Words by Audrey Kho
When you hear the word hero, what comes to mind?
For most of us, the first-thought would probably be the heroic figures in our history textbooks. But let’s not forget—there are modern-day heroes walking among us, too. Those whose commitment to their respective advocacies inspire us to think not only for ourselves, but for the good of the society. After all, is that not what a true hero is?
We were able to talk to four amazing Filipinas who have dedicated themselves to their respective advocacies—sustainable fashion, veganism, zero waste, and life conservation. Read on below to see what they have to say about their lifestyles, the hardships they face, and some handy tips for those who want to start their own journey for others.
Bianca Gregorio for Sustainable Fashion
Bianca Gregorio has been a firm advocate for sustainable fashion ever since her research for her undergraduate thesis showed her the dire effects of the fashion industry, especially fast fashion, on the planet and people. “Every price you pay from fast fashion isn’t just a piece of clothing,” she says. “It may be the price of laborers being abused, or chemicals causing people in these countries irreversible damage, and a lot more.”
Because of this, Bianca wanted to develop her own brand of clothing, which aims to be affordable, ethical, and environmentally friendly. She came up with Re Clothing, a sustainable fashion brand that aims to lessen clothing waste and give secondhand clothes a new life by hand-embroidering them. With her business, she hopes to show others that being sustainable in your own clothing doesn’t mean you have to cramp your style. All it takes is a bit of openness to the idea of going sustainable in fashion.
“You can start small, such as mending your old clothes or thinking twice before purchasing a trendy item,” she advises. “The decision isn’t instant; it’s a process, and as a consumer, your best option is to demand transparency from these brands. We all have a voice in this matter, and you are important in making this movement a success, so let’s all work together to close the loop in fashion.”
Facebook: Re Clothing
Niccole Lim for Veganism
Photo by Colleen Ong
“Kung gusto, may paraan. Kung ayaw, may dahilan.”
Since going vegan back in 2016, this motto has guided Niccole to achieving the vegan lifestyle. She reveals that the hardest thing about going vegan is changing one’s habits.
“When I turned vegan back in 2016, there weren’t a lot of vegan restaurants or options available in restaurants or shops, so I had to resort to eating more wholefoods, like leafy vegetables, different fruits and legumes,” she says. “But now, there are a lot of healthy restaurants and shops opening because of the ‘healthy, environmentally aware’ trend, which is good!”
She, like many of us, grew up with a family that consumed animal products and byproducts. However, ever since she became aware of the cruelty practiced by the meat and dairy industry, she decided she didn’t want to contribute to that. “I’ve seen other people live their life without causing pain towards animals, and I wanted to do the same.”
She advises those who want to go vegan that the best way to transition is slowly. Research, the willingness to try new things, and sticking to it are her three keys to going vegan. Ultimately, she reminds us that we should always remember why we go vegan. “Being vegan doesn’t just mean you’re eating a plant based diet. It means you live your life with the intention of not exploiting animals.”
Daniella Rodriguez for Zero Waste
View this post on Instagram
Hello! I'm up on Cosmo!!! Talked to my friend @ysantshelovely about why and how I started going zero waste in a place like Manila, where bulk/zw-friendly stores are hard to come by; the lessons I've learned so far and how much I can still learn. Link in bio lol??? if u wanna read it! 🌱 • • • 📸: @mixign for @cosmopolitan_philippines
Dani came across the zero waste lifestyle for the first time in late 2014, but only started committing to it at the beginning of 2016. She really wanted to contribute to the environment in her own personal way, but it took her more than a year to finally commit to it.
“Because we live in a developing country, we have limited access to supplies and the education that will make it easier to live zero waste,” she says. It really will be more difficult to commit, given the urban lifestyle she leads.
Thus, she stresses the importance of education and research when delving into the zero waste lifestyle. In this age of information, after all, everything we need to know about this way of living is right at our fingertips. Dani suggests reading blogs and watching educational YouTube videos on the issue. With @_minimalmanila on Instagram, she shares her journey into the zero waste lifestyle, hoping to show others how to go about it and eventually inspire others to follow suit.
View this post on Instagram
Finally tried making my own granola cause I now have access to bulk ingredients! Bought every thing in bulk from @humblemarketph in YDG Coffee at Mandala Park. I used @joyfoodsunshine's recipe (thanks for the tip @nixxxole!) but replaced PB with cashew butter and added cacao nibs and pumpkin seeds. Making your own granola is surprisingly super easy and comes out cheaper than if you bought it from a store… but if you're too lazy to make your own, Humble Market also sells their own granola in bulk ^ ^ . . . . . #bulk #bulkfoods #bulkfoodstore #humblemarketph #granola #plasticfreestartswithme #plasticfreeforthesea #zerowaste #zerowasteph #minimalmanila #litterless #wastefree #
Ultimately, Dani advises us to just take things at our own pace. “Basically, zero waste, as overwhelming as it sounds, is really just rethinking the basics. Don’t buy it if you don’t need it, and try to purchase products that will go to people who deserve it.”
