Ex-DENR Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” La’O López who died on Monday after battling brain cancer was laid to rest. She was 65 (December 27, 1953 – August 19, 2019).
The Filipino environmentalist was the long-time chairperson of ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI).
“Gina was the pillar of strength that pushed AFI to achieve what seemed to be impossible. Her caring heart and selfless kind of love inspired people within and beyond the organization to help and serve others,” ABS-CBN said in a statement.
“While we mourn with Gina’s family and loved ones, we also pray that her legacy continues to live on in the heart of every Kapamilya she had touched in her lifetime.
“We will never forget her and will continue to honor her remarkable contributions not only to ABS-CBN, but the entire nation.
“Thank you Gina, for showing us how it is to live in the service of the Filipino,” ABS-CBN said.
ABS-CBN chairman, Mark Lopez, also mourned the loss of the staunch environmentalist, children’s rights advocate, and philanthropist.
“Today, we lost not just a family member but a person we deeply admire and respect,” the ABS-CBN Corp Chairman said in a statement.
Mark Lopez is a cousin of the former Environment Secretary.
“At an age when people are just figuring out what they want to do in life, she already knew her purpose. She left a comfortable life to devote her time and energy to help uplift other people’s lives,” Mr. Lopez said.
“When she returned to join ABS-CBN, she instilled in her people the same drive to help. For her, nothing cannot be done, no effort is too small, anybody can — and should — do their part in making the world a better place.
Mr. Lopez paid tribute to his cousin’s efforts to rescue victims of child abuse, save a watershed, stop the destruction of the environment, clean a river, and help communities stand on their own by turning them into eco-tourism sites.
“All of these she did out of love, and with love, as she believed love to be the strongest force for change.
“We will miss Gina’s light, as a private person, as a leader, and as a crusader. While she left us a void that cannot be filled, we take comfort in knowing that with love, like she had shown us, there remains hope and beauty in the world we live in.
ABS-CBN Foundation Inc also remembered the zeal of the institution’s founder.
“Gina Lopez was a champion for the environment, child protection, and the disadvantaged. She exemplified a life of service to humanity with a deep desire to improve people’s lives, rallied for social justice, and sought to bring hope and change to poor communities,” AFI said in a statement.
As an advocate for children’s rights, she founded the Bantay Bata 163, a helpline devoted to reports of cases of child abuse.
Lopez was the sister of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez and daughter of “Kapitan” Eugenio Lopez, Jr.
Gina Lopez is the daughter of ABS-CBN Chairman Emeritus Eugenio Lopez, Jr. of Iloilo and Conchita La’O of Manila. She has six siblings including ABS-CBN Chairman Eugenio Lopez III.
She went to Assumption College and Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Boston (now part of Boston College). Gina Lopez finished a master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management.
After studying in the United States, Gina Lopez left her privileged life in Manila and became a yoga missionary for twenty years. She lived in Portugal, India, and Africa during those years. It was in Africa when she met her now-former husband with whom she had two sons.
Gina Lopez was the first Filipino to receive the prestigious Seacology Prize on October 5, 2017, at Berkeley, California. The prize stated that Lopez is “someone who has shown exceptional achievement in preserving island environments and culture”.
Other awards that Gina Lopez received include: the United Nations Grand Awardee for Excellence (1997) for the Bantay Bata 163 which she initiated and advocated, the International Public Relations Award of Excellence for the Environment (1997), Outstanding Manilans Award for the Environment (2009), the UNESCO Kalinga Award where she was the first Southeast Asian to receive such prestigious award, and an honorary Doctorate Degree in Humanities from the Ateneo de Naga University.
Gina Lopez became known for her work in rehabilitating the Pasig River.
She was appointed by former President Noynoy Aquino as Chairperson of Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission in 2010 and continued serving under President Duterte until her death.
Once considered as the lifeline of the country, Pasig River is one of the most polluted and toxic river systems in the Philippines today. Gina Lopez’ efforts in the commission led to a river rehabilitation revolution which cleansed numerous tributaries in the Pasig River system.
Gina Lopez was also responsible for the reforestation of the La Mesa Watershed Reservation which is considered as the last remaining forest zone in Metro Manila.
In 2011, Gina Lopez launched the Save Palawan Movement along with partner organizations and gathered 7 million signatures for a petition to protect key biodiversity areas and not be ravaged by mining.
An anti-mining advocate, Gina Lopez backed the No Mining In Palawan Movement.
When she was Environment Secretary under President Duterte, she made efforts of shutting down mining operations found to have violated environmental laws.
She also established Investments in Loving Organizations for Village Economies (iLOVE) Foundation, which aims to lift communities out of poverty through the creation of environmentally conscious businesses at the grassroots level.
Tribute to Gina Lopez
Immediately after Gina Lopez was laid to rest, ABS-CBN aired this two-part documentary about her life