During the memorial mass at St. Francis Church in Jebel Ali, Dubai on September 2, 2019.
PHOTO BY RACHEL SALINEL/ABS-CBN MIDDLE EAST/BALITANG GLOBAL
DUBAI – Filipino expatriates in Dubai recently organized a memorial mass for philanthropist and environmentalist Gina Lopez.
The mass was held at St. Francis Church in Jebel Ali on Monday (September 2) and was attended by Labor Attache Felicitas Bay, Deputy Consul General Renato Duenas, staff members of Bantay Bata, the children’s social welfare program founded by Lopez, and members of the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai, Philippine Business Council and Balitang Global.
Speaking to Expatmedia.net, Labor Attache Bay described Lopez as an “epitome of educating patiently and advocating passionately” and a “child rights advocate”.
“Through Bantay Bata 163, she promoted the rights of a child – the right to live in a stable, loving and nurturing environment, the right to quality education and healthcare, the right to guidance from a caring adult,” Bay said.
Jonathan Gulmatico, a Dubai resident, said he is a “big fan” of Lopez. “Her love for the children and environment was so remarkable. We have lost a great environmental warrior,” said Gulmatico, a Dubai resident who is organising an eco-friendly rock concert in Dubai in November.
Robert Domingo, a nurse and former Bantay Bata volunteer, thanked Lopez for his stint at Bantay Bata where he met his wife, May Domingo, and “learned how to give service to the Filipino”.
May, who is a pioneer volunteer of Bantay Bata, said Lopez’s advocacy for children and the Filipino people fueled her drive to serve as a volunteer.
Kirk Revisa, whose wife volunteered in the program, also joined the others in paying tribute to Lopez.
“I believe that Gina Lopez is one of the individuals who really made a difference in what she fought for, and I think her death did not stop that. Actually, it caused more people to be aware of what she fought for,” Revisa said.
“I believe we need more people like her. We need a thousand of her,” he added.
Lopez died of multiple organ failure after losing her battle to brain cancer on August 19. She was 65.
Lopez had served as Secretary of the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources. She was also a staunch advocate of environment protection.
In 2017, she became the first Filipino to be awarded the prestigious Seacology Prize for her work in improving the environment. She had announced that she was donating her $10,000 prize to charity.
The late Lopez was a noted philanthropist who founded multiple charity organizations, including Bantay Bata, a helpline for victims of child abuse.
During her term as Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Lopez had clashes with the mining industry on the environmental impact of their operation.
“[She] took the bull by the horns when she fiercely fought powerful interests in the mining sector, as well as industries having negative effect on our ecology. She would be greatly missed,” said Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a previous interview.
Panelo called Lopez “one of President Duterte’s most passionate Cabinet members whose environmental advocacy and legacy remains unparalleled to this day”.
Before returning to the Philippines to set up charitable groups after a 20-year stint as a yoga missionary, Lopez worked in the slums in India and Africa. In Africa, she met her ex-husband and former boss. They have two sons. ICA/RS/Expat Media
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