RIP Gina Lopez — Environmentalist, Activist, And Yogi Dead At 65

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How Did Gina Lopez Die? New Details On The Death Of Environmentalist At 65

Gina Lopez, the long-time chairperson of ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI) and a former Environment Secretary of the Philippines has died. The environmental activist was 65-years-old. Her family founded ABS-CBN, a broadcasting company. The company is the Philippines' largest entertainment and media conglomerate and Lopez grew up in a wealthy home. She was educated in American schools before deciding at 18-years-old to move to Africa as a yoga missionary and live a life of poverty and service.

After 20 years of missionary work, she returned to her home where she was involved with the charitable foundation of her family's company. In 2016, she was appointed the Philippine Environment Secretary but was forced to step down after mining interests lobbied against her. 

How did Gina Lopez die? Read on for all the details. 

1. Child of privilege

In 2016, Lopez wrote an essay reflecting her life and her work. She described her childhood saying: "I have been superbly blessed with being born into a very loving family. My parents are exemplary human beings, spiritual and compassionate. I get along with all my siblings. My childhood memories are of warmth and love, and my adolescent years were a lot of fun." She talked about going to church, hoping to find greater meaning but eventually becoming distracted by school and the focus on having a good time. She went to America to study at a boarding school in Massachusetts then to Newton College, where she founded an ashram that taught meditation and she discovered her calling for service work. 

2. Missionary work abroad

After returning to the Philippines and getting involved in relief work there, she decided to move abroad, saying: "Eventually I left home. Not because things were not good, but because I had this urge to do something." After making the choice to serve abroad, she said: "I became a full-fledged yoga missionary. I went to Portugal, India, then Africa. It was in Africa that I spent 11 years and met my now ex-husband with whom I have two sons. The basic responsibilities of an Ananda Marga yoga missionary are to teach yoga, run pre-primary schools, and mentor children in homes for the underprivileged. The slogan is “Service to humanity is service to God.” I was constantly looking for money to survive and take care of the children I was responsible for." She ultimately spent over 20 years living among the poor, learning how to make do with little and how to serve others in the process. 

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3. ABS-CBN Foundation

Upon her return to Manila, Lopez began working with her family's foundation, eventually rising to the position of Chair. In the foundation's official statement about her death, they say "Gina Lopez was a champion for the environment, child protection and the disadvantaged. She exemplified a life of service to humanity with a deep desire to improve people's lives, rallied for social justice and sought to bring hope and change to poor communities." The Foundation's work includes programs for child welfare, disaster relief, and environmental protection, including rescuing children from domestic violence through the country’s first hotline against child abuse. 

Environmental protection was a passion.

4. Acting Environmental Secretary

In 2016, Lopez was appointed acting environmental secretary by President Duterte. Despite his record of authoritarian rule and violent crackdowns on drug crimes, Duterte feels strongly about responsible environmental management. Lopez was a known crusader on the issue and immediately took radical steps to reduce the negative effects of nickel mining in the country. The New York Times reports that she canceled permits for 28 of the country's 41 nickel mines over concerns about run-off that was polluting the areas around the facilities. At the time, Lopez said: "I’m going to do the right thing and let the dice fall where it may. And I am going to hope that maybe these politicians, even if they’re funded by mining money, must have love for God and country in their hearts.” Her hopes were misplaced, whoever, and the Philippine Senate succumbed to pressure from mining interests and denied her formal appointment to the post. After her departure, she remarked "What a waste. Everyone would have benefited from the management and care of the environment.”

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5. "My passion is to take care of the environment"

After reflecting on her work abroad and laying the foundations of her work in the Philippines, Lopez summarized her current priorities, saying: "My passion is to take care of the environment and address the poverty in the country. I remain convinced that we can have a country without poverty if we take care of the environment and institute mechanisms wherein the community around benefits. I have been able to do it in a few sites where the communities are able to send their kids to college in the second year, so I know it can be done."

6. Death at 65-years-old

Yesterday, the foundation announced that Gina had died due to "multiple organ failure" related to brain cancer. 

Ms. Lopez's family requests that memorial donations be made to the ABS-CBN Foundation.

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.