hosted feeding programs to far flung public and primary schools all over Aklan. His Adopt-a-Day Care Project which he started in 2017 is still ongoing, which donates school supplies and educational materials to all child development centers in Kalibo.

Most people may not know this, but he is a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and Sorority and a local group in Aklan named Shakur, and he encourages these groups to join him in his other activities: bloodletting, coastal clean-up, tree planting, and fun run as well as basketball tournaments. This goes to show that Matt’s influence is everywhere.

It is easy to understand that Matt is a well-rounded man. He does not only excel in the field of education and sports, he is also a champion of life. He organizes activities that promote life, among which is his annual bloodletting drive. This is a piece of cake for an active blood donor of Red Cross Philippines – Aklan Chapter for eleven (11) consecutive years. His partnership with an American-based hospital through Mr. Ramy Isberto helps promote health with the kabarangayans through donations of second-hand medical equipment to barangay health centers and rural health units. Also he had been arranging fund raising activities to purchase sports equipment, medicines, and school materials for the less fortunate for quite a while now.

FOR THE LOVE OF PUBLIC SERVICE

By nature, Matt’s heart has always been for public service. Even before he became one of the members of Kalibo’s Sangguniang Bayan, he has been very devoted to civic activities. Matt, the down to earth that he is, kept doing what he does best and still stayed low-key.

But his light shines so bright that an established political group in New Buswang and in Kalibo approached him several times to run under their slate during the 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE). He refused.

Aside from the fact that he was not sure yet if he should run or not, his wife who is from a political family was also against him running. She did not want their children, Markief and Schiavie, to be exposed to politics and reasoned that public service can be manifested, even best lived, outside politics.

Inauguration 2019
Photo courtesy of Doniel B. Aguirre

But why does he have to enter politics when he has already done so much? Well, it expands one’s connections and if one uses that for the good that s/he does, that becomes public service.

Matt was adamant to serve his barangay. He believes that the best way to do so is by securing a seat in the council. He talked to his family, and after earning their consent, he knew it was the right decision to make. He filed his COC as Barangay Kagawad on the last day of the filing of candidacy.

He ran as an independent candidate. As a first-timer, he strictly followed all the rules set forth by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). He diligently campaigned for himself starting at 6 o’clock in the morning until dinner time. He went on house to house campaigns alone, sometimes accompanied by minors who comprised his Spyro Juniors basketball team. He was even mistaken as a candidate running for SK Chairman.

However, it did not turn out well for him. He placed eight, just a spot short to secure a seat in the barangay council. In spite of what happened, he never showed a hint of defeat. He knew he did his best. Like a child, he was ecstatic by the fact that he was able to gain a higher spot compared to second-timers and former barangay officials. He felt loved by his fellow New Buswang residents and was overwhelmed by the trust and confidence, and the support, which they gave him.

Little did he know that his political journey is just about to begin. A few months after the 2018 BSKE, then Engr. Emerson Sucgang Lachica now Mayor of Kalibo, invited Matt to their house. He was offered to run as a Sangguniang Bayan Member under Engr. Emerson’s slate. Because of his experience during the BSKE, he did not give an immediate answer to his godfather. He knew that he has to think it over and seek once again the consent of his family. As expected, they were against it, reasoning it was quite untimely. But after having received, in Matt’s words, affirmations from God, he became resolute to run. And his family, after having seen how certain and passionate he was, stood by his decision.

He knew that it was not going to be easy. He was to penetrate a first-class municipality with the highest number of registered voters, most of who are related by kin. Because his father is from Cagayan Valley and his mother is a native of the Municipality of Balete, he did not have the advantage of having a huge family. It was like being an adopted son of Kalibo. He knew that he must give his best to earn the vote of the people he met during the entire campaign period.

His conviction was firm —
that he is “favored by God”.
Photo courtesy of Maria Solita Zaldivar Guzman

He proved that he is not just another handsome face. He is a natural charmer who never forgot to pay his respects especially to the elders. He also had a way with children since he has two kids of his own and he knows how to engage in conversations with people from all walks of life. His conviction was firm—that he is “favored by God”. True enough, he won the 2019 elections and earned the sixth spot as a Sangguniang Bayan Member with a total of 14,557 votes. It was the highest first-timer spot among their batch of elected officials since those he succeeded are third-timers and re-electionists.

Matt Guzman’s advocacy has always been pro-education and pro-sports, hence pro-youth. For him, education helps individuals land in a job that they need, and hopefully one that they truly want, to support their families and to give them a better life. On the other hand, sports allow them to showcase their God-given talent and with any luck that they might become world-class athletes in the future and bring pride to the country.

