Taking Inspiration from the Storytellers
The last session of the Summit was dedicated to the story-tellers - local change makers spearheading initiatives and making a difference in their respective communities. The story-tellers for this year’s summit included Tobit Cruz, the youngest legislator in Taytay Rizal, Len Cabili, founder of indigenous fashion label Filip+Inna, and mother-daughter duo Irenea Pereyra and Erelie Hitgano, founders of Hillsview Mangostea.
Tobit Cruz, an Ayala Young Leader, shared his journey to and his work in the government, from advocacy to policy and, ultimately, sustainability. Back in 2009, He formed part of the Angat Kabataan program, which offered various activities such as leadership training, voters’ education, deworming drives, tree planting, and health seminars for mothers. In the same year, Typhoon Ondoy hit the Philippines, devastating over 4.9 million people and costing Php 11 billion in damages to infrastructure and agriculture. This solidified Tobit’s advocacy for environmental conservation. The following year, he spearheaded the “Save Maningning” Project, which rehabilitated a 3 km long creek connecting Taytay River and Laguna Lake and acted as, prior to weed overgrowth and rapid siltation, a source of livelihood and recreation to the local community. By engaging the local community and applying the technology of Bokashi balls, taking action and sustaining momentum, He achieved a level of rehabilitation for the Taytay Creek, to the extent that it now serves as a prime model for Southeast Asia.
After a years of staying in the corporate world, he jumped ship and followed his heart. Today he is a full-time legislator in Taytay. Tobit advocates for the environment through various policies, such as the 2014 Solid Waste Management Ordinance, with Php 25,000 average income from Mixed Recycling Facilities and Php 150,000-200,000 projected monthly income upon full implementation, the Waterway Protection Ordinance, with 83% increase of household septic tank use, the Barangay Biking Ordinance, with an expected 30% decrease in vehicle volume by 2018, and the creation of the Barangay Environment and Natural Resources Office, resulting in a 1,775% increase in apprehended and penalized violators from 2015 to 2016 and a Php 980,000 income contribution in 2016. In all his work, he remains steadfast with the belief that true change and success can only be achieved by working together and, as he says, “making people care”.
The second storyteller is Len Cabili, who fostered a love for the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines while growing up in Iligan City in Mindanao. During her stint in Philippine folk dancing as a member of the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company in her youth, Len immersed herself into the national costumes and traditions of Mindanao. A turning point in Ms. Cabili’s life occurred upon discovery of her cancer, at which point she had spent the past decade marketing water jugs through her family business She then decided to pursue the integration of indigenous Filipino weaving culture, starting with designs from the Maranao and Yakan communities, with modern fashion. Despite the arduous process of travelling to and from remote tribal communities around the Philippines, and the financial and operational hurdles of hand-made couture, she has been spearheading the celebration of Indigenous Filipino culture through her 7-year old fashion label Filip+Inna. Sacrifices like walking for 7-8 hours just to reach a tribal community, she highlighted, is necessary. This year, she has been busy with trunk shows around the fashion capitals of Paris and New York, through which she spreads awareness about the plight of the extremely vulnerable Indigenous communities who she is in partner with for the clothes. Her company continues to gain momentum and is fast becoming a well-known brand in the global arena.
The last storytellers are the mother and daughter duo – Erelie Pereyras and Irenea Hitgano, founders of Hillsview Mangostea, shared theirjourney to the creation of the healthy beverage. From their roots in Mindanao, where locals hold festivals in honour of farmers and their produce, they developed a strong commitment to help the people of the region. Given that Mindanao has the highest poverty rate (32.5%) among the three major islands of the Philippines they had a burning desire to help her hometown. They felt this desire grow stronger when the 2012 tropical storm Pablo devastated their place and they. , realized opportunities in treating the fallen Mangosteen trees. From their journey, three key lessons were learned: (1) family being the first school and playground for fostering a mindset of service to others and the greater good, (2) the value of industriousness and resilience in various iterations of a business, and (3) solidarity with one’s fellow neighbours. Truly, they exuded the vision of her company, which is to develop communities through families while enabling business through social innovation.