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The New Planeteers: Anna Oposa, Bianca Gonzales and Pie Alvarez

The Climate Change Commission’s ambassadors Anna Oposa, Bianca Gonzalez and Pie Alvarez talk about why we should be standing up and taking notice of the planet’s pleas for help, and what exactly we need to know and do to save the world.

The Climate Change Commission’s ambassadors Anna Oposa, Bianca Gonzalez and Pie Alvarez talk about why we should be standing up and taking notice of the planet’s pleas for help, and what exactly we need to know and do to save the world.

The heat is particularly excruciating on the day of the cover shoot, with the ocean breeze being an especially welcome respite from the noon sun. It’s not at all surprising that most of the team went on to discussing the past summer, recounting temperatures that have reached record highs and the inescapable humidity. “It’s climate change,” someone says, which earns a knowing laugh from our trio of cover stars.

Anna Oposa, Bianca Gonzalez and Pie Alvarez grace Zee Lifestyle’s cover at what seems to be an opportune time, considering the past months make it practically impossible to ignore the current changes in weather and the environment. As ambassadors of the Climate Change Commission’s Greeneration campaign, these three ladies have begun traveling around the country for the Greeneration Summits—most recently in Cebu, where the three of them were brought together for the first time. More summits are currently in the works, but already kids have been taking notice—after all, it’s hard to not pay attention when three beautiful, intelligent and captivatingly charismatic women are talking in front of you.

“Their contribution has been substantial in getting the youth involved,” says Secretary Lucille Sering about the trio she likens to Charlie’s Angels, pointing out how each girl exudes substance and perfectly embodies the cause by practicing what they preach. “We get them involved in promoting consciousness programs of the CCC and showcase the things they actually do as individuals: Anna with her dolphin protection projects, Pie and her government programs in San Vicente, and Bianca with her effort to pursue a green lifestyle.” Besides the work they do as a group, the girls also have their own individual contributions to the CCC, such as conducting workshops, seminars and activity-based research.

For their differences, the three girls come together not just as coambassadors but also as close friends, chatting and laughing comfortably as they get ready for the various shots throughout the day. Theirs is an easy camaraderie that is quite contagious, each girl gracious and funny but with a quiet determination that flows steadily beneath the surface. In any case, the trio remains approachable and amiable, gamely stepping in and out of the water for their respective shots. The beachside setting might be one that’s all to familiar to Anna Oposa,a marine conservationist, writer and self-proclaimed Chief Mermaid, a title that she’s happy to report is catching on. “Even letters from government groups and agencies are addressed to Anna Oposa, Chief Mermaid of Save the Philippine Seas,” she shares with a laugh.
“I met Anna through her father, the noted environmental lawyer Atty. Tony Oposa, in Cancun, Mexico,” the secretary recalls. “She was part of the youth delegation that joined the climate change talks there. Although our first encounter was our joint interest in music, I knew right then and there she was one of the best candidates. She is passionate, intelligent and crazy—and we need to have a little craziness to be able to sustain advocacies that only a few so far can pursue full-time.”

True enough, Anna lights up and talks animatedly about her causes, especially her own personal endeavor Save the Philippine Seas (SPS). “I grew up around the sea. I started diving at 15 because my brothers and dad were diving too. The sea is a different world, and it’s unfortunate that not a lot of people get to see it. I’m convinced if they did, they would be more inspired to protect it,” she says. Organized with friends from various fields and backgrounds, SPS was the chance for Anna to speak at a Senate hearing in June 1, 2011 in aid of the legislation on the issue called ‘the rape of the Philippine seas.’ “The Philippines is the center of marine biodiversity in the world, but it is also the center of adversity. Our waters are incredibly rich with natural resources and consequently, potential to power our economy by providing jobs in tourism and agriculture, and providing seafood. If we used ecologically sound fishing methods, no one in the Philippines should go hungry.

It’s easy to understand why anyone would choose Anna as a spokesperson. In her talks, she is witty but firm, with an authoritative way of speaking that comes from years of experience and efforts. Her environmental career started off in 2007, when she was a diver-volunteer for an underwater cleanup. “I saw diapers and all sorts of garbage 40-60 feet underwater. After that dive, I slowly shifted from my first love of musical theater, and started doing more environmental projects.”

