LAA Special Awardee Gina Lopez with Pres. Aquino and her brother, ABS-CBN chairman and CEO Eugenio Lopez III, during her appointment as chairperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission in 2010A “national treasure” who has made it her mission to save the country’s national treasures.
This was how Lopez Group chairman emeritus Oscar M. Lopez (OML) described his niece Gina Lopez (GL), the recipient of the Lopez Achievement Awards (LAA) Special Award, during the awarding ceremony in October.
“The Lopez Achievement Awards recognize extraordinary accomplishments. They show us that what we might, at first glance, regard as the impossible, are possible after all if you have that peculiar combination of qualities that does not recognize that anything is impossible,” OML noted.
GL’s “singular achievements capture the essence of this award,” he added.
Since the formation of ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI) in 1989 to “to generate welfare funds by broadcasting the plight of those in need of assistance and ensure that all forms of help solicited are properly utilized,” a handful of flagship programs under AFI have been rolled out.
The first one, E-Media, was established in the wake of a hit elementary science TV program, “Sine’skwela,” that ruled its timeslot during its run in the early 1990s. E-Media went on to develop other well-loved educational programs, like “Bayani,” “Hirayamanawari,” “Mathtinik,” “Epol/Apple” and “Pahina.
Bantay Bata 163, one of the first flagship programs under AFI, was set up after GL saw a TV news report where a young child being hurt by an older relative never received help from his neighbors. On its launch on Valentine’s Day in 1997, she called Bantay Bata “a gift of love to Filipino children.”
“Today, thousands of children have been rescued from further harm, given shelter, medical attention and emotional counseling for themselves and their parents,” OML said in his speech.
Celebrating the successful 09.30.2012 Run for the Pasig River in September 2012
In 1998, AFI’s environmental arm Bantay Kalikasan
(BK) was set up. This foreshadowed GL’s championing of a major environmental cause—the rehabilitation of the 2,700-hectare La Mesa Watershed
in Quezon City.
“She established a nationwide program that saved the La Mesa reservoir. The program made it possible forcompanies, civic organizations, students and other volunteers to participate in reforesting the watershed. Families and friends have also rediscovered the natural beauty and pleasures that La Mesa Park provides,” the chairman emeritus said.
The BK website reports that “La Mesa is now considered a carbon sink as it absorbs 3% of the total carbon emissions of Metro Manila.”
ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation, founded a year earlier as ABS-CBN Bayan Microfinance Foundation, expanded its offerings to include non-financial services by 2001. “It is now focused on teaching entrepreneurs how to become more stable and profitable,” OML noted.
This was followed by relief and disaster response services arm Sagip Kapamilya
in 2005 and BayaniJuan sa Calauan (BnJ) which launched in early 2008. AFI’s four flagship programs are integrated in BnJ.
In recent years, the AFI managing director has made space for more high-profile causes on her full plate: the cleanup of the Pasig River
and its waterways which also called for the relocation of informal settlers along the river, and responsible mining.
In August 2010, Pres. Benigno Aquino III
officially appointed GL to head the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, an agency under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that is tasked with cleaning and rehabilitating the Pasig River.
Despite the broadsides that have been hurled at her especially in the wake of the mining debates, GL, Lopez to the core that she is, “has stuck to her guns, undaunted,” her uncle said.
For her environmental work and outstanding citizenship, the AFI managing director has received dozens of awards, including the Rotary Golden Wheel Awards trophy,the Communication Excellence in Organizations award from the International Association of Business Communicators-Philippines, the Outstanding Manilan award from the City of Manila, and the Asian Institute of Management Triple A award. With ABS-CBN president and COO Charo Santos (rightmost) and ABS-CBN head for Broadcast Cory Vidanes in BayaniJuan sa Southville 7 in Calauan, Laguna
“Our Special Awardee has received some of the most prestigious government and private sector awards here and abroad,” OML said. “I am told that while she appreciates the recognition, she finds more personal fulfillment from the thought that she is helping people who have much less opportunities in life. As she has dedicated her life to saving some of our national treasures, she may not know it, but she is on her way to becoming one of our national treasures herself.”
In her spontaneous acceptance speech, a visibly delighted GL thanked OML as well as the Lopez Group CEOs for their adroit leadership of their respective companies, thus providing the funding she needed to do her work.