CONRAD Manila’s Champions of Sustainability 2022 with their Prosperity Bags to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival

CONRAD Manila recently recognized six outstanding Filipinos as Champions of Sustainability for their commitment and meaningful contribution in driving the social, environmental, and commercial welfare of various communities.

Named as Champions of Sustainability were Ormoc Mayor Lucy Torres-Gomez, People Asia Magazine editor Joanne Rae Ramirez, Masungi Georeserve Managing Trustee Ann Dumaliang, social entrepreneur Illac Diaz, Maginhawa Community Pantry founder Ana Patricia Non, and artist Leeroy New.

The hybrid recognition was held in celebration of the coming Mid-Autumn Festival, themed “Prosperity” as an homage to the awardees’ accomplishments in line with the hotel’s Travel With Purpose advocacy.

Conrad Manila’s General Manager Linda Pecoraro said in a statement, “As we will soon welcome the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration, we would like to give tribute to six Champions of Sustainability. They all represent prosperity — through inspiring others and contributing to various sustainable endeavors throughout the country. They have shown how we can all be purposive now and in the future. We celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival or Lunar Reunion through Filipino elements and Chinese traditions.”

A highlight of the event was the official unveiling of Conrad Manila’s Mid-Autumn Prosperity handcrafted bags, which was presented to each Champion of Sustainability. It is the brainchild of the Conrad Manila team together with Filipina artisan Reese Fernandez Ruiz of Rags2Riches. Each “Lunar Prosperity” bag, which comes in two signature colors — Periwinkle Blue and Coral — is packed with Conrad Manila’s signature mooncakes, specially prepared by Executive Chef Eng Yew Khor of China Blue by Jereme Leung and his team.

Celebrity and Mayor of Ormoc, Leyte Lucy Torres-Gomez was the first awardee. Prior to her first term as mayor this year, she had served as Representative of the 4th district of Leyte since 2013. According to a statement, among her “significant accomplishments as the chairperson of the House Committee on Tourism include filing House Bill No. 7229 seeking to integrate and establish pertinent policies and regulations to ensure sustainability in the tourism industry. She spearheaded the protection and restoration of the Banaue Rice Terraces; 6200: Mission Possible Project of Leyte IV, supporting relief efforts, boosting tourism, and adopting sustainability principles.”

Via Zoom, Ms. Torres-Gomez thanked the hotel. “For me being recognized as a Champion of Sustainability will only inspire me to expand my vision and efforts in my hometown. I would like to emphasize, especially in today’s event, how there is an inseparable bond between social, environmental, and climate wellness on the way to economic development. Only when profit is made with people and planet in mind that we can achieve true sustainability.” 

Next up was journalist and People Asia Magazine editor Joanne Rae Ramirez, whose magazine’s People of the Year Awards, Men Who Matter Awards, Women of Style and Substance Awards recognize people who “steer sustainable economic growth in their respective fields.” She had also served as editor of the Presidential Press Staff during the administration of former President Corazon Aquino. Ms. Ramirez is also a Rotary Club of Manila tourism awardee as “an industry leader with significant support and contributions to the development and promotion of sustainable tourism in the country.”

“It is an honor to be recognized not just for my work as a journalist, but also for my efforts to be a Champion of Sustainability. Actually, I think I am more of a soldier than a champion. A soldier who champions sustainability through everyday use of the three R’s: Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle: as a homemaker, a professional, and a citizen of this planet,” she said in a speech during the event. “We are here on a lease, and it is a privilege.”

Ann Dumaliang, managing trustee of the Masungi Georeserve, was awarded next. Masungi, a 450-hectare area of land, was damaged and depleted because of quarrying and deforestation. Ann and her sister Billie fought it out in protecting the land against illegal quarries and loggers. “Today, Masungi has transformed into a model for privately driven conservation, sustainable reforestation, and geo tourism; while educating the community and benefiting the local economy,” said a statement.

“I dedicate this award ultimately to our rangers who stay at the frontlines of defending our forests, and all environmental defenders who continue what they do despite the risks. The Philippines, as some of you might not know, is actually the deadliest country for land defenders in Asia for decades now. It’s a big deal that people continue their vocations despite these huge risks,” said Ms. Dumaliang.

The next awardee, social entrepreneur Illac Diaz, phoned in from Miami, Florida. Mr. Diaz is the Founder/Executive Director of the Liter of Light Foundation, a non-governmental organization that advocates for sustainable energy while providing their own lighting solutions (made of electric parts and recycled plastic bottles) to communities to combat energy poverty. “We affect one million people a year,” he said. “Truly, a business that does good, especially for the environment, for Filipinos, and of course, for all mankind, is the greatest investment of all.”

While it had been announced that Maginhawa Community Pantry founder Ana Patricia Non would not be present during the awards, she had phoned in despite an illness to thank Conrad Manila for the award. “Noong sinimulan ko po ang community pantry, ang goal niya naman po ay ma-sustain ng mga tao iyong buhay nila (When I started the community pantry, its goal was to really help people sustain their lives),” she said. Her efforts during the pandemic inspired a movement to create community pantries across the nation, and led to her recognition as a US Ambassador’s Woman of Courage Awardee earlier this year.

Ang pinaka-mahalagang i-sustain ay ang bayanihan na meron tayo na nasa culture talaga natin (The most important thing to sustain is the communal kinship that is truly in our culture),” she said.

Lastly, artist Leeroy New was awarded for his large-scale works that use recycled and sustainable materials.

He said, “I hope that by continuing to engage in this practice, I hope to show that there’s so much that can be done if we shift our attention to coming up with solutions using artistic practice as a means to be a viable solution for handling these environmental problems that we have right now.” — J.L. Garcia