Gina Lopez: "As Long As You Think It's Hard, It Will Be Hard"
Managing Director for ABS-CBN Foundation Susan Afan looks back at the extraordinary and uniquely inspiring leadership style of Gina Lopez
One of the ways to measure a person's legacy is to observe the kind of action they inspire after they exit this world.
Do their successors lose steam and falter, or do they carry the torch, however heavy it may be, and keep the fire burning? A single look at what followed after Gina Lopez's passing provides the answers.
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In more ways than one, Gina has truly embodied what it’s like to “live life to the fullest.” The life she led was truly incredible, as she strived everyday to make a difference in her community and in the world. Tap the link in our bio to read more about her inspiring journey.
Her death was never the end of anything; it was simply a new beginning, one meant for those that she had trusted to continue her work and inspired to do as she did to claim. Days after her final farewell, those who believed in her remain as strong as ever, never stopping once to re-think if her work was well worth it.
Turning to the words of ABS-CBN Foundation managing director Susan Afan, she sums up the Gina Lopez legacy perfectly: "You’ve done your part. Enjoy your dad and our God’s embrace. Now we need to turn on the 'sparks of Ginas' in all of us to continue what you’ve started and make our Philippines bolder and brighter."
And if that doesn't summarize the effects that Gina had on people—the true measure of legacy—this will convince you further.
In a look back at her time in serving the Filipino people alongside Gina, Susan recalls the best of the best memories, lifelong lessons, and shared dreams she had with the icon, hoping that others will, like her, adopt Gina's passions and live a life of purpose just as she did.
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She made us believe that there is good in the country. That our environment is worth fighting for. She used her impeccable pedigree and be at the forefront of environmental initiatives. May we have more Filipinos like her. My inspiration to do good. Gina Lopez. A modern hero.
Gina was forever in motion in words, and more so in action.
"Gina was overwhelming. Her energy was literally bouncing off the walls. She hated rules. She was bored with numbers and never read contracts. And yes, she (when allowed) was a micro-manager that would never take 'no' for an answer; bottom line, she was one heck of a boss."
She also sent emails at ungodly hours, expected immediate responses, called whenever and wherever, and demanded the same energy from her staff. Under different circumstances, it would all be an employee's worst nightmare, but as Susan and many others—hundreds of others—who have the pleasure (no, the blessing) of working with Gina, they would eventually come to understand that it was what made her her. It was why she was able to accomplish so much, why her dreams almost automatically materialized, why she was the living embodiment of practical application over theory, why her projects were as far-reaching and high-impact as they were. It was, among many other qualities, what made her amazing.
She never stopped moving, but it was because she had the desire to do everything she could in her power for the Filipino people. The need to solve issues never stops after all, so why should she? That's Gina Lopez for you.
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Tita G! I honestly have no idea where to begin, but I know for a fact that you have brought so much light and joy to many people around you, especially to the family. I've never met anyone so passionate, caring and driven with the work that you do to help our environment, our country 🇵🇭 and the people. The amount of goodness and energy that you carry is so inspiring and I fully look up to that. To a very hardworking, intelligent, strong, fun, kind, spiritual and loving person. Thank you for all that you have done, all the love you have spread and the laughters and music shared. You truly are one of a kind. Fly high tita. I always believed you could fly. I love you. ❤️🕊️ Rest Easy. #warrior #environmentalist #naturelover #GinaLopez
Gina mastered the art of pakikisama.
"Despite her stature, she always made everyone in the foundation feel valued and heard."
There was no doubt that Gina was a force to reckon with. In front of government officials, she was staunch in her principles and uncompromising in her advocacies. Addressing an intimidating audience of members of the private sector, she was likewise unbending, never, ever showing signs of breaking under pressure. Speaking to the individuals and communities that benefited from her programs, she exhibited a firmness in her promise to be of help to them, now and forever.
She was different things to different people, but to her staff, she was first and foremost a figure of humility and adaptability, an icon of genuine caring and zero pretension. She was the definition of the adage of walking one's talk and two of the most unforgettable ways she practiced this was through treating employees as equals and making sure that all opinions were given their fair share in the spotlight. She listened, and when she did, it was always with undivided attention. To her, everyone had something to say, and it was always worth listening to—regardless of who was talking.
In other words, Gina earned respect by knowing that respect must first be given.
Gina believed that there was no foundation stronger than love.
"I was talking corporate language to her, using my 30 years of US management experience. And here she was talking about love! I don’t know what happened next—it’s now a blur, but that day for whatever reason, she convinced me—to just love."
Love—it was probably the strongest, and only emotion, that Gina ever let herself be influenced by.
Sure, there were times she had felt frustration, disappointment, and even anger, but at the end of the day, for Gina, love truly conquered all. It was the core of who she was as a person and an environmentalist and humanitarian and without it, none of her work would have been achievable. Gina showed us all that love—unconditional and selfless love—and faith were the most crucial elements in working towards a goal; more so in her line of work that dealt with bettering the lives of the vulnerable, maltreated, and downtrodden.
