MANILA - She once donned the iconic red and gold of the beloved Filipina superhero, but now, Nanette Medved-Po wears no costume to be a hero.
Medved-Po was recently named among Forbes Magazine’s 2017 list of "Heroes of Philanthropy" for her work as founder, chair and president of HOPE, a social enterprise that sells bottled water to build classrooms around the country.
The company has so far built 37 classrooms and is expected to complete construction of 20 more by year's end.
Medved-Po, who played "Darna" in the 1991 Joel Lamangan flick, said the desire to help out has been something that was part of her "calling" even before she married business tycoon Chris Po in 1999.
"I always wanted to be useful in some way and I think my previous career has given me a little bit of an audience to leverage to do something good. I’ve always thought that people shouldn’t be a waste of space," she told ANC's Headstart.
"To some people, it’s alright to have that [privileged] life and they do lots of other lovely things. I just so happen to choose to spend my time this way out of fear mostly, as I said, I don’t want to be a waste of space and I feel I have been given a unique opportunity to do something and a little bit of a bullhorn to do so, so I should waste that," she added.
With HOPE, Medved-Po explained, their primary line of business is selling water bottles in different food outlets, they devote "100 percent" of whatever money they make to building school classrooms.
She recalled that while there was no single moment in her new career that changed her way of thinking--"because I’ve always had an awareness of the difficulty or the challenges that come with lack of funding in education," she said--there was one particular "heart-wrenching" event that touched her.
Their team went to Mindanao and saw a school with not a single structure—"no building, no classrooms, not even one."
"I found it hard to believe that there’s a school without classrooms, but our staff went. They were under a shed, under the trees, and we went initially to build 2 classrooms," she said.
"The principal apparently just wept. The students, every morning, as construction was going on, would come by and make haplos the construction because they were so grateful just to connect with the fact that they would have a classroom," she added.
The story left them heartbroken and they offered to build all 6 classrooms the school needed with a partner company from the US.
"They were so grateful they installed a wall, a thank you mural that all the kids, in 13 dialects said thank you; they tailored their uniform after HOPE. It’s such an inspiring [thing]," she said.
"So when our team goes there, it’s just—this is what we live for. We live to make this sort of happiness and these dreams happen. We actually replicated that entire wall here in our HOPE HQ so people can see it," she added.
Despite all these little successes their company had, Medved-Po said she doesn't mind if there would come a day when they would have to go out of business because a bigger conglomerate replicates their model and devotes to classrooms like them.
"In as much as we want to continue—and we will continue to work on classrooms—I think the goal here is to inspire other companies to do the same; not necessarily in classrooms, but in whatever space; to inspire companies to consider creating shared value in the community beyond benefitting just shareholders," she said.
Medved-Po, who admitted she no longer wishes to return to show business, has these words of encouragement for everyone:
"No matter what you do, whether you’re in business or not, you can make a difference whether in your purchase or decisions you make in your everyday life, to be good and help other people."