Unsung Heroes of 2018
(The Philippine Star) - December 29, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — We here at Supreme want to end the year by shining the spotlight on the people we weren’t really able to talk about. Buzzworthy on their own rights, these trailblazers have inspired change or empowerment within their communities in more ways than one.

Tuklas Innovation Labs

Bottle Net Life Jacket

 “The project was conceptualized (from) seeing people simply throw away their plastic bottles after consuming all the contents. We saw them as possible tools for personal flotation devices, which every family lacks, especially in coastal barangays,” says Engineer Rey Ramos about the Bottle Net Life Jacket, which he developed with the Carlos Hilado Memorial State College DRRM Team in Talisay, Negros Occidental with the support of TUKLAS Innovation Labs. The jacket is made from recycled fishing net and recycled plastic bottles, which by themselves are enough to keep the buoyant — remarkably so. These materials won’t absorb water, creating less resistance. The recycled bottles are lined with Styrofoam and plastic waste to absorb any impact from collision or debris. The rest of the jacket is equipped with survival tools such as a waterproof pocket for phones, a whistle, and a flashlight. —GABBIE TATAD

Intelligent Flood Warning and Monitoring System

Photo credit: Photo by Lunar for TUKLAS Innovation Labs

The Intelligent Flood Warning and Monitoring System made by robotics professor and ECE Jonathan Cartilla and his team is equipped with a sensor that detects the speed of the rising of water, and based on that, can calculate when the water will overflow into its surroundings. This can warn communities about how much time they have to evacuate. It is in development in Carcar, Cebu with the support of TUKLAS Innovation Labs, a community-driven project focusing on locally sourced solutions for disaster risk reduction and management. The system has prerecorded announcements made in the local dialect, but can also be used by local government units to make their own audio announcements and text blasts. The system is also designed to function regardless of neighboring conditions, and can transmit when electricity is shot and mobile networks are down. —GABBIE TATAD

Iyah Mina

Trans representation in films has yet to make remarkable progress, but Iyah Mina's recent Best Actress win at the 2018 Cinema One Original Awards proves there is hope in shaking up industry expectations. "Mahalaga ang pag-ganap ng mga transgender sa mga transgender roles sa pelikula dahil mahalaga na ma-represent sila," says Iyah Mina. "Ang pagiging transgender ay hindi isang performance, ito ay isang identity kaya’t mahalagang mga transgender mismo ang gaganap sa mga role na ito." Iyah is not only capable of delivering a riveting performance worthy of an acting nod, she breaks barriers by pushing for realistic representation of transgender individuals; her voice no longer falls on deaf ears. — IAN URRUTIA

Mga Batang Poz

Segundo Matias Jr.'s work remains criminally overlooked in the local literary circles. This year, the award-winning multi-hyphenate surprised the reading public with the release of Mga Batang Poz, a young adult novel that follows the story of four teenagers with HIV. The book courted controversy not only for its subversive content, but for bringing attention to a subject that has long been derided by religious conservatives. It eventually reaped glowing praise from various critics and esteemed writers, most notable among them award-winning writer Ricky Lee who called Matias' latest foray into the LGBTQ narrative, a “master class in storytelling.” — IAN URRUTIA

The Sunny Side Group


When news of the six-month Boracay closure hit, it gave the Nowie and Odette Potenciano of The Sunny Side Group of restaurants in Boracay, little time to prepare. Their greatest concern was their staff. The two, with help from friends in Manila, set up pop-ups of their renowned restaurants in Makati and Alabang for the duration of the closure. They arranged for their 50-strong staff to be transported to Manila with living accommodations, so the staff wouldn’t have to endure a six-month period without income. They admit that it was a financial burden, but have no regrets. “I suppose the ‘easier’ thing, financially, would have been to just do nothing. But to watch people you know and work with every day go without, when there’s still something you can do for them? It’s hard to live with,”—GABBIE TATAD

Bianca Balbuena

It’s expected that local film critics will load their yearend lists with films like Lav Diaz’s politically current rock musical Panahon ng Halimaw, or Dwein Baltazar’s Avenida-set oddball romance Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus, or Baltazar’s even odder absurdist family drama Oda sa Wala, or Kenneth Dagatan’s gutsy and guts-filled horror Ma. The truly reliable filament that connects all those films is none other than producer Bianca Balbuena, who, after learning the ropes of scrounging the entire world for funds to complete Pepe Diokno’s sophomore feature Above the Clouds, became an expert at doing the impossible in the entertainment business, which is to continuously make films that challenge more than they titillate. —OGGS CRUZ

Anthill Fabric Gallery

While it’s obvious that our local weaves have been making a comeback, we never really know much about the story behind them. What kind of hands wove your gorgeous patterned terno? Working with weaving communities all over the Philippines, Anthill Fabric Gallery makes sure that the local women weavers get their share of attention. A social and cultural enterprise working to preserve local weaves through contemporary and zero-waste design to sustain livelihood, they collaborate with their weavers on incentives and savings programs, and even pass on systems and business solutions to the community so that the women can learn to become entrepreneurs on their own. www.instagram.com/anthillfabric  — KARA ORTIGA

Proudly Promdi

Directly translated as “proudly from the province,” this spirit-making company takes pride in concocting libations that we can truly call our own. Working with a small winemaking community called Adams in Ilocos Norte, Proudly Promdi specializes in making Tapuey and Bugnay rice wine, and even use it as a base for sumptuous cocktails. Proudly Promdi hopes more households will start adding local spirits to their shopping lists, help promote local craftsmanship, and provide a livelihood for these communities. www.instagram.com/proudlypromdi  — KARA ORTIGA

Kurvine Chua

It's easy to write off the resurgence of cassette tapes as another fad. But Kurvine Chua, the founder of United Cassette Philippines, thinks otherwise. "Cassette tapes are the format of the people. It’s not like vinyl, where you need to shell out a huge amount of money and wait for a long time." The 24-year-old entrepreneur and musician has singlehandedly restored prominence to the outdated physical format in recent months, distributing international and local cassette releases spanning different genres. With his very own project at the helm of the format's growing popularity especially in niche and underground communities, there's no stopping Chua from reviving the glory days of cassette tapes for reasons both practical and aesthetic. —IAN URRUTIA



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