And the earth mourns

Sun Star Bacolod - - Front Page -

“SER­VICE to hu­man­ity is ser­vice to God” is the undy­ing slo­gan of the coun­try’s un­par­al­leled eco-war­rior Regina Paz “Gina” La ‘ O Lopez who passed away on Mon­day. Her cor­po­real self may be buried and for­got­ten but her phil­an­thropic and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist spirit will live on. Hon­estly, I do not per­son­ally know this lady and got only in­spir­ing in­for­ma­tion from re­li­able me­dia sources that had the chance of know­ing her. Her name rings to my au­ri­cles when she was picked by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, days af­ter the 2016 elec­tion, to lead the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources (DENR) in ad in­terim ca­pac­ity. The march­ing or­der was to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment and pre­serve the eco­log­i­cal bal­ance. So with her own in­ge­nious­ness, she au­dited all min­ing firms through­out the ar­chi­pel­ago, that in a short span of 60 days, 26 min­ing firms were halted for non-com­pli­ance of the en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions. Gina is an icon of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion ever in the his­tory of this coun­try. Her ad­vo­cacy did not start and end with her 9-month term in the gov­ern­ment. She launched the Save Palawan Move­ment, the his­toric 7 mil­lion sig­na­tures gath­ered to pe­ti­tion against min­ing in Palawan for the pro­tec­tion of bio­di­ver­sity. “Life is beau­ti­ful” as she de­scribed her life that has a golden spoon at birth but chose in an as­cetic life as a mis­sion­ary to Por­tu­gal, Africa and In­dia. She left the com­fort of life and be­come a fully im­mersed phi­lan­thropist for two decades and re­turned home in 1990 honed for another mis­sion. Aside from head­ing Ban­tay Bata 163 to ad­vo­cate the chil­dren’s rights and pro­tec­tion, she also founded the Ban­tay Ka­likasan that re­ha­bil­i­tated the 2,700-hectare La Mesa Wa­ter­shed. In­cluded in the data­base of her ac­com­plish­ments were the cleanup of Pasig River, La­guna Lake and the Manila Bay. Af­ter clean­ing it all, Gina said clean­ing the river is not just clean­ing but re­con­nect­ing to the essence of what we are. “We are es­sen­tially a river peo­ple ( taga-ilog) and for a river peo­ple to live in filth goes against our very soul.” Gina was the first Filipino awardee of the pres­ti­gious Sea­col­ogy Prize, be­stowed on Oc­to­ber 5, 2017 at Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia. End­ing her term in the gov­ern­ment, she sang with her staff in DENR “I be­lieve I can fly, I be­lieve I can touch the sky”, and since Mon­day, the earth is mourn­ing for los­ing a true-blue en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, a war­rior for God’s won­der­ful cre­ation. May her seeds spring in many parts of the coun­try and her spirit lives with her eter­nal slo­gan “Ser­vice to hu­man­ity is ser­vice to God”.*

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