Philanthropy

25 Social Entrepreneurs Changing Lives in the Philippines

Meet the social entrepreneurs who are changing the country one life at a time.
IMAGE COURTESY OF THE GIVING CAFE/ MAGIC LIWANAG/ INSTAGRAM @farmboylou/ RAEN BADUA/ MARLE DESOJO
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Social entrepreneurship is a concept that's been around for a while, but its rapid growth the past decade is impossible to ignore.

The concept of social value has its roots in charity but it has evolved into a different beast. More than being charitable, social enterprises support communities by creating social, environmental, and financial impact. Social enterprises work together with the underprivileged, giving them the connections and knowledge to produce their goods. This, in turn, creates healthy demand and a steady source of income for those in need.

The emergence of the social entrepreneur has brought new hope to the state of the country. These are some of the notable people at the forefront of innovation, changing the Philippines one life at a time.

Tony Meloto

Gawad Kalinga and GK Enchanted Farm

A post shared by Sasibai Kimis (@sasibai.kimis) on

Meloto is the founder of Gawad Kalinga. As a kid, he lived near the slums and was exposed to Filipinos living in extreme poverty.  But it wasn’t until he was on assignment in Australia that he felt the call to help and give back to the community. In 1995, he started Gawad Kalinga, a movement that helps build communities. Gawad Kalinga has been expanding in leaps and bounds since then, being implemented in over 2,000 communities as well as developing countries Indonesia, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.

GK Enchanted Farm is Gawad Kalinga’s initiative to raise social entrepreneurs who will truly help local farmers and artisans, creating a ripple effect that will showcase Filipino products and hopefully help end poverty.

Camille Meloto and Anna Meloto-Wilk

Human Nature


Following in their father Tony Meloto’s footsteps, sisters Camille and Anna, together with Anna's husband Dylan Wilk, created Human Nature. A beauty and personal care brand, Human Nature produces high quality, natural, and earth-friendly products that help low-income communities, providing them with livelihood training, farming, and processing equipment. The brand has won countless international awards for social entrepreneurship and organic product development.

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Krie Lopez

Messy Bessy


Messy Bessy was established in 2007 as a result of Krie’s program called HOuSE (Helping Ourselves through Sustainable Enterprises). The brand’s flagship products are biodegradable and natural household cleaners made by the at-risk youth who Messy Bessy employs.

Marie Cavosora

CalaBoo


After a five-hour personal tour by Tony Meloto of the Gawad Kalinga property, Cavosora decided to change life paths and volunteer. From volunteering, she eventually became part of the management team and a social entrepreneur. She started CalaBoo Creamery with the intention of helping out farmers through the milk of fresh, locally sourced, grass-fed carabaos.

Anya Lim

ANTHILL


Founded in 2010, ANTHILL makes hand-loomed fabrics for clothing and accessories in partnership with the Bulbulala Farmers and Weavers Association in Luzon, Handcrafters of Mary Enterprise in Visayas, and the Daraghuyan Community of the Bukidnon Tribe in Mindanao. Lim was recently awarded the special jury prize at the APEC Business Efficiency and Success Target Awards.

Len Cabili

Filip + Inna

Cabili grew up in Iligan and admired textiles at a young age. In college, she took up clothing technology at the University of the Philippines. A chance trip to General Santos City and Lake Sebu moved the entrepreneur so much that she established Filip + Inna. Today, she works with embroiderers, weavers, appliquers, and beaders from different Filipino tribes: Ga'dang from Mountain Province, Tinguian from Abra, Ilongot from Aurora, Ifugao from Kalinga, embroiderers from Lumban and Taal, Mangyan from Mindoro. In Mindanao, she works with Yakan from Basilan, from where her mother hails, Tboli from South Cotabato, Blaan and Tagakaolo from Sarangani, Tausug from Jolo, Sama from Tawi-Tawi, Maranao from Marawi, and Manobo from Davao.

Paula Aberasturi

Down to Earth


When she became a mother, Aberasturi had an organic awakening. Wanting the best for her family, she would buy organic produce at high market prices. Her farmer husband, Nicolo then suggested that they could easily grow their own organic produce. The family then uprooted and moved to Sta. Rosa, Laguna, where they keep a backyard farm. They also put up Down to Earth, an organic farm on the foothills of Mr. Kitanglad in Bukidnon.

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One of the few biodynamic farms in the country, Down to Earth states, “We grow our DownToEarth products sustainably: growing flowers, vegetables, herbs without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides; and raising all our hens, chickens, pigs, lamb and cows on local grasses that are pesticide-free. The animals are raised outdoors and never given antibiotics, steroids or growth hormones. The cows are bull-bred, native cross-breeds and have never been castrated or dehorned. They have not been fed GMO corn or soy, or animal by-products.”

Aberasturi also conducts regular workshops on backyard farming to encourage more city dwellers to try it out themselves. 

