Mysiquijor.com administrator Gary Harrison or ‘Siquijor Gary’ as the islanders fondly call him has been in and out Siquijor, the small island in the Philippines he proudly calls his ‘home’, for nearly two and a half decades now.
“I felt something here..pardon me…but something magical. There was something here on the island that kept calling me back each and every year,” says Gary as he presents the cash donation of Pph51,000 for the renovation of Solangon Chapel in San Juan, Siquijor, the amount he solicited from generous donors from different walks of life through my.siquijor.com.
But the solicitation or the donation is just one of the many ways of showing his respect and gratitude to the people for allowing him to enjoy life on the island for 24 years.
Over and above it was his vision to bring positive change on the lives of the islanders that he pursued with his creation of a website named “mysiquijor.com” in 2002.
Mysiquijor.com, he is convinced, would help him realize his aspiration as it portrays his affection and appreciation for the island and his long commitment to show Siquijor’s natural beauty to the world.
But when asked about promoting the island, Siquijor Gary responded by saying: “I don’t have to sell it..only to show it. The island sells itself.”
“It is my vision that through the use of appropriate promotion there will be an increase in responsible tourism (Ecotourism), environmental awareness, and investment,” he said.
While recognizing the island’s many natural treasures such as the waterfalls, the beaches, the convent, etc. Gary also realized that the island’s most important resource is its people.
“It is my belief that the real magic of Siquijor lives within the inhabitants of the island. The kind and gentle hands, warm smiles, along with the welcoming hearts have always made this a truly magical paradise,” he quipped.
With it, he included in his vision for the website his desire to have a positive impact on Siquijor’s medical capabilities, educational system, employment rate and in the preservation of its culture.
And over the past 12 years Mysiquijor.com, indeed, has made several donations of medical equipment to the Provincial Hospital, the restoration of St Francis of Assisi Church and school supplies to the selected elementary schools, among others.
Along with them are the promotion of local businesses and foreign investments, and the provision of assistance to thousands of tourists, apart from the “gifts” he personally bring and present every time he comes home to the island.
Gary thanked all the generous donors: Linda Rumple Tieben, Scott Kim, Tom Ashton, Mike Eudy, Craig Norburry, Steve &Eileen Lyon, Coral Cay Resort, Samantha White, Craig & Ellen Lego, Tim & Rhea Larsen, D' Barkads, The Bruce & himself . “A couple of them are my old classmates and have never been to the Philippines and probably never will,” he said while giving a brief background of the donors and the amount they gave for Siquijor.
“Let me say that it is not the size of the donation that matters…no donation is too small. I am sure that the smallest donation was given with the same amount of heart as the largest,” he said.
In closing, he challenged everyone, domestic or foreign, to reach into their pockets and give with their hearts to finish the chapel and move on to another project. This he said as he is aware that the donation given will not be enough to complete the project.
Above all, he thanked the people of Siquijor and assure them that even though his eyes are old and tired, his vision for mysiquijor.com and the island remains very strong and clear. (mbcn/RIZALIE A. CALIBO/PIA7-Siquijor)