Kaligiran is led by Rocio Trillo, Ashley Tan, and Jamin Esdicul (third and fourth from left and rightmost, respectively). Here they are joined at Haven for Children by Benj Esdicul, Claire Say-er, and Sydney Moresca.
Rocio Trillo
The future is green (and young)
Neal P. Corpus (The Philippine Star) - July 31, 2020 - 12:00am

Before this global pandemic broke out, one of the most pressing social issues (in my mind, at least) was the climate emergency. Which means that, even with all things considered, it still is a pressing issue. COVID-19 may be our top priority, but that doesn’t mean all our other problems have magically gone away.

Many organizations have taken this time to regroup, and perhaps maybe even grow their advocacies. Such is the case for Kaligiran, a student-led environmental advocacy movement headed by Rocio Trillo, Jamin Esdicul and Ashley Tan. In the course of the lockdown, what started as an initiative recycling plastic bottles has shifted online, and growing their organization from just three to 50 members. We spoke to Rocio, Jamin and Ashley over email about what they do, how the pandemic has affected their advocacy, and what the future has in store for them.

One of Kaligiran's first projects was teaching kids how to make eco-bricks.

Young STAR: Tell us about Kaligiran. How did it come about?

Rocio Trillo: It’s really funny because it all started with just one plastic bottle. It was around freshman year when Ashley, Jamin and I started talking about the plastic problem. We got into a deep conversation about how environmental issues are intertwined with socio-economic disparities and political issues. Everything is connected. And the state of our education system affects the mindset of future generations. Then, from there, we figured we should do something about it and start an initiative. We’re the ones that are going to deal with the climate emergency — it’s not our parents’ generation or our grandparents’, it’s us. That’s when we came up with our motto, “Environmental action for the future, by the future.”

Ashley Tan: For our very first project, we had the Eco-brick Initiative in partnership with the Ayala Alabang Village Association, JCI Alabang, British Women’s Association and Clean Our Oceans Project wherein we educated the kids of Haven for Children on the growing problem of plastic pollution and what they could do to lessen it.

Now, we’ve shifted to an online platform wherein we aim to raise consciousness, collaboration and creativeness amongst the Filipino youth. We’ve recently gathered several ambassadors who share the same passion as us for taking action for the betterment of our environment and they’re called the KaliKomm.

Since the pandemic hit, Kaligiran has moved its advocacy mainly online

You mentioned that during the course of the quarantine, Kaligiran has grown from just three members to 50. What has it been like growing your advocacy while being confined to your homes?

Jamin Esdicul: When the news about COVID-19 first started spreading, we were all stressing about how we would continue our initiatives which involved interacting with several people. It just wasn’t safe to continue anymore. We then realized that we’d eventually have to do our whole advocacy online through Instagram and (soon) Facebook. Since we were not that well known in our social media platforms yet, we opened up sign-up sheets for ambassadors and bugged a lot of our friends to bug their friends to sign up, and so on. Their job was mainly to repost our content on their social media platforms.

At first we planned to only have a maximum of about 10 ambassadors or so, but the night the sign-up sheets were posted, we saw that more and more people were signing up. The next morning, we realized that we had about 50 members who had signed up.

Although the climate emergency is a pressing issue, COVID-19 has undoubtedly taken over. How can our readers still make a difference for the environment during this time?

Rocio: It all starts with your trash. You have to ask yourself, how much are you consuming? How much do you end up throwing out? Do you really need to buy that much on the next online super sale or can you buy something secondhand for less money? It’s about being conscious consumers. We don’t realize that we can influence the market based on what we consume. Once we demand change and governments start regulating the types of plastic or the amount of CO2 emissions being produced, big corporations will have no choice but to change. And of course, one thing you can do is join online groups like Kaligiran.

Which gave birth to programs like Sama-Sama Saturday on Instagram.

What are Kaligiran’s long-term goals?

Jamin: Kaligiran’s long-term goal is to empower the youth to constantly find solutions to the environmental crises, act on it, and create a change. We want to make sure that we successfully educate everyone and make them aware of the reality that there is an environmental crisis, that we’re destroying our one and only planet. We want everyone to know that action and change is needed right now.

Rocio: Externally, our main dream project would entail working with big consumer brands to strategize ways to integrate sustainable and environmentally conscious practices into their products. We would also like to work with government agencies like DepEd and DSWD to formulate better programs to teach kids from all socio-economic backgrounds about sustainability.

Internally, we want to create leaders out of our volunteers and the kids that we volunteer for. After all, effective leaders don’t create more followers, they build more leaders. So even if Kaligiran is just a stop on their journey, we hope that they carry the consciousness to lead a sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle throughout their lives.

Are there any advocates you look up to?

Rocio: Greta Thunberg is the quintessential inspiration for any environmental activist. What she’s done is absolutely amazing, especially her Fridays For Future protests. I also look up to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US and how she fearlessly pushed for the Green New Deal. Every time she speaks I get goosebumps — rhetoric is such a crucial tool to inspire future generations to make positive change.

Jamin: Aside from Greta, I look up a lot to my Grade 7 teacher. She was the one who first made me aware that we’re hurting our planet and that we should slowly start to change our everyday lifestyle in order to save our planet and conserve it.

Ashley: I don’t have any specific advocates I look up to but I do look up to the people behind our fellow youth organizations, whether environmental or not. I’m proud to say that the people of our generation are using their platform, technology, time and ideas to help the environment, the less fortunate, those who can’t speak up for themselves, and so on. Knowing this, I’m proud to be a part of this Generation Z that will not stand back and will take action now.

* * *

If you’d like to take part or help out Kaligiran in their initiatives, follow @kailigiran on Instagram for more information.

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