According to him, “With the right connections and with good intentions, we can empower the youth and secure their future. That has been my battle cry ever since and I will do my best to become an instrument of positive intervention for the youth of Kalibo.”

As a Sangguniang Bayan Member of the municipality of Kalibo, he currently chairs Public Utilities, Transportation, Communication, Energy, and Facilities and Games and Amusement. 

FOR THE LOVE OF PEOPLE

(Movement of Gratitude, COVID-19 Initiatives)

Matt’s genuine love for the people became even more apparent because of the Coronavirus Disease. He was proactive in providing immediate response to unexpected loss of jobs and looming hunger because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the birth of Movement of Gratitude. It is his own project that aims to give back to the people of Kalibo, especially to those who belong to the underprivileged sector and have lived up to their fair share of service to others as well. This project offers a little bit of comfort and assistance to those who are most affected and are unable to buy the basic needs of their families.

He strongly believes that it is everybody’s moral obligation to help one another in ways that our means and resources allow us to.In one of his posts online, he mentioned that help can be extended in any form, whether in service like health workers and frontliners, in obedience by staying at home, and in donation by giving to those who have none. Matt knows that it is impossible to provide all of the needs of his constituents, yet, he wants to help as many people as possible. And with this reality, he knows that he must work harder and wiser.

“We cannot save everybody but we can always do something for somebody. My goal is to share my blessings to those who have less in life and I hope that others will do the same especially to those I am not able to reach. This is a pay it forward attitude that I learned from someone who lives by that saying, and I have proven it effective in many ways I can recall,” Matt says.

He is well aware that he is not the only one who has projects that share a common purpose—to uplift the lives of their fellowmen who are greatly suffering because of the sudden pandemic. Different groups in government or private sector have their own COVID-19 initiatives such as providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and hot meals to healthcare workers and frontliners, donating food to the poorest of the poor, providing the needs of the PWDs, malnourished children, senior citizens, and persons with special needs; and every single one is thriving because there are a lot of people willing to lend a hand. Indeed, this is the time to reach out and help our people.

Photo courtesy of Project Kalibo

How does Matt keep Movement of Gratitude moving? He uses his own salary as a public servant and through the help of family and friends who believes in his advocacy even before he entered politics. He just recently provided a thousand food packs to Kalibonhons specifically fruit and sidewalk vendors, garbage collectors, street sweepers, Kalibo Auxiliary Police (KAP), Kalibo TODA Presidents, Kalibo Public Market personnel, scavengers, displaced workers, local media, and different religious sectors. He did this by giving his entire two-month salary as SB Member. As his wife, Em-Em, puts it, “He is very consistent with donations. He does not think much that we do not save up, as he tries to accommodate everyone who asks for help.”

He is an ardent supporter of local groups such as Project Kalibo, Youth Advocates for the Philippines, Banda Alyansa – Aklan Chapter, Sigaw ng Kabataan Coalition, Aklanon Cares, and groups within barangays for their outreach programs. One of the ventures of Project Kalibo that he strongly supported is the Adopt-A-Toda where he sponsored all of the noodles (three noodles per pack) for the tricycle drivers of all 16 barangays of Kalibo. He is also one of the sponsors of Project Kalibo’s Project NU3Plus which gives milk to both children and adult and of SKC Aklan’s Project Kababata, an advocacy campaign project which supplies month-long supplementary home-based learning activities for children in communities.

On his own, he gave food and bottled water to the border control workforce as he checked on them from time to time. He also donated face masks and alcohol/disinfectant to BHERTS personnel, and any form of help to those who contact him through his office or online.

These initiatives were not easy, but Matt came prepared. As soon as President Rodrigo Duterte announced a nationwide Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), he immediately proposed a resolution prompting the creation of a Food Security Task Force to ensure that there is enough food supply within the municipality.

Side by side Mayor Emerson Sucgang Lachica, he conducted market inspection to check the price of commodities in the Kalibo Public Market. As Chairman on Committee on Transportation, he was also one of those who proposed the use of the Vibrant Kalibo bus as a free service shuttle for frontliners and residents from the 16 barangays of Kalibo known as the “Libre Sakay” program of LGU Kalibo.