Currently, Anna spends a lot of time in Malapascua, where she spearheads efforts for thresher shark conservation—the funding for which she received when she was the first Filipino and youngest person to win the Future for Nature Award in the Netherlands. “Since the project began last year, I have been working with dive guides, teachers, students, the Bantay Dagat and dive operators for different activities,” she explains. “In April, we trained the teachers to incorporate marine science into their educational curriculum and even taught them how to snorkel. We also held an Arts-Science Festival for over 100 students, so they would have an opportunity to learn about the environment in a fun way. For the dive guides and operators, we work together to promote sustainable diving practices.”

Anna’s efforts are mirrored in another seaside community by Pie Alvarez, the newly re-elected mayor of San Vicente, Palawan, a community that boasts of being one of the most ecologically sustainable in the Philippines. “I’ve known Mayor Pie since she was in high school; she was an innocent kid then, but I already noticed that her heart was in the right place,” the secretary shares. “When Pie went to college in Boston, she took up a course related to the environment. She eventually joined politics and won as mayor, and I knew right away that she was the perfect model not only for the youth, but also for young local government officials in promoting environmental conservation.”

Pie’s decision to run for office actually stems from very simple but remarkable reasons. “My parents taught me a very simple life lesson: if you are blessed in life, you should always share your blessings and give back,” she explains, remembering how she had campaigned as a college senior and was declared mayor just days from her graduation. Besides that, she did it as a proactive reaction to the state of the country’s political system. “Instead of complaining or turning my back and working abroad, I chose to do something about it. Being a public servant is no easy task and it requires commitment, hard work and passion. The Philippines is often criticized for having a corrupt government system, and I wanted to do my part in trying to change that. I strongly believed that there is a chance for our country but we have to start today, so I decided to begin my personal quest to do good at the age of 21.”

Since being elected, Pie has been working to properly maintain her beautiful seaside community by striving for the protection of the ecosystem while educating and leading the people to understand the importance of why they should be living sustainably. It’s an effort that led her to working with the Climate Change Commission early on, with San Vicente as the model for the commission’s Eco-Town Framework. “We both wanted to work together to identify vulnerabilities, assess the existing landscape and implement climate change-resilient plans.” It only seemed natural, then, to transition into becoming an ambassador for the cause. “I immediately wanted to be a part of it! Empowering the youth on climate change is a fundamental building block for our country.”

Of course, empowering the youth isn’t about throwing them examples and lifestyles that could seem daunting for the average teenager. “I think that’s what they appreciated most about me,” says Bianca Gonzalez, who completes the trio. “I was very open from the start that I had much to learn and would love to study the issue more. I didn’t want to be just a talking head. I think they saw that I could represent environmental awareness and conservation from a sort of layman’s perspective.”

“I met Bianca through Anna and Pie,” the secretary says. “During our first meeting, I felt really light about her and how positive she was as a person. I instantly became a fan, and if she can make a fan out of me who’s not really following showbiz, how much more for others? Also, her chemistry with Pie and Anna makes the perfect combination, and they make ‘selling’ the idea easy.”

Bianca’s is a name that most Filipino households are familiar with, seeing her face on TV, magazines and billboards across the country. More than that, though, Bianca is also a powerful force on social media—she has 2.3 million followers on Twitter alone—which she uses in promoting her own advocacy. “It’s always been education and youth empowerment, which are the basic keys everyone needs to succeed,” she shares, recounting how her former youth program Y Speak had been about giving the youth a voice on current social issues. “Social media made it cheaper and easier to reach a lot of people. But at the same time, it makes people’s attention spans a lot shorter, and you’re competing with so many other things and posts for attention.” In this regard, she helps in disseminating information on Greeneration and the Climate Change Commission by sharing articles on her feed.

It’s proven effective, with her 10 Eco-Friendly Things to Do shared at the Greeneration Summit in Cebu quickly went viral—blogs have been posting and re-posting the list, which included items like using paper instead of plastic, switching off unused electrical items and using public transportation. But she admits that some of it is easier said than done. “Living in Manila, it can be hard to bike or commute, so I would carpool,” she shares about her college days, when she was living in Parañaque but studying in Quezon City. “I also use LED and inverter appliances, which saves more energy in the long run. It’s nothing so hardcore; maybe I can do more in the coming years.” It may seem simple enough, but Bianca’s slow but determined change in her lifestyle is one that is relatable, and makes the task of saving the planet seem less daunting.