Marielle De Leon-Lazaro and Liza Morales Crespo

TALI Handmade


TALI Handmade is the brainchild of Lazaro and Crespo. The two started the bag and accessory brand after a visit to a city jail. Seeing the potential to empower lives, the founders recruited the female inmates and taught them design patterns eventually establishing TALI Handmade. Crespo is also a principal of Liza Crespo Ecotecture, an architectural firm that is focused on sustainable design.

Bea Misa-Crisostomo

Ritual


Ritual was started by Bea and husband Rob Crisostomo. The general store stocks bath and beauty products as well as cooking ingredients locally sourced from small-scale farmers. In 2010, the same year it was established, Ritual was recognized by TIME for its products and advocacies.

Mark and Reese Ruiz

Rags2Riches

Rags2Riches works with the women of poverty-stricken Payatas, bringing livelihood and development to the community. The brand supports their artisans with programs such as further training, financial assistance, and full-time employment.

Mark is also attached to Hapinoy, a development program founded by Senator Bam Aquino. Hapinoy supports the many sari-sari stores in the Philippines through training, business capital and innovation.

Michael Harris Conlin

Foundation for Sustainable Coffee Excellence

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A coffee enthusiast from the beginning, Conlin decided to make his passion a business. Henry & Sons began with him personally grinding coffee beans to sell. Finding success in his venture, he decided to inject the social aspect after learning that farmers didn’t put importance on coffee beans. Foundation for Sustainable Coffee Excellence helps the La Trinidad farmers in Benguet, providing livelihood, equipment, water, education, and health.

Michael recently opened The Giving Café, a selling space and café that promotes FSCE’s efforts.

Thomas Graham and Rafael Dionisio

MAD Travel

Thanks for having us yesterday, TEDxADMU! It was an amazing experience meeting all of you and getting to share our mad journey towards a more inclusive Philippines <3

Posted by MAD Travel on Sunday, March 12, 2017

A journalist by profession, Graham came to the Philippines to interview GK founder Tony Meloto. He decided to stay after seeing Gawad Kalinga first-hand. In 2014, he launched MAD Travel together with Dionisio, creating a sustainable tourism agency that’s partnered with the several Gawad Kalinga communities.

Louis Faure

FreeBirds

A post shared by Louis Faure (@farmboylou) on

Louis, the co-founder of FreeBirds first came to the Philippines to look for internship opportunities. After realizing that he could do more, he conceptualized FreeBirds with Vincent Tetal. FreeBirds provides free-range organic poultry raised in natural conditions by the local farmers. Louis recently finished his studies and has returned to the Philippines, kicking FreeBirds into high gear.

Alvie Benitez

GoldenDuck

Alvie Benitez, the entrepreneur of GoldenducK talking with passion about the GoldenducK Salted Eggs to a Journalist from Farm Book Magazine! Join us on twitter @PinoyGoldenducK

Posted by GoldenducK on Thursday, October 10, 2013

GoldenDuck develops duck products ranging from premium salted eggs to award-winning burgers. The enterprise is most known for their “golden eggs,” salted egg colored with turmeric. GoldenDuck employs local duck farmers, providing income to their families and enriching the community.

Fabien Courteille

Plush & Play


Fabien Courteille (second from the right) with GK's SEED scholars and Marie Cavosora

Fabien first traveled to the Philippines in order to learn more about social entrepreneurship. He soon fell in love with the country, leaving his life in France. In October 2012, he founded his own social enterprise Batang Bayani International Inc. through which Fabien creates socially responsible toys Plush and Play that provides livelihood opportunities for women in the countryside.

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Tajen and Catherine Sui

First Harvest

Posted by Catherine Sui on Friday, February 19, 2016

First Harvest produces delectable spreads and jams made with nutritious ingredients, priding itself with its no-extenders rule. The two founders thought of the enterprise at GK, where Tajen was a volunteer and Cat was connected to Human Nature. Today, First Harvest distributes natural honey-sweetened peanut spread, peanut crunch with pinipig, and salted coco caramel produced by the peanut farmers in Bulacan.

Ron Dizon, Xilca Alvarez, and Shanon Khadka

Bayani Brew

Xilca, Ron, and Shanon from Bayani Brew

Posted by Destination Changemakers on Friday, November 23, 2012

While volunteering at GK farm, Dizon, Alvarez, Khadka found that the community's mothers brewed teas from crops like tanglad and pandan. The team deduced that these teas could be packaged and marketed as refreshing cold drinks and soon, Bayani Brew was born. Bayani Brew prioritizes the local organic farming communities by giving them livelihood and promoting farmland development.

Chris Torrance

Ambension Silk Enterprise

Chris explaining the social model of Ambension Silk Enterprise

Posted by MAD Travel on Sunday, November 27, 2016

Torrance arrived in the Philippines in 2014, working under Gawad Kalinga in an effort to help the community. He founded Ambension Silk Enterprise to give the Philippine textile industry a new lease on life by producing artisanal Eri silk products.

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Paolo Chua
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