How did you make the jump from show business to full-time environmentalist?
I used to think that my life’s destiny was in entertainment, because I started out at four years old and that was all I knew. In 2004, my mom passed away from cancer and I went through a period of depression. I learned to connect to the world with empathy and I found myself looking for a purpose. Together with a few people, I started the Communities Organized for Resource Allocation—or CORA, which is my mom’s name—with a simple feeding program. Before we knew it, we were doing it full-time and it completely changed my life.
How did that evolve into Planet CORA, the environmental arm of your non-profit organization?
As CORA started to grow, we wanted to do more for the environment. We weren’t experts or marine biologists, but what we had were volunteers. We decided that we wanted to engage everyday people, so we started with coastal clean-ups and raising awareness of the damage caused by single-use plastics. This carried into our feeding program, where we educated children and youth on having sustainable development goals. Now we have partnerships with the government, the United Nations and certain companies and corporations, and this sends a message that we can do more when we all work together.
1. Eco bag: “Sustainable living is about using what you already have. This was a gift from my godsister and it’s been with me everywhere.”
2. Bamboo toothbrush: “Apart from being biodegradable, bamboo is naturally antibacterial and perfect for things like hygiene products.”
3. Collapsible coffee cup: “This is a lifesaver when I travel and maybe the thing I’ve gotten the most use out of in my entire bag.”
4. Reef-safe sunscreen: “This was a gift from a youth advocate in Palau, who made it from carrot seeds and red raspberry seeds.”
5. Calming balms: “These are from a friend who knows that sustainable packaging is important to me.”
6. Hair and body wash: “The bottle is made from recycled, food-grade, high-grade plastic and is completely recyclable.”
7. Tooth powder: “This was given to me at an event and it’s lasted for ages.”
8. Silk pouch with bamboo cotton swabs: “There are areas in which we can easily cut out plastic use and this is one of them.”
9. Woven fan: “Part of sustainable living is supporting local businesses. I got this in Boracay.”
10. Water bottle: “Plastic water bottles contain microplastics that can be harmful to our health. This one is bamboo and reusable.”
11. Patterned case: “This was a gift from a local indigenous community.”
A quick guide to living sustainably
1. If you can’t reuse it, refuse it
Start by saying no to that plastic straw, or bringing your own reusable shopping bag. It’s the easiest way to cut back on single-use plastics.
2.Green is not just for the thumbs
Animal agriculture contributes heavily to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. You don’t have to go vegan, but you can start by substituting meat-heavy dishes with plant-based foods.
3. Walk this way
Whenever possible, walk or bike to your destination. It’s good for the environment and also for your health!
This article first appeared in the August 2019 issue of Smile magazine.