The girls all acknowledge that everyone can start making a change through the little things, but they all agree that the actions should be rooted in education—after all, an infinite amount of information is now readily available online. “Begin with yourself. That’s the simplest and most effective way to start living sustainability,” says Pie, going back to Bianca’s list. “There are countless ways to change our bad habits and shift to an eco-conscious way of living.”

Anna, who Bianca playfully calls the hardcore environmentalist of the group, has other advice for kids who want to play their part in the campaign. “Write letters to leaders, discuss issues with your family and friends, engage in meaningful conversations with strangers and other like-minded people online, participate in projects and, most importantly, walk your talk. No one’s going to believe in your cause or be inspired if you diss the government for waste management when you don’t even segregate your waste at home.”

In the end, they agree that the worst enemy we have in becoming more sustainable is ourselves. “Anna has this thing that she says: global whining,” Bianca shares. “It’s easy to complain but if you do nothing about it, then that’s the problem.”

“The biggest challenge I face is apathy,” Anna adds. “The hardest part of my work is getting people to care about their own resources.” It’s an interesting fact, considering how people don’t seem to realize that this is something that will affect everyone’s future. “Nothing in life is free, and as consumers we use up a lot of the earth’s natural resources,” Pie says. “This comes at a price that negatively hurts our existing ecosystems.” In the mayor’s case, she leads with a passion that’s admirable. “I hope to show the youth that you don’t need to be a scientist or hold a PhD to do something for the environment and for the country. I don’t need audience members starting their own movements; revolutions begin inside, with the choices they make every day.”

Anna agrees, adding that it’s as simple as “reduce, reuse, recycle.” In Bianca’s case, she has a simple goal for the movement, a statement that makes the seemingly impossible task something that everyone can contribute to. “If every person hears of what we’re doing—whether it’s reading a tweet or an article, or hearing about one of our projects—and it helps them change a bad habit, then we would have done our job. Maybe someone who didn’t used to segregate their garbage decides to change, or if someone unplugs their appliances when they’re not using it, then I think that would make us successful.”

  • by Shari Quimbo
  • creative director David Jones Cua
  • photography Hamelton Gilig
  • assistant EJ Negre
  • fashion stylist Pia Echevarria
  • assistant Lor Yutico
  • hair and make up Romero Vergara, Gino Fonghe, Jesse Egos, and Jay Failanga
  • locale Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan
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Design

Filipino graphic designer makes history, joins Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde among genre’s greats

PJ Ong of Inodoro, an internationally renowned graphic designer, is the first Filipino whose work will be part of the permanent collection of Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde

CEBU CITY — In a groundbreaking achievement, Cebu-based graphic designer and art director PJ Ong of Inodoro Design Studio, is set to become the first Filipino artist permanently exhibited at Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g) in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Cebu-based graphic designer and art director of Inodoro Design Studio, PJ Ong

Ong’s recognition at MA-g places him among over 250 avant-garde artists, including iconic figures like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, signifying a profound milestone in museum history.

“Avant-garde,” is a term that refers to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

“I am extremely honored and humbled. It is a remarkable milestone in my creative journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a prominent platform. The acknowledgment, especially considering Switzerland’s exacting standards in art and design, is truly fulfilling,” said Ong.

 

Part of a stellar contemporary collection

Under the museum’s Contemporary Collection, Ong will join global contemporary agencies such as M/M Paris (collaborator of Icelandic singer-songwriter and composer, Björk), WORK Pte Ltd (brainchild of the “Godfather of Singapore Graphic Design,” Theseus Chan), Bedow (Stockholm), BVD Stockholm AB (Stockholm), Socio Design (London) and Milkxhake (Hong Kong), among others.

Ong’s music packaging design for the Filipino harsh noise duo, White Widow, will be featured in the museum. The band’s album “The God Uterus Dissolves” — released under Melt Records — features an unconventional cassette tape packaging incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, elevating it into a unique and bespoke collector’s item.

The museum’s selection process for its Contemporary Collection involved three categories: Graphic Design, Photography, and Illustration. Swiss-Canadian Fritz Gottschalk, a prominent figure in contemporary graphic design, led the Graphic Design category.

“This is profoundly validating for me as a graphic designer. Being part of a museum’s permanent contemporary collection is a lasting testament to my capabilities as an artist,” said Ong.

‘Poetry you can touch’

The graphic designer from Cebu City further defined the album as a “deliberate departure from the ordinary,” stating that it was a testament to the artist’s and band’s dedication to pushing boundaries and offering the audience a unique and immersive experience.

“Careful consideration was given to every detail, including choosing a premium supplier for the cassette tape. Opting for a screen-printed cassette, where design elements were applied directly to the surface, gave it a contemporary and visually striking result, helping us reinforce the design narrative,” said Ong.

“From the cohesive placement of elements to using symbols instead of track titles on the spine and customizing fonts, every aspect was carefully thought out. Rather than opting for the conventional wire mesh treatment on print, I took a bold step by incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, adding a unique and sensory dimension to the album — almost like poetry you can touch.”

 

Profound honor

Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio under Ong’s leadership has garnered global acclaim for its bold design philosophy, spanning music, fashion, architecture, culture and technology. In becoming the first Filipino whose work will be on display at the MA-g, Ong stated that it is “particularly humbling.”

“Traditionally, these privileges are given to individuals who have amassed decades of experience, attained mastery in their craft, or even as a posthumous acknowledgment. To be among those selected is a profound and unexpected honor,” he said.

“Museums typically focus on visual artists, and for a graphic designer, especially within the realm of commercial work, recognition can be more elusive. I appreciate the challenges of this less conventional route and I am committed to proving the significance of graphic design in the broader artistic landscape.”

Art enthusiasts can anticipate viewing Ong’s work with “The God Uterus Dissolves” at MA-g, scheduled to open to the general public in 2025.

***

About The Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g)

The Museum of Avant-garde compiles an original body of work from private collections, providing a unique perspective on the cultural and artistic significance of avant-garde movements. These movements, synonymous with transformative ideologies and daring experimentations, played a pivotal role in challenging political and societal conventions. For more information, visit www.ma-g.org.

 

About Inodoro

Inodoro is the creative moniker of graphic designer and art director PJ Ong, a prominent figure in the Philippine design scene. Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio, based in Cebu, Philippines, has garnered international recognition for its bold and distinctive design, with a focus on thought-driven imagery and iconic visual language. The studio specializes in identities, custom typography, graphic design and art direction. For more information, visit www.inodoro-design.com.

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Ladies Who Support Ladies

Women’s Circle is an organization composed of Cebuano ladies who are successful entrepreneurs and top executives.  They recently held a fellowship event at the Sheraton Mactan Resort, with special guests from the Women’s Business Council Philippines. Chairperson, Rosemarie Rafael and Council Secretary Cynthia Mamon both flew in from Manila to discuss alliances between the Cebu and Manila groups.

Loot bag from Jo Malone, Sheraton, R&M Chocomanga, gift card from Maayo Clinic, sarong from Ferimar.

The half day event was organized by Perl Jacalan, Gina Atienza and Eva Gullas. Sheraton Resort through its GM Dottie Wugler Cronin supported the event as it is aligned with the hotel’s women initiatives.  The successful event was made more fun with generous give-aways, notably Jo Malone perfumes, Sheraton bags, R&M Chocomanga and sarongs from Ferimar.

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Eight Years of Redefining Hospitality Service

by Allain Dumon Fonte

The person behind the very successful chain of Bayfront Hotel  Cebu is the youngest son of entrepreneur couple, Edgar and Gregoria Cokaliong.  I first met Charlton as a young and dashing gentleman busily working in their textile business.  I am impressed with how he excellently juggled taking care of orders, organizing shipments, arranging deliveries, accounting, and even managing the staff of their textile company.  Charlton is an alumnus of Cebu Eastern College where he finished his primary and secondary education.  He then went to the University of San Carlos and studied accountancy.  He successfully passed the accounting licensure examinations, and worked as a certified public accountant while helping in the family’s textile business; who would have thought that he would venture into hospitality.  

