There are jobs that (thankfully) need a willingness to travel, and I am not only willing, I am eager.

Iloilo is a city found in the Visayas region. It’s famous for its people, who are said to be malambing (affectionate). I mean, even if they’re upset, they still talk rather sweetly. As I was on the way to the hotel that our team was staying in, I immediately liked Iloilo – even if I haven’t officially met any of the people. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something inviting about Iloilo, which bustled quietly (not frantically like Manila).

And I guess I wasn’t the only one who was charmed by this city. Matthew and Hailey Barr, a young couple hailing from the United States, decided to actually live in Iloilo for the time being, because they had set up this amazing little cafe/restaurant/creative space called FUEL.PH. They were a handsome couple (if I do say so myself) and loved to encourage people to follow their passions.

“Out of all the places in the Philippines,” I started, “why Iloilo?”

And Matthew (Fuel.PH’s CEO) looked amused at my question, as if it had never occurred to him before and responded, “There’s something about the young people here that we love. So welcoming, so much talent and passion. We think that this is the heart of the Philippines.”

In a tragic turn of events, Matthew and his wife Hailey died last July 26, 2013 while vacationing in the United States. Freak accident, said this news article. They never made it back to Iloilo, the city they loved and invested so much of their lives in.

I was in the office when I found out, and I felt as if I had stopped breathing for a couple of minutes. Just last year, I was talking to this couple. Matthew in particular was an incredible host to Starfield, and we were commenting at how excellent they were in their work and service.

They were generous, accommodating, and passionate about helping other people live out their passions in the arts, politics, dance, fashion, etc. I loved the advocacy of FUEL.PH – so I wanted to buy a baller band to support their cause. Matthew, however, insisted on gifting me with one. “Go ahead,” he said smiling, “It’s yours.”

How is it that the source of this kindness was gone, and so abruptly?

A light went out in Iloilo City that day.

FUEL.PH suffered a great loss, and so did the whole city of Iloilo, and it amazes me how two lives made that big of an impact. They were a picture of servant-leadership and kindness, and I know for a fact that they left earth a better place. As world-changers, Matthew and Hailey Barr have started not only a movement of passion and goodness that will last for generations to come, they’ve helped create a beautiful community that strives to do the same.

I am blessed, immeasurably, for having known these two. Thank you for making hearts happy.

You can read more about Matthew and Hailey here and here.

FUEL.PH is a social movement that seeks to
inspire, encourage, and provoke young people to pursue their passions.

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