He does his best to grant as many requests as possible. Some of his activities included arranging for the shipping of personal protective equipments, disinfectants, and N95 masks from a donor in Manila, Engr. Rene Dela Cruz, with the help of the Philippine Coast Guard. He went to Caticlan to get the cargo and turned it over to Dr. Rafael S. Tumbokon Memorial Hospital (DRSTMH) and some suits and masks for the LGU Kalibo MDRRMO personnel.

Kindness Kitchen Delivery to Nabas
Photo courtesy of Maria Solita Zaldivar Guzman

When McDonald’s launched their Kindness Kitchen, he asked for meals to be delivered to Balete, Madalag, and Nabas and even personally delivered the products to the bariw capital and border town of Antique and Aklan. He also delivers food for Project Kalibo to which his wife is a member of the notable group known for its many donations within and outside the town of Kalibo.

For years, the couple has been very active with outreach programs such as the Raven Book Drive, Adopt A Day Care Project, Christmas Shoe Box with Love, and other activities ranging from free summer sports clinics, basketball tournaments, tree plantings, community feedings, and gift-givings. During this time of COVID-19, they also launched two projects namely Milk Giving and Be a Blessing, Share Your Blessing.

The Milk Giving was supposed to be a one-time donation of milk on April 20 since there were individuals who asked them for milk for their children. But an initial donation of 25 boxes of milk created a ripple effect and they were able to find more donors for the said project. Within a month, they have purchased 200 boxes with almost 1,500 recipients ranging from children, senior citizens, and PWDs.

His wife also started a campaign for the STAC Kalibo Children with Disabilities on May 2 and was able to raise funds to buy food and hygiene kits for the 60 children of STAC Kalibo. The Be a Blessing, Share Your Blessing Project reached as far as Nabas with a total of 60 food packs given to PWDs and another separate food pack for at least a hundred children in selected barrios of Nabas.

On the side, Matt organized various contests to keep Aklanons busy and entertained even during a very difficult time. The SBM Matt Guzman’s Editorial Cartoon Contest prompted artists to create editorial cartoons with the theme “Frontliners: Modernong Bayani”. The contest was open to all Aklanons and the winner was announced on Labor Day wherein Hans Guiñez of Bubog, Numancia, Aklan won a pangkabuhayan showcase consisted of 25kgs of rice, a box of noodles, and a box of milk.

They also initiated another online contest dubbed Markief’s Happy Hygiene Kits for their son’s birthday on May 22. The contest involved commenting on a post with a specified category, and those entitled to join are children of barangay and municipal frontliners in the Municipality of Kalibo such as barangay tanods, BNS and BHW, Child Development Center teachers, RHU staff, and LGU Kalibo job order employees. Because social gatherings are discouraged, the couple decided to spend the money intended for their son’s 8th birthday for the happy hygiene kits and a simultaneous feeding of kaldo in 11 barangays within Kalibo, Nabas, and Numancia.

Helping those in need has always been in Matt’s nature. He is perhaps someone who refrains from saying ‘No’ even though he also lacks the means and the resources sometimes, which makes it both his strength and weakness. Sometimes in quiet contemplation, he hopes he is blessed with more money not for personal gratification but to be able to do more for his people.

“If I were wealthy, I could have done more and help more (people). But I realized that this could be God’s way of telling me that I need to work hard for the things I want to achieve in life. If things were easier, I may not try harder. I may not appreciate the things that I am already blessed with,” he fondly shared.

FOR THE LOVE OF (HIS) FAMILY

Matt is happiest when he gets to help other people. But as a family man, it saddens him sometimes when his children, Markief and Schiavie, complain that he lacks time for them especially when the ECQ started. Like other families, they refrained from doing their usual strolls and weekend getaways.

Team Guzman
Photo courtesy of Maria Solita Zaldivar Guzman

“I always tell my kids, that what I am doing is for them and for our unborn child, and all for their future. I have to step up and protect the town and make sure that we all win together against this pandemic. My sacrifices are little compared to healthcare workers and frontliners who are out there in the battlefield 24/7. I cannot bear not doing anything so every day, I go out to see what I can do to contribute in becoming a solution to the problem.”

As a father, his advocacies are all part of his grand plan of preparing a better world for his family. He is not expecting anything in return, but all the good deeds he has done can be paid forward. One way or another, his family will benefit from the seeds he has sown.

From where and how it all started, up until now, Matt Guzman is someone we can all get inspiration, lessons, and encouragement from. For his wife, “He is perhaps the most purpose-driven person I know and it is contagious. He does not just have ideas but for almost a decade now, he has put those ideas in action.”

If we can have even just ten more Matts, the world will be a nicer place to be.

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