MANILA—In the final days of her earthly life, philanthropist and environmentalist Gina Lopez paid tribute to her family and the Filipino people, as she recalled all her “heartful” encounters with various people in her 65-year existence in this world.
In a series of conversations recorded in her life’s final three weeks, Lopez, daughter of the late ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr. and Conchita La’O, said she was deeply grateful to be born into her family.
“I feel very blessed to have been born in this family. I mean, Daddy was a man of principles. It has been 20 years [since he passed away] and still we are forever honored and blessed by having known the man,” Lopez said in the recorded conversation shared during the final night of her wake at the ABS-CBN compound Friday.
At 18, Lopez left her comfortable life in the Philippines to become an Ananda Marga yoga missionary in Europe and Africa, a crucial point in her life that sparked her passion for protecting the environment and caring for the welfare of the people.
She returned to the Philippines in the 1990s to help in the charitable work of ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ largest media conglomerate.
She became known for her work in rehabilitating the Pasig River and La Mesa Watershed, harnessing the wide reach of ABS-CBN to educate the people about the importance of the country’s water resources.
She also founded Bantay Bata 163, a helpline devoted to reports of cases of child abuse.
“I feel very blessed to be a part of a corporation. I mean, where do you find something like that? ABS, no?” she said.
“The family could have been into mining and all these things should’ve killed my soul, but ABS is essentially a benevolent company, no? They have principles and they have reach,” added Lopez, a passionate anti-mining advocate who had locked horns with the country’s largest mine operators.
For her brother, ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio Gabriel “Gabby” Lopez III, Gina was the personification of the media company and her contribution to the outfit was incalculable.
Not only did Gina chart the course of ABS-CBN’s charitable arm, she also produced the groundbreaking “Sineskwela” children’s program, which revolutionized the way science was taught in schools.
“We go against the grain, not to be a maverick, but to be in the service for the Filipino. We follow our heart and the rest will come. Gina is the personification of that philosophy,” Gabby said of his sister during Friday’s necrological rites.
“Who would have thought this woman, who follows her heart to every nook and cranny, who has never had a rational thought, would accomplish so much?” he added, in jest.
Lopez’s younger brother, ABS-CBN Publishing Inc. chief Ernie Lopez, said his sister cared for the environment because she knew its impact on the people.
As environment secretary, Gina clashed with the country’s mining firms, she shut down mining operations and canceled contracts for mines she said threatened to pollute the country’s watersheds.
Lopez said while she and some Filipino mining operators did not see eye to eye on the matter, some of them were “actually really nice,” as she recalled the people she encountered while building her life’s work.
“I find the Filipino uniquely special. You can’t find hearts like these anywhere. I find the Filipino uniquely ‘heartful’ . . . I think it’s because the culture is essentially a heart-based one,” Lopez said.
“If heaven is made of people‘s hearts, I think we can build heaven here in the Philippines.”
Lopez’s death has left her family, friends, and colleagues in deep sorrow.
But they may find comfort in the fact that the outspoken environmentalist, an optimistic individual and a go-getter as her friends and family have described her, seemingly found peace.
“I feel heaven coming down and my experience of divine consciousness, it’s just deeper, it’s more profound. I just feel heaven is there, like helping me,” Lopez said.
“I’m telling you, I’m really enjoying this cancer. It’s been such a blessing, a magnificent blessing.”