The life of a conservation advocate means calling the planet one’s home. There are no boundaries or limits when it comes to doing one’s part in saving Mother Earth. Just the same, no deed is too grand or small. For The Philippines Foundation and Malibu Foundation Executive Director, conservation is a life-long commitment. Creating positive change, whether it be for Monarch butterflies or coral reefs—is a job as it is an honor. But more than that, it is an on going journey that fills her day with purpose and song.
1. What keeps you busy these days?
Besides serving as Executive Director for both the Philippines Foundation and the Malibu Foundation, my family, pets, and ever-growing and ever-evolving garden.
At home, my new initiative is to plant way stations for the disappearing monarch butterflies. In the Philippines, I focus on rehabilitating coral reefs, which acts as ecosystems for the aquatic world. Both are disappearing…. And are the canary birds to what we are doing to the natural world as a species.
2. How did you come to find your current career or life’s work?
I was working in conservation in Africa when I took a trip back “home” to the Philippines. At the time, the work I had done wasn’t streamlined. It was more on a project-by-project basis.
When Typhoon Haiyan hit, I knew I had to help. The problems post-Haiyan were much larger than just "rebuilding." There was climate change, deforestation, livelihoods, access, and more. So many post-disaster problems are macro and inter-related, especially in a country like the Philippines.
3. What is it about your work or career that you enjoy most?
I am analytic and a problem solver by nature. Although every natural disaster is different, I'm able to see the problem and visualize the big picture solution. That’s when I help on a granular level to get us there. What is most enjoyable is when community comes together.
But, above all else, helping the Philippines and its people, is something that cannot be measured. I feel a great sense of responsibility—to my home and all its citizens. It is the work that truly sings to my soul, and even when it's hard and tireless, I am honored and blessed to be able to pursue it entirely. It is my duty.
4. What do you consider to be “hazards of the job?”
It is easy to get deeply and emotionally entangled with a problem that is so connected to human suffering and relief. And when you want it to be fixed NOW, solutions never seem to be come quickly enough. This can, has and continues to cause me frustration and distress.
In this field of serving others, one must always stay the course, accept that we can only control the things we can change, and keep working hard. What is important to keep in mind is that big problems require big time, big effort, and, most importantly, big patience.
5. For women who aspire for similar careers, what would be your advice?
I would advise them to take a business management course and learn the basics on how to start and operate a nonprofit organization or company. Having passion for a cause without some practical skill set in leadership and operations can lead to a lot of frustration.
I also would encourage others to be inclusive with partnerships to help expand your resources and utilize other people's strengths. There are so many incredible people in the world who are doing great things, and finding those partnerships are vital for success. Better together…and above that, be creative.
6. What are the career milestones that inspire you to break the glass or mold?
Finding new and creative solutions to problems is a necessity for my work. "Breaking the mold" is simply a constant for me.
I'm inspired entirely by the biggest innovators of the world: children.Young girls and boys who are constantly thinking, imagining, and creating with freedom. If you sit in a room with children and ask a simple prompt they will throw ideas at you with little hesitation. The freedom of their minds and their ability to think without limits inspires me to do the same when approaching any complex issues.
7. How do you balance work and family life? What are activities that enable you to bond with family?
Dynamic and creative solutions have been my strategy. For me, creating boundaries between work and family is a necessity. I try my best to wrap up work by 5PM to focus on being present with my family. Of course, in an emergency, my family knows that I may have to put them on the back burner to focus on work, but they will always be my number one.
Bonding with family, is not just ONE big event. Bonding is cumulative and consistent.
It is the book I read to my son each night.
It is the song I sing that gets him from tired to fast asleep.
It is saying “Thank you for all your hard work," to my husband.
It is hugging him a little longer to say “I love you."
It is making heart pancakes for my whole family on Sunday-Funday.
And it is the extra minute we take to do a “family cuddle” in bed.
Bonding is ALL the little moments you take EVERY….. SINGLE…. DAY that makes the difference.
8. How do you unwind or rewind? Any favorite spots in your current city that you consider as your me-time haven?
My favorite spot currently is my garden, or being right near the chicken coop. Gardening, hiking, family, and my pets all keep me grounded and refreshed. Nature has answers if we just stop to listen to it.
9. How would you describe your personal style? What are three your wardrobe essentials?
I would describe my style as simple, ethical, and luxurious. I've noticed that the older I get, the simpler my essentials become: Pearl earrings, white jeans, and a simple but beautiful neutral colored cashmere sweater.
10. What for you makes for a good investment piece? Kindly cite examples of pieces in your current wardrobe!
Pearl earrings are a staple. They go well with anything and everything. Pearl earrings can be dressed up or dressed down. Investing in quality, ethically-sourced pearls can make a wardrobe go from good to great. Especially in the era of sustainable simplicity and luxury.
11. What do pearls mean to you?
Pearls are a gift of nature… it's truly MAGIC! They are examples of life’s beautiful and simple philosophy. To think a grain of sand can turn over and over and over and eventually evolve into this beautiful pearl, speaks to the gift of nature around us.
A grain of sand is worth a thousand moments, and we must protect each grain of sand because every single one is a pearl in the making. It’s as if Pearls were a philosophy – every irritant can be a jewel. It’s just a matter of perspective and time.