Filipino environmentalist and philanthropist Regina Paz “Gina” La’O López died at the Makati Medical Center in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines at around 4:15 a.m. on August 19, 2019. She was 65.
In 2015, Lopez was diagnosed with brain cancer. Multiple organ failure related to the disease caused her death.
Born to to ABS-CBN Chairman Emeritus Eugenio López, Jr. and Conchita La’O on December 27, 1953, Gina attended private, Roman Catholic, liberal arts school Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, United States and women’s liberal arts college Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Boston, Massachusetts, which was later integrated into Boston College. Gina earned her master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City.
ABS-CBN Chairman Eugenio López III is one of Gina’s six siblings. They spent their childhood in Forbes Park, a gated community in Makati City and one of the richest barangays in the Philippines.
Gina served as the chairman of ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. In a statement, ABS-CBN described her as “the pillar of strength” that pushed the foundation to “achieve what seemed to be impossible” and added that her “caring heart and selfless kind of love inspired people within and beyond the organization to help and serve others.”
In the statement, ABS-CBN paid tribute to Gina’s work as a pioneer for corporate social responsibility and her tireless commitment to various advocacies that gave birth to AFI programs such as Bantay Bata 163 and Bantay Kalikasan. The television network referred to her as “a fervent advocate of children’s rights and protection, a passionate proponent of sustainable livelihood among the underprivileged, and an unswerving champion for environment preservation.”
In 1997, Gina was the United Nations Grand Awardee for Excellence for Bantay Bata 163. In the same year, she received the International Public Relations Award of Excellence for the Environment.
After studying in the U.S., Gina dedicated 20 years of her life as an Ananda Marga yoga missionary in Portugal, India and Africa. For her to do this, she had to leave her privileged life in the Philippines.
Aside from teaching yoga, Gina also ran pre-primary schools and children’s homes for poor children. It was in Africa where she met her husband with whom she had two sons.
On June 30, 2016, Gina was appointed as the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in an ad interim basis under President Rodrigo Duterte. In February 2017, she ordered 23 mines shut and five others suspended and canceled 75 contracts for mining projects located in watersheds.
On May 3, 2017, the Philippines’ Commission on Appointments formally rejected Gina’s appointment as the DENR secretary. On October 5, 2017, she was awarded the Seacology Prize in Berkeley, California, USA for her exceptional achievement in preserving island environments and culture.
Here is a clip featuring the environmentalist and philanthropist: