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Human Nature’s business model directs and engages poor farmers in the cultivation of organic-based products. BY PEPPER MARCELO

ANY OF the personal care products we use daily and take for granted – deodorants, moisturizers, shampoos – are likely to contain toxins and chemicals that, built up over time, can be greatly hazardous to our health.

The current trend in health and beauty circles that continues to gain momentum is the use of natural and organic ingredients, which are found to be beneficial to the human body as well as the environment. But they cost more than the chemical-laden products because of more rigorous preparation and more expensive natural ingredients. In the Philippines and elsewhere, organic products, including vegetables, meat and poultry products, are patronized mostly by the upper and middle classes who can afford them. Imported varieties fetch even higher prices. The good news is that many of the natural components of these organic or chemical-free products such as coconut oil, citronella and lemon grass, are in abundant supply in the country and can be had for a fraction of the cost of imported ingredients. Enter the enterprising and creative people of the renowned social development foundation Gawad Kalinga (GK). In furtherance of its goal of empowering the poor, GK has put up Human Nature, a health and beauty line that utilizes locally available ingredients and provides livelihood to residents of poor communities. Conceptualized by GK volunteers Camille and Anna Meloto, daughters of GK founder Tony Meloto, and Anna’s husband, Dylan Wilk, Human Nature was born out of a need for healthy, environmentally-friendly and inexpensive beauty and health products for themselves and their families.

SHARING THE BOUNTY OF NATURE Gawad Kalinga has ventured into business. Human Nature aims to be the first local global Filipino brand known as a social enterprise, providing excellent, globally competitive products while helping Filipino farmers. “Before Human Nature, we just had a desire to launch a company that was pro-Philippines, pro-poor and pro-environment, and one that produces personal and organic care products, which would be something that we could use,” Anna Meloto-Wilk tells Planet Philippines in an interview. “When we looked at natural ingredients that we

Human Nature offers a wide variety of beauty and health products such as bug spray, deodorant and feminine wash, among others.

loved in the US, we found that they’re so common here, but people don’t really think much about it. In the West, they have a different profile; they become elevated to a different status. We thought that there was potential, since they are so abundant in the Philippines.” Convinced of the economic viability and social benefits of the venture, the trio conducted extensive research and consulted knowledgeable experts on such topics as the benefits of organic products, the harmful effects of chemicals on the body and the environment, and availability of healthy and organic products in the country. In collaboration with a product formulator, they decided to create the Human Nature line of products. Human Nature was formally launched in 2008 and was warmly embraced by consumers. “It’s been overwhelming and surprising,” Anna said. “We actually weren’t prepared for the kind of responses we got for our products. I didn’t know there were a lot of people that wanted natural products, but there was nothing to fill that need. They would typically go for chemical products, but given the choice, they prefer natural products.” Currently, Human Nature offers a wide variety of beauty and health products: facial and lip care, such as balm, facial wash, moisturizer and facial scrub; hair care, specifically hair mask, and conditioner; and body care, including massage oil, and deodorant. It also sells other merchandise like bumper stickers, banners and bags. Endorsed by the government as an effective means of countering the dreaded dengue fever,


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citronella bug spray is one of the company’s more popular products, of which more than 10,000 units have been sold. Other best-sellers include sunflower beauty oil, natural deodorant, lip balm, and the recently created feminine wash. According to Anna, Human Nature has sold an impressive two million of its products since its launch a little over two years ago. Not available in retail stores, their products are sold through direct selling via a network of 10,000 dealers in 19 branches all over the country, as well as a robust online service. Anna admits it is difficult to compete with well-known foreign brand. But she says their approach is to appeal to local, choosy consumers who demand the best and healthiest products. “First, you have to make sure the products really perform. Secondly, we price our products to be competitive with commercial products to make it easier for them to make the switch. And then there is our advocacy – Filipinos want to support their country. When they find out it’s made here, it’s pretty good, and the price isn’t bad, they’ll support it.” One of the core tenets of Human Nature is to celebrate the beauty and richness of the Philippines, whether by utilizing its natural resources, or acknowledging the hard work and resilient

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A farm in Cauayan, Negros provides lemon grass essential oils that are also used in the bug spray, massage oil and deodorant.

spirit of the Filipino worker. “Our long term goal is to be the first local global Filipino brand known as a social enterprise. We want to show excellent, globally competitive products.” Similar to GK’s partnership with the poor, wherein volunteers and beneficiaries work hand-in-hand to build new homes, Human Nature’s business model is vastly different from the typical profitoriented company by encouraging, directing and engaging

Human Nature founders Anna Meloto-Wilk (middle), Camille Meloto (2nd from right) and Dylan Wilk (far right) during the product launch last 2008. poor farmers in the farming communities: A cooperacultivation of or- tive of 40 farmers in Bicol grows ganic-based prod- the citronella for Human Nature’s ucts, with a large top-selling bug spray, among percentage of the other products; another farmers’ profits going back group in Negros provides lemon to them. grass essential oils that are also Farms that used used in the bug spray, massage to be traditionally oil and deodorant; and a farm in planted to vegeta- Iloilo is being developed to probles and rice, whose duce virgin coconut oil. yields are barely The production process in sufficient to meet these organic farms involves the farmers’ needs, have become growing, harvesting and drying more productive with the cultiva- the materials, then putting them tion of organic, high-value crops through steam distillation and used as ingredients for Human separating the water from the esNature’s products. The company sential components. The fruit and has partnered with three organic vegetable ingredients are 100 per-

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cent natural, without chemicals and pesticides. In keeping with its philosophy to give back to the community, Human Nature and GK have a commitment to pay for the farms’ operational costs and to give the profits back to the farmers. These funds are used to buy extractors, build clinics and schools, and pay for teachers’ salary. GK’s long-term goal is to expand Human Nature’s operations and establish additional organic farms in GK communities. “They’re a sort of a backyard operation,” Anna said. “Our goal is to go from 7 hectares to 70 and add more extractors. That’s the only way to produce more quantities. It is the hope of Human Nature that hundreds of community organic farms will sprout all over the county, benefiting the livelihood of residents of those communities.” Human Nature employs Gawad Kalinga residents as fulltime staff to work in these organic farms, with their salaries pegged way above the minimum wage. “When they started it was Php382 (a day), but from the beginning we would give them Php500 a day, plus overtime. After three months, they get full employee benefits.” Currently, the average daily wage is Php600. Human Nature’s goal is to eventually increase the top performers’ pay to Php1,000 a day. n


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BAYANING PILIPINO

SURMOUNTING PERSONAL PROBLEMS TO SERVE OTHERS 2010 Bayaning Pilipino awardee Dr. Welthy Villanueva (middle) with ABS-CBN chairman Gabby Lopez (left).

The Bayaning Pilipino Awards aim to give recognition to “struggling Filipinos who, in spite of their own difficulties and shortcomings, still manage to rise and emerge as role models in their communities.” BY PEPPER MARCELO

HERE ARE everyday heroes in our midst, many of whom we don’t even notice -- teachers, doctors, philanthropists and ordinary people. These are people who selflessly sacrifice for others and share their talents and blessings with the less fortunate. They toil in poor neighborhoods, workplaces and far-flung barrios unpaid, unheralded, unnoticed. What makes some of them even more extraordinary is their ability to rise above their own personal limitations and physical disability to serve others. They embody the Dalai Lama’s exhortation: “By going beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain inner strength, self-confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm.” It is in grateful acknowledgment of these living heroes that the Bayaning Pilipino Awards was launched in 1994. A brainchild of the late Eugenio Lopez Jr., founder of ABS-CBN, in partnership with Ugnayan at Tulong Para sa Maralitang Pamilya (UGAT) Foundation, Inc., headed by Fr. Nilo Tanalega, SJ, it aims to give recognition to “struggling Filipinos who in spite of their own difficulties and shortcoming still manage to rise and emerge as role models in their communities.” A total of 57 nominees to the Bayaning Pilipino Awards for 2010 were submitted from all over the Philippines and from the US and Japan. The entries were received and collated via ABS-CBN radio and TV stations around the country. Officials then do site visitations, gather testimonials, do video documentation and perform other verification procedures. The criteria for selection include: the scope and number of beneficiaries affected by the individual with known effective re-

sults, or measurable impact; the ability to unify, or pagkakaisa; the service of the specific issue (poverty, health, education, etc.) as felt in the country where it is performed; the ability to transcend regionalism or parochialism; leadership; and the promotion of Filipino values and culture, or heritage. After a meticulous validation process, the National Screening Committee verifies the regional finalists and regional winners. There are three awards: Bayaning Pilipino, Bayaning Kabataan, and Bayaning Samahan. For 2010, there were 11 regional winners in the Individual Category, four in the Youth Category and three in the Individual Section. From the regional winners, five finalists were submitted to the Board of Judges for the Bayaning Pilipino award. The five finalists were: Rex Bernardo -- A native of Daet, Camarines Norte, he had been cited as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men in 2008 for community service, and Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World. He


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Dr. Welthy Villanueva said she “never sacrificed anything” in her job because it is her “passion” and “purpose in life.” is also an Apolinario Mabini Presidential awardee. Stricken with polio and confined to a wheelchair, Bernardo transcended his physical disability to become a mentor, barangay developer and advocate to help others with disabilities. Beatriz Evangelista -- Tita Betty is a volunteer counselor for many of the 2,000-plus prison inmates in Quezon City, providing Values Formation programs. Despite her advancing age and health problem – she has an enlarged heart – she regularly climbs the many staircases within the maze-like jail to visit inmates and act as their surrogate mother especially in times of distress. Norberto Puasan -- Despite finishing only the sixth grade, Puason, aka Datu Mampinuhan, founded SIKAT, or School for the Indigenous Knowledge and Tradition, in Opol, Misamis Oriental, which teaches indigenous knowledge and traditions of the Lumad tribe. A well respected tribal datu and shaman, he is active in community affairs and acts a judge in the tribal court. Dr. Jose Antonio Socrates -- Doc Soc, as he is known to his patients, is a UP medical

The five finalists (L-R) - Rex Bernardo, Beatriz Evangelista, Jose Antonio Socrates, Welthy Villanueva and Norberto Puasan during the awards night.


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graduate and a balikbayan orthopedic surgeon. After training and working in the US and United Kingdom, he returned to his hometown Palawan and established a rehabilitation center, a prosthetics and wheelchair workshop for people with bone disease. His rehabilitation center is funded by foreign donors impressed by his work. Adjudged Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Pilipino individual awardee for 2010 is Dr. Welthy Villanueva, a modest, humble woman who provides health care and education to tribal communities in Palawan. Not even the pain she constantly tries to endure from her Stage 4 cancer can stop Dr. Villanueva from crossing from one river to another to render medical aid to some of the country’s most remote tribes. Dr. Villanueva is Administrator and Director of the Heavens’ Eyes Tribal Missions, which serves the Batak tribe, a far-flung, indigenous community in Sito Kalakwasan, Roxas, Palawan. The mission offers free medical services, education and food. The Bataks still hunt and fish for their food, oftentimes in dirty, polluted rivers. They have no access to medical care, education and other basic services. Many of them succumb to pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea and they are unable to make the long, arduous trek to the poblacion to seek medical care. “If I can’t come here, then who? Buti kung meron, e paano kung ma-erase na lang sila, walang maaabot sa kanila,” she said. Due to her delicate condition, the mountainous trek and rivers to cross, she is oftentimes carried on a hammock lifted by tribesmen or her associates. The tribesmen are eternally grateful for Dr. Villanueva and her team. “Kahit nahihirapan siya maglakad, nagpupunta lang siya mabigyan lang kami ng gamot,” said one. Besides medical care, Dr. Villanueva and her team provides basic education to the community. “The big accomplishment for us is to teach them how to read and write so they won’t be tricked into selling

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A total of 57 nominees to the Bayaning Pilipino Awards for 2010 were submitted from all over the Philippines and from the US and Japan. Rex Bernardo

Beatriz Evangelista

Jose Antonio Socrates She vowed she would never retire from serving the poor. “I will die if I don’t do it.” She intends to use the P50,000 prize money to expand her medical services to the tribal communities she has not reached yet. “A very big portion of the prize money will go to the work that we have endeavored to start and continue until the end… Right now, we have talks for partnership

Norberto Puasan their land for a carton of cigarettes or a radio. I think we’ve reached that,” she said. In her acceptance speech during the awarding last Jan. 9, Dr. Villanueva said she “never sacrificed anything” in her job because it is her “passion” and “purpose in life.” Compared to what the Lord has done to save humanity, she said her suffering is nothing.

in feeding not only this community we’re currently helping but as well as the people in the South—in Palawan and other tribal people,” she said. Her wish is that from among the tribal communities would emerge someone who would carry on the job after she is gone. “My hope for them is to find someone among them to reach college we will help. A big accomplishment and big feeling of fulfillment it would be for us to a have a graduate that will eventually replace me as an administrator, or the other teachers. It may not happen in this lifetime, but I know it will happen.” She acknowledges her difficult personal struggle but pushes on nonetheless. “I don’t know when God will take me home, [due to my cancer]. Every year is always struggle for me every time I go to do my annual tests; every time I keep on my toes [wondering about] the result. I am going to die, but before I do, I want to create an impact that will outlive me or will last for an eternity.” n


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RITISH BANKING giant Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) sees the peso strengthening to 37.50 against the dollar this year and further to 35.50 to $1 next year as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is likely allow the local currency to appreciate further to cushion the impact of imported inflation brought about by rising global oil and food prices. “We believe the peso will end the year at 37.50 per dollar. By 2012, it will be 35.50 per dollar. The growth in the Philippines is strong, and the foreign exchange should reflect that,” visiting HSBC economist Frederic Neumann said at a press briefing last Feb. 16 in Manila. The Hong Kong-based economist sees the peso appreciating steadily at P40.50 to $1 in the first quarter, 39.50 in the second, 38.50 in the third, and P37.50 in the fourth quarter of this year. Sen. Ralph Recto foresees an even stronger peso at less than P35 to the dollar this year once the central bank raises its key policy rates from record lows to tame inflation. The BSP has kept its key policy rates unchanged since July 2009 and will review them when the policy-setting Monetary Board meets in March. What is good about a stronger peso, Recto said, is that it could offset the impact of higher fuel prices as social and political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa disrupt oil supplies and will likely continue in the coming weeks. A rise in fuel prices will spur inflation higher, he said. “In layman’s terms, when the peso is strong, there would be fewer pesos needed to import fuel which we pay in dollars, and this should trigger similar downtrend in prices of fuel and food,” Recto explained. Neumann explained that strong capital inflows to emerging markets including the Philippines as well as the robust remittances from overseas Filipinos would continue to support the local currency. Latest data show that the country’s gross international reserves (GIR) surged 36.8 percent to a record level $62.371 billion last year from $45.03 billion in 2009 while the balance of payments (BOP) surplus more than doubled to hit a new record level of $14.4 billion from $6.42 billion in 2009.

Record-high in 2010

OFW remittances likewise grew by 8.2 percent to hit a record-high of $18.76 billion last year from $17.35 billion in 2009, exceeding the revised growth forecast of eight percent set by the BSP. “I would think that as growth becomes more entrenched, BSP should allow the peso to be determined by the market. Given our forecast for growth and inflation, BSP is likely to let the exchange

Some financial experts predict that the peso will appreciate to 37.50 per dollar by end of this year and further rise to 35.50 per dollar in 2012.

OFW remittances grew by 8.2 percent to hit a record-high of $18.76 billion last year from $17.35 billion in 2009.

The balance of payments (BOP) surplus more than doubled to hit a new record level of $14.4 billion from $6.42 billion in 2009. rate do the lifting,” Neumann said. The bank recently raised its gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for the Philippines to five percent instead of 4.7 percent this year and to 5.8 percent next year. The country’s GDP growth surged to its fastest in more than three decades after expanding by 7.3 percent last year from 1.1 percent in 2009.

PESO SEEN TO HIT 37.50:$1 THIS YEAR The central bank says the major factors that helped accelerate the growth in remittances were the diversity of the destinations and skills of overseas Filipinos and the expanding network of bank and non-bank service providers both at home and abroad.

Another bright spot

HSBC economist Sherman Chan said in a study that another bright spot is the country’s external position that remained on a firm footing buoyed by rising reserves and steady growth in equity flows. “That said, the economy remains vulnerable to rising capital inflows and ensuing appreciation pressure on the peso. The former

While a strong peso is beneficial to the economy as a whole, it hurts OFWs because their remittances will mean lesser pesos for their families in the country.

MARCH 2011

may fuel asset inflation; the latter could hurt export competitiveness,” Chan added. HSBC sees inflation climbing to 4.4 percent this year and 4.8 percent next year from 3.8 percent last year. The BSP expects inflation to average 4.4 percent instead of 3.6 percent this year and 3.5 percent instead of three percent next year but still well within the target of three percent five percent between 2011 and 2014. Neumann expresses concern on the possibility that the BSP would keep interest rates at record lows despite the risk of higher inflation in the coming months. “Every central bank in East Asia, except BSP, has raised its interest rates. Unless interest rates go up, there will be a danger of inflation,” he added.

$1.7-B in December alone

Central bank data showed that money transfers by OFWs also reached a new monthly record of $1.694 billion last December, up 8.1 percent from December 2009, which eclipsed the $1.673-billion record booked last October. The amount of remittances in 2010 topped the revised 8 percent growth forecast by monetary authorities, with the BSP initially saying the amount would likely grow by 6 percent. “The 2010 level slightly exceeded the BSP’s forecast of $18.7 billion, or an 8.0 percent year-onyear growth for the year,” said BSP Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. Tetangco said remittances jumped by $1.415 billion from the previous record of $17.348 billion in 2009 as the money sent home by sea-based OFWs went up by 11.9 percent while that of landbased workers increased by 7.2 percent.

Driving factors

“The major driving factors that helped accelerate the growth in remittances were the diversity of the destinations and skills of overseas Filipinos combined with the expanding network of bank and non-bank service providers both here and abroad to capture a larger share of the global remittance market,” Tetangco explained. He cited the steady improvements on the variety and coverage of global remittance networks that have enabled more OFWs to send remittances at a more affordable cost, including webbased services, automated teller machines, as well as reloadable or reusable cash cards. “The continuing innovation of financial products and services being offered in the market to facilitate money transfers have likewise contributed to the resilience of remittances throughout the year,” Tetangco said. n


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Planet Philippines (Calgary Edition) - March 2011 issue