Gela Petines for Life Conservation
View this post on Instagram
[2/2] I've never modeled before nor thought I ever would because I wasn't good enough. Earlier in this shoot I'd laugh shyly as Anj and Bea generously barraged me with compliments. They said my hair looked great, my skin looked good, and so on. I couldn't own it because I didn't have it in me to feel like a real subject of beauty. I've been geeky all my life. (And I still am.) Looking at these photos it took a while to believe that these were really me. The imperfections I usually cringe at are still there, but it felt okay. It's liberating. There is a saying that people treat you the way they see you; if they think you're a crap person they will treat you like crap. I believe it's the same with how we treat ourselves. If we see ourselves better then we could be kinder to ourselves. Perhaps this is what the girls sheltered at the Ruhama Center for abused women felt when Anj and Bea gave them a photoshoot and handed their photos after. They showed the girls the beauty they saw in them despite their past experiences of abuse. Anj was right; there is power in taking someone's photo, but not just any photo like a selfie. It's showing these girls that they are worthy of better treatment, better lives, and more importantly love. Thank you Anj and Bea for sharing your cause and for letting me experience your light. 💙 Support and check out @sustainablystyledph on Instagram! The second collection of pre-loved clothes is out with yours truly as their geeky model. 😂
“I’m a life conservationist,” Gela says. “There’s usually a limiting stigma attached to saying ‘environmentalist’ because people usually associate it to those who only care about trees and other living things that are not human beings, but this cause has everything to do with human beings; environmentalists try to protect life on earth including our own.”
From this, Gela came up with Reef Nomads, a skin diving group that aims to get more people in the water so they may grow to care more about marine life. Since 2014, they have been making the conversation on marine conservation fun, accessible, and personal.
View this post on Instagram
You don't have to be a scientist to have a positive impact on coral reefs. Here are some simple, effective actions you can take to help save coral reefs and the fish, animals and plants that depend on them. There’s no better way to appreciate one of Earth’s most diverse ecosystems than seeing it up close. Plan your next vacation so that you can spend a day snorkelling or skin diving with a responsible guide. Do NOT touch the reef or anchor your boat on the reef. Contact with the coral will damage the delicate coral animals, and anchoring on the reef can kill it. Choose a reef-friendly sunscreen: Several common sunscreen ingredients, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been shown to be toxic to corals. Leave no trace: Don't leave unwanted fishing lines or nets in the water or on the beach. Any kind of litter pollutes the water and can harm the reef and fish. In this photo is Angie Ogena, taken by Rommel Morales Fabro during our Culion Palawan Expedition 🙂 #skindiving #reefnomadsxkawiltours #reefnomads #underwater #underwaterphotography #ocean #dive #marinelife #sea #protect #corals
“Change really happens when we appeal to both the intellect and emotions through education, stories, and new experiences,” Gela adds. Through Reef Nomads, people are taught safe and responsible tour practices while having fun. They also make sure that locals benefit from this tourism by patronising their products.
Part of Reef Nomads’ profits goes to funding Gela’s other commitment, Batang VIP. With Batang VIP, Gela aims to conserve marine life by empowering the fisherfolk of Verde Island Passage, the Epicenter of Marine Biodiversity in the World. Since 2013, Gela has been helping out the community in times of need. From organizing mini-relief operations in her own home to raising over P600,000 for the community post-Typhoon Nina, Gela has indeed come a long way with Batang VIP.
Her third project with Batang VIP involves a series of training seminars and workshops to build the capacity of the Verde Island Passage community to run a community-based ecotourism. This includes diving certification, emergency response and first aid, coral reef and fish identification workshops, leadership and empowerment, and financial literacy.
Gela hopes that with this third project, the community’s income numbers will be pushed up to more dignified levels. “I’ve already promised myself I wouldn’t stop until they can fly on their own and not need help anymore,” Gela says.
Alongside helping other people, Gela wants to remind us that we should also make time to take care of ourselves. “You can’t take care of the world sustainably if you can’t take care of yourself,” she advises. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, getting some exercise and being surrounded by good people should be priorities.
Ultimately, Gela reminds us that the world won’t always be fair. In the course of our journeys towards any commitment, we will be knocked down countless times. “But, every problem that matters in this world is stubborn and will only be beaten by an equally stubborn force. That’s why you’re doing it in the first place. You can rest, but don’t stop.”
Instagram: @reefnomads // @stungbyagelafish
WordPress: Reef Nomads
We all want to pave our own paths and make a mark on the world. These four Filipina heroes are an inspiration to all of us who want to get up and start our own journey towards contributing to society.
Any other modern Filipino heroes we need to know about? Let us know in the comments!