Charlton Cokaliong (Managing Director of Bayfron Hotel Cebu). Picture taken at the Bayfront Hotel Lobby.

In 2014, he first opened Bayfront Hotel Cebu at the North Reclamation Area.  I even wondered why of all the places that he can start a hotel, he had to choose the North Reclamation Area.  I find the location appalling for a hotel.  What view will the guests see?  I would not want to stay in a room where the views are cranes, machines, and container vans from the sea port.  Yet, Charlton foresaw the future of hospitality service.  He knew that with the recent developments of Cebu City, people will prefer to stay in hotels that are near to the city, and have access to almost everything they need.  The hotel is right across SM City Cebu, 10 minutes from the sea ports, 30 minutes from the airport, and 15 minutes to almost all the tourist destinations in the city and in the hills of Cebu.  Then, he made the hotel packages and event packages reasonably priced; yet, with a 5-star quality of service.  I even questioned, are you not losing for the prices that you have set?  However, since the hotel opened and up to the present, Bayfront Hotel Cebu has always been fully booked and is becoming the primary choice of venue for events and celebrations.  Charlton explained that he foresaw that with the rising economy and the rising population of the metropolitan, people will always prefer to celebrate special occasions; yet, considering the inflation every year, people will also choose to become more practical by spending less  without compromising quality.  And this is what Bayfront Hotel Cebu delivers, an experience of excellent hospitality service at a price that no other can match.

Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol Site.

Because of the continuous demand for their hotel rooms and venues, Charlton opened another Bayfront Hotel Cebu in September 2021.  This time the location is at the heart of the uptown of Cebu in the Capitol Site.  Again, Charlton banked on the great location of the second Bayfront hotel.  I once again questioned him on this; considering the competition in the area because of the many up and coming business hotels that offer the same rates and packages.  Charlton smiled and confidently said that apart from the great location, he also banks on the quality of service that his staff can deliver.  “If you take care of your staff very well, your staff will take good care of your customers”.  I have seen first hand how Charlton handles and manages his staff at their textile store, so I know how he also handles and takes good care of his staff in the hotel.  And I realized that this is his biggest selling point, the hotel’s incomparable service and friendliness.  Even though the hotel opened in the middle of pandemic restrictions, the new hotel is getting countless reservations; most especially that the Capitol Site Bayfront Hotel offers an amazing view of the city skyline at its roofdeck bar and pool area.  The gym , pool , and bar amenities at the hotel’s roof deck with its view are a must to be experienced.

Standard De Luxe Room at the Bayfront Hotel Cebu.

Early of 2022, Charlton also opened the hotel’s in-house dining feature.  For seven years, Bayfront Hotel Cebu was catered by a third party food concessionaire.  But, again, Charlton foresees that the Filipino market will be more critical to food and taste.  I asked, why is this?  Charlton explained that with travel becoming more affordable and accessible, people will get to experience different kinds of food and dine in different restaurants.  Hence, people will now learn to benchmark, not only from local restaurants, but also from their dining experiences around the Philippines and overseas.  Therefore, Bayfront Hotel Cebu needs to step up its game in dining.  With the opening of Caja Kitchen, Bayfront Hotel offers more selections of Asian and Filipino comfort food fusion with international cuisines.  With Caja Kitchen, Charlton turned a Filipino menu into an international dining experience. I asked him how he came up with all these.  Charlton  explained that dedication to make his guests happy and satisfied is the key motivation why he does not stop thinking about innovating and reinventing everyone’s hospitality and dining experience. 

Caja Restaurant: Bayfront Hotel Cebu’s in-house dining facility.

In September of this year, the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in North Reclamation Area is officially celebrating its 8th year of wonderful and excellent hospitality service; while the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol turns 1!  Great and exciting anniversary promotions and packages await its patrons and guests!  Please visit the social media pages of Bayfront Hotel Cebu to know the amazing anniversary deals!

With my last question, what does he have in mind now.  Charlton just smiled and said, “Well, who knows?  Another Bayfront Hotel Cebu shall rise soon!”.  After this interesting conversation, I can say that Charlton is truly a man who can foresee the future; may it be in business, in the market, with the trends, and with new experiences.  

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