Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Gina Lopez proved to be quite the revelation to her family, and a huge source of inspiration for her friends.
She marched to the beat of her own drums, and lived a life of service to her fellow man. She was headstrong and steadfast in everything that she set her mind to, and Filipinos were better for it.
Writing Her Own Story
The second of seven children of media magnate Eugenio “Geny” Lopez, Jr. – his eldest daughter – Regina Lopez could have easily lived a comfortable life. This, however, was never the plan.
At 18, Gina moved to the US to study. It was here that her life of service began, with the introduction to the philosophy and tenets of Ananda Marga.
A worldwide socio-spiritual organization, Ananda Marga taught Gina to value spirituality and social justice. This led to her committing full-time to missionary work for the organization. She unshackled herself from the trappings of the affluence attached to her surname.
The next 20 years forged a life of service for Lopez. She practically severed her ties with the Philippines. The road took her on a life of frugality in Portugal, India, and eventually Africa. And all the while, she served the poorest of the poor.
Serving the Filipino People
Perhaps it was destiny that brought Gina Lopez back to the Philippines. She was drawn back to the country not just because of her family, but for the chance to serve the Filipino people. Her legacy started when she took over the ABS-CBN Foundation. And with the way it changed the Philippines for the better, it’s safe to say Lopez poured her heart and soul into it.
90’s kids remember the catalog of educational shows that Gina produced. Her program Educational Television (ETV) aired for 15 years, and produced shows that everyone loved and learned from.
Shows Sineskwela (on science), Math Tinik (on mathematics), Bayani (on history), and Hirayamanawari (on values) are forever ingrained in the psyche of Filipino children of the time. No other selection of educational programing every came close to that lineup.
Protecting and Saving Abused Children
Fortunately, Gina really had a penchant for using media to help people. The greatest example was perhaps her establishment of Asia’s first rescue hotline for children – Bantay Bata 163.
Launched in 1997, Bantay Bata continues to this day, and has rescued and rehabilitated countless disadvantaged and at-risk children. It continues its mission not only by rescuing abused children. Bantay Bata also provides scholarships, medical assistance, and training related to child abuse prevention.
Staunch Environmental Advocate
In 1999, Gina Lopez moved the spotlight to her life-long advocacy for the environment. She launched Bantay Kalikasan, the environmental arm of the ABS-CBN Foundation. This served as her vehicle to address the environmental issues of the Philippines.
Bantay Kalikasan was responsible for the successful reforestation of the 2,700-hectare La Mesa Watershed. It also spearheaded the creation of the La Mesa Eco-park.
One of the organization’s efforts, Bantay Usok, aimed to reduce vehicular smoke emissions in Metro Manila. What began as a signature campaign eventually led to the passing of our Clean Air Act.
Her involvement in Bantay Kalikasan also led to the start of the rehabilitation of 17 esteros of the Pasig River. In 2010, Lopez was appointed chairwoman of the Pasig Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC).
Hardline Stance on Illegal Mining
Bantay Kalikasan also started Gina’s campaign against mining, which she continued up until she was appointed as Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary in 2016 by President Rodrigo Duterte.
She became infamous for instituting a 10-month crackdown on illegal mining, where she ordered the closure or suspension of 28 large-scale mines for failing to meet environmental standards. This amounted to almost half of the current operating mines across the country.
She also cancelled 79 inactive Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) of mining companies situated near existing watersheds.
Her unprecedented actions gained her support among religious leaders, indigenous groups, and environmental advocates. Unsurprisingly, it also earned her a large amount of opposition, mostly from mining firms and other big businesses.
In May 2017, the Commission on Appointments (CoA) rejected Gina’s nomination as DENR Secretary, despite President Duterte’s public remarks supporting her.
Lopez hid her obvious disappointment by doing an impromptu rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly” in front of the media, and called on her supporters to sing with her. The clip of her performance went viral.
After her stint in government, Gina Lopez pushed her advocacy further by creating another foundation, which she called iLOVE (Investments in Loving Organizations for Village Economies). The organization aims to connect government and the private sector for projects that help communities become “economically sustainable.”
Lopez never stopped pushing for sustainable development and lifestyles. Upon her return to the private sector, Gina hosted an environmental TV show called “G Diaries” on ABS-CBN, which featured different destinations in the country, in support of eco-tourism.
Finding Blessings in Challenges
Gina Lopez never disclosed to the public that she was battling brain cancer – perhaps to not distract from her message of environmental advocacy.
Last July 2019, she only mentioned having “health challenges” in a Facebook video of Gary Valenciano singing a capella to her.
The caption read, “As some of you may know, I am having health challenges which I have found a blessing. So yesterday morning, I was was blessed to have a visit from Gary, his wife Angeli, and the sister of Maricel who is also a very beautiful person.”
Gina passed away on August 19, 2019 – she was 65. Articles announcing her demise stated that the family requested that in lieu of flowers and mass cards, donations be made instead to the ABS-CBN Foundation.
Friends, families, colleagues, and the general public mourned her passing, and celebrated a life well-lived.
A World that Runs on Love
Gina Lopez maintained a column in a local newspaper, and once referenced a quote from the Anita Moorjani best-seller Dying To Be Me. It seems to represent Lopez’s whole approach to how she lived her life:
“She talks of how she felt when she left her body. Heaven is so nice. She didn’t want to come back. So, there is life after ‘death.’”, said Gina.
“But while we are in this body, let’s be healthy, and contribute in whatever way we can to a world that runs on love. I have no doubt that that’s the way to go.”