“Balikbayan” is a term commonly coined to people of Filipino descent who have lived in a country outside the Philippines for a number of years, and then returns to the Philippines either to visit or to settle there for good. In Tagalog, “Balik” means to come back; “bayan” means country.
R. R-Kayma D. Gander III, a native of southwestern United States, considers himself a balikbayan. Gander has a strong depth of knowledge about Filipino culture and love for the country he now calls home.
Gander spent his early childhood in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a family of Trinidad & Tobago descent took care of him. At 14, he put himself through school by working for his foster family’s furniture moving company. After saving up money, he traveled around the world. He fell in love with one country in particular – the Philippines.
Gander made a life for himself, including a family, in the Philippines. He established small business ventures in the Manila, including taxi and jeepney (small, bus-like shuttles) operations, Internet café’s, etc. He is married to a Filipina woman and has two sons, two-year-old Louis and one-year-old Stroma.
As his love of the Philippines has grown over the years, Gander visualized a new project called “Kaylen’s Kastle.” Based in the capital city of Manila, it has a projected opening date of late 2007. Gander envisions Kaylen’s Kastle, which is the combination of his and his wife Eileen’s names, to be the “first cinema complex in the South Pacific to be completely THX certified.” This compound will encompass 16 fully THX certified premium movie theaters that will display movie themes from different cultures such as Filipino, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, 50-60s Americana, Modern American, etc. There will be eight full service gourmet restaurants that each serves authentic cuisine from a specific region of the world, a full bar, Internet cafe, premium office space with in-house T1 Internet, and high-end luxury condominiums. According to Gander, every aspect of the compound will be top of the line with an aim to make Kaylen’s Kastle the premier location to live, eat, work, play, and even sleep in Manila.
And like other businesses, Gander hopes to get the support of fellow balikbayans here in the United States through either investing in this business venture with him or telling their relatives in the Philippines to be a part of Kaylen’s Kastle’s work force. Gander is employing about 525-650 Filipino workers for his company, which he hopes will help generate permanent jobs in the developing country. Gander says that it has always been his dream to be in a position where he can affect people’s lives in a positive way. Building this company, he believes, will make a difference in the lives of at least 1000 or more Filipinos and their families. As the company is based in the Philippines, he stresses that the positions available are for Filipinos living in the Philippines, which, in the long run, will help alleviate it from its economic challenges.
Gander has partnered with Jordan Robinson as executive officer to oversee and assist him with the operations of Kaylen’s Kastle. Before the project began, he asked for Robinson’s help with the project. He rounds out the team with his experience, education and skills. About Robinson, Gander said, “I am grooming him to immerse himself in this wonderful Filipino culture.”
Gander respects the simplicity of life in the Philippines and how the people there truly value every possession they have. He likes the fact that people in the Philippines are able to connect to one another through sincere care for others. He admires the closeness of family units and the great amount of importance given to families. In fact, Gander’s wife prefers to remain in the Philippines because she doesn’t want to leave her family behind.
“My family, which I never really had growing up, is in the Philippines. My wife is Filipino, my kids are Filipino, and my heart is where they are at,” says Gander. “I am a balikbayan coming home to a place that will be my home for the rest of my life.”