2 Bicolanos bag Bangon Awards

By Mavic Conde


Two Bicolanos have won the first Bangon Awards, a recognition from Human Nature of ordinary Filipinos’ exemplary actions during (and even before) the pandemic.


Emelyn Balatbat and TABI Farm were both major prize winners for Pro-Poor and Pro-Environment categories, respectively. Each received P20,000 worth of Human Nature products, as well as their respective beneficiary groups; P10,000 worth of goods from Robinson’s Supermarket, and a trophy designed by AG Saño.


Balatbat, through her Bayanihan Eco Project, which works with many different partners, provided fresh food relief packs to over 400 families in Romblon and Sorsogon provinces. Her group also served 15 families with a water source through the installation of a 2000-liter rainwater collector tank in Cobrador Island.


Farmers from the same island also benefited from jobs created during the pandemic, as well as quarantined persons by receiving fresh vegetables, and barangay and school frontliners by getting disinfectant supplies.


When asked about her motivation, she told Bicol Mail that it all started with the Sisters of Holy Family of Beaurdeux, a foreign Catholic missionary congregation based in Gubat, Sorsogon where she’s a resident.


“My mother worked there, so I was exposed to their community missions until I was in college. I can say that I got my volunteering foundation from the Sisters,” she said.


She added that growing up with the Sisters taught her this great lesson: “Never leave the poor behind and pay [it] forward.”


Then, she said it was further harnessed by Gawad Kalinga where she became a volunteer for about seven years. Her personal advocacy started in 2005.


TABI Farm is a trial/research rice farm in Albay that donated rice for the feeding program of partner People’s Organization, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Called Hot Meals, KMP Bicol was able to distribute rice meals to farming communities in the region during the successive lockdowns in the country.


Beyond this, the farm has been training farmers to mitigate their vulnerabilities to climate change through a program called Balik Binhi, where farmers receive traditional varieties, make them locally adapted through trial farming, and share a portion of their produce for other adaptors.


“The access to seeds make farmers reduce planting costs, and replant soon after disasters, if not donate seeds to affected farmers,” Ronald Labrador, TABI Farm technical expert said.


This approach addresses poverty, a factor that makes farmers most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as well as mitigates it by not contributing to excessive greenhouse gas emissions because seed saving requires natural farming.


The Bangon Awards is Human Nature’s way of celebrating its 13th anniversary as a producer of Philippine-made natural care products.