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Saturday, September 3, 2011

A heartfelt testimony from a good friend

Testimony of Scott Redlich

It’s a pleasure to be able to write some facts as to the character and kindness of a very, very special friend, David Graham.  I have always been in wonder of him, ever since we met about nine years ago – in wonder of his heart, and how he has been able to balance a very strong spirituality with the material world.  I can finally say now with sincerity, he indeed has been an inspiring and great friend and strong influence in my personal spiritual growth as well as big strength in my own survival here in the Philippines as an American, as well as with my marriage.  Hopefully the following will convey such and back it up with facts.

We met by chance approximately nine years ago in CdO, both swimming for exercise at a local hotel pool.  “Hey, nice swimming goggles!” he said.  We immediately engaged in smiling conversation.  It didn’t take long for me to realize the sincerity and generosity of David’s heart.  He only briefly had met me and learned a little of my life locally, and simply offered the possibility of business relationship by letting me know that he was very blessed financially from hard and creative work, and that he had ‘investment money’ available.  I did not react to that fact until much later in our relationship, but in the mean time, David made it very clear that because of his blessing, he was always willing and wanting to share.

And during our relationship, although at the time we both had to occasionally leave the Philippines to work in the States, we kept in contact by email when abroad, and cell phone when not.  He lived in Cebu at that time, and I visited him there a few times in the early years, where I witnessed in person some of David’s generosity with the people of Cebu.  He would literally sometimes meet strangers and give them cash gifts as though it was a daily and expected occurrence for him.  He would always pay for meals and even for hotel accommodations upon my visits (if I’d let him).  We enjoyed each other’s company a lot.  He didn’t boast about his philanthropy at all, and at that time I had no idea of the magnitude of his donations not only in Cebu, but in the Philippines in general.

My financial struggle living in a foreign country reared its ugly head in around 2004 and I happened to reveal it to David.  He was back and forth to the States, but to my amazement, suddenly he sent approximately $2,000 to me through Western Union, with a note to the effect, “I know you’re hurting right now, brother, maybe this will help.  Just pay me back when you can.”  What a tremendous lift that was, and what timing!  David was continuing to follow his heart and in the process teaching me all about giving and loving.

It so happened that the Internet Café business my wife and I opened a few years before was struggling to ‘upgrade’ equipment enough to compete with the newer offerings, and it was going down quickly.  Before we were completely submerged, David, who was living in Cebu, became aware of my situation in CdO and sent over Almerino to access my situation with the business.  At the time David was also helping others in Cebu apparently with similar businesses, and through that assessment, David loaned me cash and equipment to help us upgrade our café and stay in business. 
I noticed that in his generosity, he tried to keep the integrity for the people receiving by inspiring an attitude of productivity – so that the people could, when possible, learn to help themselves and not be dependent on hand-outs.  That was the only stipulation or condition I ever noticed in his giving, and it was a healthy attitude.  He also appreciated very much those who demonstrated integrity.

I recall though at one point being concerned for David’s well-being after observing him perhaps over-doing it, and giving so much so visibly.  It crossed my mind that not all the people he was donating money to were as appreciative or respectful as David may have thought or felt.  There were times that it seemed he put himself in potentially dangerous locations with people who might have ulterior motives from greed or bad ethics on the streets.  Apparently nothing happened in that regard and David felt safe enough and truly loved giving to the people in person as such.  Maybe he felt God’s protection.  I remember thinking, isn’t there another way to give other than always in person?  But David truly enjoyed the philanthropy, and didn’t boast or let ego interfere in his unconditional motivation to give. 

I recall his mentioning circa 2006 his “business venture” with a friend near Angeles in car rental.  I laughed to myself in a way, visualizing that David’s “business venture” was more likely really a donation to the other guy and his family, and any ‘loan’ aspect was not very strict with payments.  David simply loved helping everyone.

David making a new road into the mountains in Cebu

It was then that my situation really fell financially after the birth of our baby.  I was torn with the reality of having to leave my family indefinitely to go back again to the States to work.  David knew how much I dreaded having to leave my new child.  It didn’t take him long for him to surprise me again before 2007.  He literally ‘created’ a job offer for me.  It involved ‘managing’ his Cebu/Loay project of continuing to build roads and secure the existing roads way up at the top of the mountain above Camp 7.  He really made a super-generous offer!  His dedication to the people of that area was unbelievable.  Heavy equipment vehicles, hundreds of truckloads of sand and gravel, cement, barangay donations, countless trips to hardware stores for supplies, building a church at the very top, finding ways to improve the people’s lives there was the commitment he had made and he generously gave me a contract to work with him there for one year at a super great salary which included a rental house with all the amenities in Talisay at the base of that mountain for my family.  We took him up on that offer and it basically allowed me to continue to stay with my beloved family.  Unbelievable grace.  It was there that the spiritual lessons for me through David increased my faith in the Lord!

At that time, David’s “bodyguard” and friend, Romeo, was someone I befriended as well as we worked together in Cebu, was a kind and loving soul too.  I felt more comfortable knowing Romeo was often by David’s side.  Still, David often cruised around alone while giving donations, and I was a bit concerned.

