Amidst the country’s COVID-19 health emergency crisis, Manjinder “James” Kumar, an Indian national, once again responded to the needs of the times by embracing a cherished Filipino trait—’bayanihan.’
Just days after the lockdown was implemented, Kumar embarked on a personal mission doing his share pitching in the “bayanihan” efforts alongside various entities extending help in different forms and means.
Almost every day, he is out distributing PPEs and relief goods to various hospitals, police checkpoints and small communities.
Growing up in a poor family, he knows and experienced the realities of poverty. Through hard work and perseverance, he has eventually achieved success. And given his attained status, his heart has remained empathic to the plight of the poor.
His family arrived and settled in the country when he was seven years old. He grew up with a mixed Filipino-Indian culture.
Career and passion
In retrospect, Kumar said: “I’ve always been good with people; call it fate or destiny but my uncle trained me to assist fellow Indian expats so that they could live, do business and thrive here in the Philippines. Soon, I mastered the trade, and got to set up my own consultancy firm, which not only assisted expats in documentation but also offered legal assistance, among many things.”
“Through my parents’ hard work, my own hard work, coupled with faith in myself and most especially to God, I thrived here in the land I now also call my home.” Kumar is happily married to a Filipina and has five children.
“I got the opportunity to invest in the restaurant business and opened up my own business process outsourcing company. In the pipeline too are other business ventures—one, a security agency, the other a holdings company involved in lending, micro financing, and build and sell,” Kumar added.
Religion, crime busting, and a life of advocacy
In 2009, Kumar found himself leading the Khalsa Diwan Sikh Temple as its president. Khalsa Diwan is a religious congregation, mainly of Indians in the Sikhism faith. It is the first Sikhism temple founded in the Philippines in the early 1900s. He served as the church’s president for eight years.
“Leading our church was no easy feat because we’re not only a house of prayer, but also a place where we give help to anyone in need. You can call it a one-stop-shop. Every day, people are welcome to worship and share a meal with us. Our missionary works are steadfast,” Kumar said.
“A lot of my fellow men face different sorts of criminal problems, from kidnapping to extortion, and these we had to help them with all the time. Inevitably, I made enemies in the process, resulting to my brother being killed and consequently putting my own reputation and safety into jeopardy,” Kumar says.
Asked why he stayed eight years considering all the troubles, Kumar replied: “You cannot put a value to a human being’s smile when that person’s burden has been eased. This has always been my way of giving back because from having nothing, God gave me a lot.”
“I may be a private citizen or an expat in the Philippines, but crime busting has always been running through my veins. Ultimately, helping others never ceased to be my life motivation,” he adds.
“Finding comfort and confidence in the non-profit organization Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) after my brother’s death and the incessant harassments I’ve endured, I eventually formally joined the group in 2015 and became their secretary general—a position I hold to this day.”
Also, in 2015, Kumar founded and chaired the Filipino Indian Commerce and Welfare Society Inc. (FICWSI) aimed at bringing together Indian and Filipino businessmen and stakeholders for collaboration to look after their needs, protection, and interests.
Kumar is an active member of Rotary Club Makati-Nielsen for 13 years now. In 2018, he was elected as its president, a position he holds to date.
Kumar closes with a statement in Filipino. “Sabi ng ilang kakilala ko, ako ang Indian na hindi nang-iindyan sa bayanihan (Some of my friends say I’m an Indian who doesn’t fail to arrive in times of need to contribute for help).”
This remark, according to him, is brought about by their observation of his prompt personal missions to extend help in many major calamities, ever since the Yolanda tragedy.