Illac Diaz is a social entrepreneur working in the ASEAN region empowering communities through the use of sustainable construction and appropriate technologies. Through the MyShelter Foundation, several pioneering programs in the country in rammed earth, bamboo, and PET plastic bottle construction.
Illac, whose name is an Aztec term meaning “God of Light,” is in a unique position to inspire others with ideas, vision and passion to create enterprises that uplift sectors of society that would otherwise be forgotten. He is pioneering a whole new field of entrepreneurship, one that seeks to bring the strengths, efficiencies and solutions of business to bear on problems of society.
Illac Diaz comes from a good clan. Nephew to former Ms. Universe, Gloria Diaz, Illac Diaz was nurtured by his Italian-born mother. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Management Economics from the Ateneo de Manila University. It seemed as though everything was going well for this young Diaz. He was a model, actor and party-goer.
After that, he turned his attention to become the advertising executive for Smart Communications. To further hone his skills and his craft, he completed his Masters Degree in Entrepreneurship at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). Yet, he continued to pursue further development so he went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston to study Urban Planning Course II – Urban Studies and Planning. And more recently, he took Masters of Political Administration in Harvard University.
In 2008, Illac Diaz was named a “Young Global Leader of 2008” by the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. What has this young person did that warranted such recognition from the prestigious WEF?
Providing good shelter for transient Seafarers
Illac Diaz founded the Pier One Seafarer’s Dormitory, a lodging place for Filipino seafarers located in a 2,500-square meter lot at Corte Real and Solana Streets in Intramuros, Manila. With this project, Illac essentially provided good lodging for Filipino seafarers and overseas contract workers. Previously, these same contract workers would just check in to cheap inns or motels in the Ermita and Malate areas in Manila, but these inns are still more expensive than Pier One Seafarer’s Dormitory.
The idea for Pier One came to Mr. Diaz when he was still obtaining his Master in Entrepreneurship degree. He took a walk in the T.M. Kalaw area in Manila and saw hundreds, or probably thousands of seafarers trooping to the offices of recruitment agencies. And yet, these same people could not have access to low budget lodging areas while waiting for their papers to be processed. This is why, Diaz set up a 40-bed dormitory in the Intramuros area where seafarers and prospective overseas contract workers could stay while looking for a job.
According to an article from the Philippine Star, Pier One is now a 1,500-bed business with branches in Recto, Ermita and Intramuros. It is sustainable and its profits are being reinvested back to the business. Over 80,000 seafarers have been served by the project!
From his award-winning Pier One Seafarer’s Dormitory, Illac Diaz went on to develop the CentroMigrante Project. This project offers a build-for-stay system—the tenants will be able to stay in the compound in exchange for their labor in constructing parts of the project. Those who do not have money can still sign up for temporary jobs and the option to stay while building the project. The shelters developed under this project will then offer seminars on personal finance, remittance management for overseas Filipino workers, as well as on career development and small business management. Along the way, CentroMigrante will also coordinate with more than 400 agencies that will help its constituents find jobs. The eventual goal is to reduce the waiting time of overseas Filipino workers from seven months to only three months.
Illac Diaz does not seem to run out of ideas. When he noticed the lack of classrooms in the provinces, he thought of a way to solve it, together with the problem in housing in Negros Occidental. When he noticed the strong adobe bridges, which withstood the test of time since the time of Spanish occupation in the Philippines, he went to the CalEarth Institute in California to study under Nader Khalili, the world-famous Iranian architect.
Through his studies, he gained expertise in the Earthbag Construction System and applied it to the Philippine setting. By enlisting the help of volunteer laborer and indigenous materials, the cost of building houses and classrooms went down. He has since shared his expertise in addressing the lack of classrooms in the Day-Asan National High School in Surigao province.
Illac Diaz continues to look for ways to help other under-privileged Filipinos. And why not? From being an actor, model and advertising executive, Illac Diaz has shown that it is possible to continue earning and growing a business while addressing the social needs of people who do not have the resources to uplift themselves.
Diaz belongs to the new breed of businessmen who are willing to help others while they themselves boost the business’ bottom line!
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