Saturday Success Story #27: Anna Oposa
Photo of Caloy Soliongco for Philippine Star
At 24, her list of achievements (A-list) keeps on growing. Here’s what you can find on her A-list:
– in June 2011, she was named by Yahoo! Philippines as one of the Pitong Pinoy awardees for her efforts in the field of environment.
– in April 2011, she initiated and a co-founded “Save the Philippines Seas“, to protect, as the name suggests, the Philippines seas.
– she was the Philippine Youth Ambassador to ASEAN and Japan in 2008, and the Philippine youth leader in the Denso Youth For Earth Action program in Thailand and Japan in 2009.
– in February 2009, she co- organized the Isko cleans UP (ICU) movement at the University of the Philippines.
– she is a Goodness Ambassador by Human Nature and this month’s (March 2012) cover girl for Human Nature, Magalogue
– she is a renowned environmentalist, speaker, scuba diver, world traveler, freelance writer, singer, performer, teacher and yoga practitioner.
She continues to inspire more people in her many great advocacies especially for the environment. She is her own A-list. She is Anna Oposa.
And, this is her story:
AMS: Tell us about yourself. Your education, training and what you are currently involved in.
Anna: My name is Anna Oposa, Filipina and proud. I turned 24 a month ago. Writer by profession, environmental advocate by passion.
De La Salle Zobel – Grade school and high school
Pratt Institute – Creative Writing, Pre-College Summer Program
University of the Philippines-Diliman – Batch 2011, BA English, cum laude
A lot of top-down, bottom-up work. With the support of selected government officials, I filed bills I wrote, like the Shark’s Fin Bill, and a proposed Fisheries Administrative Order to protect thresher sharks. I’m heading the project to makeCavitethe biking capital of thePhilippines. I wrote the Provincial Ordinance for that too. The kickoff event will be in the end of April.
My next big projects that will run ’til next year are establishing a shark shelter in theVisayanSeasunder Save Philippine Seas and developing San Vicente,Palawan, as an eco town with the Climate Change Commission. There’s also creating the Save Philippine Seas mobile app, launching the new website, working on waste management programs in UP, etc. Never a boring day.
AMS: You were named as one of Yahoo’s Pitong Pinoy awardees. Would you please tell us how did you get that award?
Anna: My colleague in SPS nominated me. I found out on June 12, 2011. My “online stage mommy,” Tita Noemi Dado of @momblogger sent me the link of the Yahoo! article.
AMS: Your involvement with marine life is tremendous! How were you introduced to this? At what age?
Anna: My dad is an environmental lawyer, so I guess you could say that my exposure to the environment began when I was still a fetus. He pioneered environmental law in thePhilippines, so when my brothers and I were growing up, we would be brought to different projects — reforestation projects inMt.Maragundon, illegal fishing raids in the Visayas, rescuing marine turtles inCebu. But when you’re a kid you don’t really think about these things as extraordinary because you grew up with it. You don’t see it as a “passion” because it was the norm. Other people went to offices inMakati, my dad went to beaches. Plus he and my mom love to travel, so we would go on annual family trips around thePhilippines, go spelunking, island hopping, trekking. All five of us (my dad, my 3 brothers, me) are licensed scuba divers. That kind of co-existence with nature contributed greatly in being an “environmentalist,” because there is greater motivation to protect things and places that you have fallen in love with.
The funny thing is, I never saw myself going into this path because my heart was committed to musical theatre. I spent my summers in theatre and dance workshops. I had voice lessons every week for about 10 years, and even did a couple of shows with RepertoryPhilippinesand Stages. I didn’t want to go down the same path as my dad, because I’d have a lot to live up to and I’d always be compared to him.
In 2007, I went on a cleanup dive to skip an exam (it was either take the exam or go to the beach, dive, and pick up trash… DUH) and that changed everything. It was one of those Aha! moments. I saw all sorts of crap 60ft below underwater. Diapers, plastics, car parts. I was disgusted and disappointed. I was like, “Okay. I need to do more.”
AMS: Save the Philippines Seas, is your baby. Who came up with this idea and why?
Anna: It was inspired by a report of a US-based company allegedly engaged in large scale extraction of corals and other marine resources. There was an ongoing conversation online, on Twitter and Facebook, and the ones most active got together on Skype and said, “What do we do now?” “Why don’t we create an online platform…” And that’s how SPS was born.
AMS: Aside from your passion of the seas, you also love to sing and perform. I saw some of your singing videos and made me smile. Tell us more about your many other passions?
Anna: Thank you!
I’m most passionate about stopping global whining. Meaning, people who sit around bitching and waiting for the world to change. I’m passionate about spreading good vibes!
My other advocacies are responsible sexual health (I also work with SexandSensibilities.com), arts and culture (meaning treat our artists well so they can stop leaving), education (I think teachers should earn as much as business executives), and youth empowerment (I believe that the youth is not wasted on the young.).
AMS: Were all of you always involved in these types of cause? Since when?
Anna: Oh, not at all. I wanted to be on Broadway. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be many, many things, but being in environmental advocacy was never part of my vision.
AMS: What do you think would be the most important skill a person must possess on order to sustain employability and success?
Anna: Persistence. I’m not the smartest or most talented one out there, but I am “abnormally persistent.” My dad calls me the country’s “foremost environmental pest” because I’m so good at being makulit and following up.
AMS: What are some of your greatest achievements thus far?
Anna: My proudest achievements are those that don’t end up in my resume.For instance, banning the use of Styrofoam in UP through Isko Cleans UP, a waste management program my best friend Kester and I started in 2010. My favorite one is compellingManilaOceanPark to change their marketing collaterals of their shark exhibit from “Shark Attack” to “Shark Encounter” to promote my favorite animals in a more positive light.
AMS: Who are your support systems? Who are/were your motivators?
Anna: My family is an incredible support system. My dad, my mom, and my three brothers. I also have a powerhouse of best friends who are there for anything and everything. I call them when I feel like a task is too big, when I have good news, when I have a story about a dive. Palagi silang may baon na words of wisdom. Just a few days ago, I was having a panic attack about facing a certain government official because I’m a bit too emotionally invested in a project coming up, and my best friend said, “Remember what we say? If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough.”
AMS: Can you share some of your tips in becoming successful like you?
Anna: Haha, I think I’m far from being successful. But here is what I usually tell people who ask for a pep talk:
Stop making excuses. Age is not an excuse to be complacent and lazy. Every excuse is a choice to fail. It’s not about being the smartest or most talented, but having the courage to do something. The greatest change makers I know are also the biggest troublemakers I know.
AMS: What are your next goals for yourself?
Anna: As for myself, I want to take my MA in 2013, visitEngland andBrazil, publish a creative non-fiction book, co-host a TV show. There are many.
AMS: Finally, what is your definition of success.
Anna: My personal definition of success is doing what you love to do, being able to financially sustain your lifestyle through that pursuit of passion, and creating lasting social change.
To read other inspiring Success Stories, click here.