One of the many houses donated by David
It was during that year that I truly learned more deeply about what David was about as a friend, as a good person.  The Loay project was a teacher for all of us involved.  One highlight that I will never forget was the day that suddenly, inside the mountaintop church he had donated, we all secretly met with a family (squatter) who David had something to tell.  As the mother, father and like 4 children sat quietly and well-behaved, David revealed his plan and donation to them.  He had observed them as they participated previously in the projects on the mountain and he felt moved to reward them.  They were so naïve, yet so wonderfully surprised with it all.  They had no idea that David had been moved spiritually to choose them to have an enormous amount of cash to buy and build their own house!  As he gave them the first allotment, they humbly were suppressing their amazement as though it was a dream.  The secrecy of the meeting was to avoid other locals from witnessing the exchange and becoming jealous.  David knew of that possibility and wanted no harm to come to them from others, including their own relatives!  It was a beautiful moment to hear David remind them not to thank him, but to thank Him (God), as this is where the money comes from and it is all God’s anyway.  I was moved to uncontrollable tears – just the intensity of the unconditional love and appreciation, and the lack of ego involved by the giver and the receivers!  Personally, I grew tremendously from that moment spiritually, and began to really see where David was coming from in his service.

Loay contained many opportunities for David’s demonstration of his loving, giving and generous character over the time we had together there.  From the volunteer “ambulance” services he would use his truck for the people “of the mountain” in emergency needs, to the incredible amount of donations and involvement David demonstrated with the Barangay there (especially at Fiesta time donating to churches in the area, Fiesta festivities and even donating so much even in firework celebration for the people to experience; many of them for the first time in their lives).  Even the donations he made for Barangay facilities with roadwork and structures as well, including helping with getting permits.  

Scott supervising the placement of the culverts with David
I recall David helping Camp 7’s barangay captain Tolino Largo continuously, including lending him money for transportation vehicle businesses.  I don’t know the amount, but I know it easily reached the 2 million peso mark.  We participated in David’s idea to do some preventative maintenance down in the bottom of the mining area where some people had lost their lives during flooding by constructing culvert drainage and overpass.  It was a nice community effort, but of course David paid everyone to participate.  Perhaps his generous influence was affecting a contagious cooperation for that community to help each other as well as help themselves?

A road cementing project
The amount of donations to the Loay Project of roads, etc must have been staggering.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if David had donated an astronomical amount. 

We could not drive very far without being delayed because David wanted to give to people along the way.  Little houses along the road going up to Loay were donated by him, too numerous to remember on my part.  It was just unbelievable.  And that must have just been the ‘tip of the iceberg’…

Unfortunately, some of the people of Loay were not gracious or appreciative in the end.  Greed and selfishness on their part took over, and we had to pull out of the area project because of their aggressiveness which involved threats at the nine-month mark of my managerial duties earmarked for one year.  I was grateful though.  It had enabled me to work and still be with my family, provide for them and return to CdO with a little savings.  Most of all, I learned through David what true giving and Discipleship with the Lord is about.  It paved the way for me personally preparing to become a true Christian for the first time in over 55 years.

The making of his 35m lap pool in Luzon

After David’s relocation to Luzon, I was able to visit him a few times more and see the work he was doing on a beautiful property.  Again, employing so many and giving so much in the process of that development.  I wondered how long David could continually donate as he had.  He refused to allow me to pay for anything during my visits, as usual. 

Always spending time contributing, I know he participated in assisting many there, particularly with hospitals and medicine donations, special operations unfortunate people needed, and even basically saving lives!  I can attest to those although I was not present necessarily, I still recall so many times by chance that David was actually texting or talking to me from his cell while serving others.  Donating prosthetics, surgeries and medicine was a regular occupation for him.  I would almost have to make an appointment to communicate with him because of his busy-ness in projects related to giving.  He would always refer to the Badjao children and their needs – many of which he has helped.

Sharing their property for community events
Even the function of his personal property/estate was used continually for donating and serving.  Church services on Sundays and inviting the local community to festive occasions was ongoing.  Programs for the poor children like being able to use the swimming pool, et cetera was commonplace.  Being so transparent and “in-person” with his philanthropy was David’s nature.  He loved the people and loved helping.  Never had we dreamed that his reward for such unconditional love would be punishment.  Punishment in the form of extortion, threat to his and his family’s well-being and life, poverty and exile.  All these horrible results from greed and selfishness on the part of jealous and conniving individuals who will stop at nothing to attempt to get what they want.  The societal integrity in the Philippines needs an overhaul!  Perhaps God has a higher plan for David, and giving of his time and wealth was not the ultimate plan.  Still, it’s a confusing lesson to try and grasp.  But David’s faith, although tested to the maximum, beyond what most ordinary men could fathom, still persists.  

One day, and soon hopefully, David’s reputation will be repaired and put back in order.  Justice should and will be served.  God has not and never will abandon my friend.  I have missed his in-person friendship and have suffered with him this last year or two in particular.  Rarely does a man have the opportunity to have a friend, a spiritual friend, like David Graham.

Scott and David in 2006


  1. God has blessed u so well i pray i be so blessed and have true friends like u in my future some day :)

  2. Leslie, thanks for visiting. I appreciate the nice comment. May your dreams come true!

  3. wow! of all countries, he chose the Philippines to help, sadly though some didn't appreciate his efforts. nevertheless, David for me is a superhero personified. =)

  4. It was very good story very toching.
    Mr. David is a good guy
    he loves and help people specially the Poor.
    Scoot is very lucky have a friend like you.
    God bless you .