Well-researched action plans, airtight presentations, and the most detailed SWOT analyses mean nothing if they're motivated by other things besides love.
And in Gina's words, as Susan recalls, she would say, "As long as you think it’s hard, it will be hard.We can’t think small. We have to think big. Let the others take on the smaller tasks. We need to take on the most difficult. We are ABS after all! Don’t think too much, my love... Let it come from your heart and God will listen."
Gina loved the Philippines and believed that being a Filipino was a gift.
"Gina has always said, 'The Philippines is so rich in natural resources and we have the best people. We should not be poor.' And now, I believe her."
Colonial mentality didn't exist in Gina's consciousness.
To her, her Filipino-ness was something to be proud of, something to display with pride and embrace with open arms. Not once has she felt her race was inferior, her national identity something to conceal. Gina believed so much in this country and the people who call it home that she poured her heart and soul, her very life, into work that proved that the Philippines and Filipinos could be great. She believed in her country's strength: its agricultural bounties, extensive biodiversity, ecotourism, and the very warmth of the Filipino. There were never any weak points to her, just untapped potential.
These things to her and more were treasures worth protecting with one's very life and that was exactly what she did, using herself as an example.
Her nationalism was comparable to none and it inspired leagues and leagues of her countrymen from Luzon to Mindanao to follow her footsteps in whatever capacity they could. Like Susan, thousands of Filipinos had been moved by Gina and have learned to see the value of protecting what is uniquely Filipino.
Gina only knew "now," and didn't believe in "later."
"We all say we’ve been touched by her, that she has inspired us. How great and wonderful can that be! But as we all know, warm moments don’t last. How do we keep this inspired feeling going? Let’s give the life of Gina Lopez justice, as she has given us and our country so much!"
If Gina had a dream, a plan, or any vision of the future, you could be sure that in a matter of hours, the wheels to get them to materialize would be turning within days—a week, tops. That's because she always believed that there was no time to waste and that if it was a plan to do good in the world, dillydallying was never an option. (Why wait to make positive change, after all?)
She inspired time and time again with her relentlessness to help (and her restlessness in doing so), but now that she's crossed over to the next life and her signature energy is no longer here to push—and sometimes shove—people in the right direction, what is there to do?
We continue, of course. We keep moving. We, like Gina, remain to be people of action. We do so because we continue to believe what Gina believed in and that we do the things we do for a greater good.
It is, perhaps, the only way to keep Gina's legacy alive.
Gina is strong-willed, and she always kept going, and going, and going.
"Gina was flawed just like all of us. But that’s why she is a modern-day hero, that in spite of her being human, she continued to live her life in the principles she believed in: compassion, inclusiveness, integrity, and love. That amidst negativity, and naysayers, she soldiered on creating institutions like Bantay Bata 163 and Bantay Kalikasan, helping millions of people."
In the days that followed Gina's death, thousands of people have called her one in a million. And she was indeed, but not because she was the only Filipino to ever believe that her country and fellowmen were worth fighting for, or that she was the first to implement beautiful programs to help millions nationwide.
Rather, they called Gina one of a kind and irreplaceable because she remained to be all these things despite her opponents, of which there were many and very powerful indeed, and the countless hurdles that came her way, most seemingly insurmountable to the ordinary dreamer.
But Gina was extraordinary in every way; so extraordinary, in fact, that she believed that nothing could stop her, or more importantly, that nothing was worth stopping her work for. There was a solution to everything.
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"It's like saying that gold and nickel are more important than the water that our people drink." - @ginalopezph on the risks of allowing any mining operation in a watershed . When the Philippine Congress rejected Lopez as Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary (for pretty obvious reasons), she called for a press conference where she asked everyone to sing her favorite song, I Believe I Can Fly. . And yesterday, fly she did. . Lopez waged battles against cancer and huge mining companies, despite coming from an oligarch family herself. Filipino peasants, workers and environmentalists found an unlikely ally in her. She was a true eccentric with a brave heart and now, planet Earth is another beautiful soul fewer. . Rest in Power, you phenomenonal woman. #MaramingSalamatGinaLopez . For the full @nytimes article by Jason Gutierrez on the life and death of this phenomenal woman, click link in bio. (Video from @rappler via YouTube) . #GinaLopez #GinaLopezFliesAt65 #RestInPower #trulyheartbroken #philippinesloss #rareally #environmentalist #larawandersoff #vintagefeed #instavintage #instaretro #vintageaesthetic #vintagestyle #vintagelover #retroaesthetic #cinematic #lightroom #lightroomedit #lightroomedits #repost #virtualwanderingsgallery
Photos from @ginalopezph @gdiariesph